A Study in Letting Your Guard Down

Saturday morning I thought I’d drop Viv off at ballet, go grocery shopping, and take a few of the younger kiddos to the local Insect Fair where you can eat chocolate-covered crickets and see the model of a giant ant. Somehow, the day veered in a different direction and, instead of the Insect Fair, we welcomed two goats into the family. There we were, taking selfies with our two new goats.

Here’s how it happened in the first place:

Ryan and the children have wanted goats forever, but it has never been a reality until Friday when friends of the family offered free goats. To the kids, it seemed like heaven’s smile. To me, it was the perfect opportunity to exercise boundaries and protect our sanity: we are at-capacity with responsibilities and commitments.

“No.” I said like a good and supportive wife and mother.

“But, Mom! They’re free!” the kids replied.

They’re free?! FREE GOATS? Do you know what that means, my sweet innocent children? Free goats means evil goats. We can’t afford evil goats.”

Then, of course, the inner dialogue: How can I really say, “no” when my husband is so happy when he’s tending life – pruning apple trees, harvesting potatoes, raising chickens? I know he would just love having those goats around. He doesn’t gamble, golf, or go fishing. This would be a sliver of fun for him in a life full of responsibility. And how could I say “no” when our children have carried, fed, and sung to the chickens all these years? The opportunity to care for two goats would be good for them.

Nonetheless, I stuck with my “no” because two goats are just one-thing-too-much.

In fact, I stuck with my “no” for over 12 hours.

By the time Viv and I were walking out the door on Saturday morning – Viv with her ballet duffle bag slung on her shoulder and me with my grocery list in hand – the anticipation of goats, goats, goats had bubbled up like a glass of champagne. The kids were so excited about the possibility. I knew what I had to do. I hugged Ryan good-bye and said, “Do what you think is best. I trust you.”

I don’t need to tell you that he heard, “Get those goats, big guy!”

When Viv and I came home that afternoon, with bags of groceries to unload, there were smiles and waves from Ryan and all the children as we drove past the barnyard, down the lane. I put the cold groceries in the fridge, left a few bags in the kitchen, and walked up to the pasture fence with my camera rolling, shaking my head slightly at my husband’s happy farmer grin.

There they were: two perfectly adjusted, knobby-kneed goats munching clover and nettle like they’d been born and raised on that very ground. They clabbered onto the 2-foot high cement block and jumped off, back feet bouncing up behind them. They lounged in the sun. They looked at the chickens, bemused. They let the children lead them around by the leash.

“Meet Jack and Stanley!” the kids said.

I looked underneath the two golden bodies.

“Hm. I think they’re females, kids.”

“They are?! Well then, meet Matilda Phoebe McFee and Dawn Sandy Sal!” they announced after much debate.

I stood outside the fence with my camera. I thought, I should go into the pasture and extend a more cordial welcome. I was wearing my black flats and my lace-overlay shirt.

What if Dawn butted me with her little horns and tore my shirt?

What if Matilda pooped on my shoes?

I walked through the barn into the pasture. I tentatively pet Dawn and admired her enchanting flop-ears and sturdy little horns. I ran my fingers down Matilda’s coat, admiring her confidence despite her earless-ness. (Her confidence is note-worthy because she lives side-by-side Dawn’s remarkable ears, you know.)

We stayed with the goats for a good, long time, just getting a kick out of them. It was kind of like laying on our backs watching the clouds drift by or star-gazing on a clear, summer night. All of us meandering in the pasture together, wondering at God’s creation – Ryan feeling good about life, the kids feeling confident and creative, and me feeling surprised.

Surprised, because I like the goats.

I felt a place in my heart awaken that had never been stirred before: a place for goat-appreciation.

I thought I’d be awkward around goats. I thought they’d brood maliciously against me and attack me on my morning walks. I thought they’d chew my socks and shoes, ruin my flower beds, kick over the milk pail. I thought I’d be chasing them around the property, waving my hoe at them. I thought they’d drive me to the breaking point and I’d have to call Ryan in the middle of his work day and say, “It’s me or the goats.” (I made such a phone call 5 years ago regarding our territorial rooster. Guess who got to stay?)

But we have a fence. And a nice pasture that they will munch, saving Ryan lots of time on the tractor. We don’t have to milk them or eat them.  They’re docile and have relatively tiny poop pellets.

I think this will be a life-giver for our family.

Here we are with a weekend under our belts and I am already agreeable toward the goats. They are perfectly ambivalent about me, which is precisely how it should be.

Post script: After I published this post, the original owner of the goats let me know that Dawn is, in fact, Don. (In my defense, castrated.) We need these goats for so much more than weed-eating. They are a lesson in anatomy as well.)

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