Jefferson Weaver • Life With Goats

Jefferson Weaver

I was involved in a conversation the other morning, but I have no idea what was said.

That’s life with goats.

Breakfast is usually served to our livestock as I head out for work, at roughly the same time every day. The animals know the schedule. Bucky, however, wanted to file a complaint with management.

He most likely would have complained to anyone who was available, because (a) all our nannies are either pregnant or have babies, (b) he is as rutty as the biggest whitetail buck in the swamp and (c) he is a goat, and goats have to perpetually complain about something.

For a solid five minutes, he snorted and blatted at me. Having dealt with him daily since he was seven hours old, I snorted and blatted back. He danced on his hind legs, throwing his magnificent horns around, and I swung my walking stick in a circle. It was a reminder, in English and goat, that while he is more mobile than I am, we weigh about the same, and I have opposable thumbs as well as access to the feed. Had there been a casual observer down in our holler, I am sure they would have either bene greatly amused, or backed gently away from the crazy man arguing with the goat. Both have happened before.

Bucky finally stomped away, screaming like a demonic toddler, chased his buddy/rival Magnum, and for good measure, rammed the side of my truck. It’s not the first time, and I can testify that both Ford and Chevrolet built solid vehicles in the 1990s. Both my wife’s car and my truck have been danced on, rammed and gored enough to earn us free admission at the next demolition derby. Thankfully, goats lack the aforementioned opposable thumbs, because elsewise I’m afraid Bucky would hotwire one of the vehicles and go cruising.

Bucky doesn’t wander as much as he used to; his son Zechariah was traded off (ironically, for mechanical repairs to the truck) so Buck doesn’t have as much reason to go looking for a fight or a frolic, as the case may be. His record walkabout so far was a little over a mile down the road, where one of the neighbors also has goats.

Bucky is a bit off his manners when it comes to being neighborly. He has a distressing habit of devouring cat food, eating flowers and looking in windows.

One of our ever-patient neighbors has become rather used to his peeping tom act, although it frightened her daughter who was visiting from the city when a large white goat with horns three feet wide suddenly jumped up and licked the window. My sweet neighbor said Bucky was just telling her that she needed to refill the cat food dishes. Like most city people, the daughter was not amused.

This is the same neighbor who called me one day when a “big white pony” was walking past her house. In her defense, she wasn’t wearing her glasses, and Bucky stands as high as a lot of miniature horses.

In case you have never dealt with a goat on a regular basis, I should tell you a few things.

There is a reason that kids like, well, kids. Baby goats are truly pretty cool, fun little things. If they are handled daily, they become very affectionate, and enjoy human companionship. They smell good, and are soft.

But when they reach breeding age, many of them become more like sullen, stinking, overly-hormonal adolescents, and that never changes.

Their breeding habits make a rabbit blush. Twice this year, we went outside of a morning and discovered we somehow had gained goats in the night. Thankfully there is a decent market for (not to be killed) goats, so we can usually sell the excess herd, but it sometimes makes me wonder if they are somehow reproducing like germs, and just splitting in half to create new goats.

Goats are curious. They will climb into any open door, except ones they’re supposed to enter. More than  once, Bucky, his mate Sally, or one of our other goats has casually walked through the door of the house, jumped on the dining table, and began eating whatever might be available. We do not condone, endorse, allow or recommend such behavior, and it usually results in yells, threats, dogs barking, cats hissing and other excitement.

A wise goat owner never leaves a door unsecured. That being said, I knew a fellow years ago whose goat slept in the house, and would leap on the family dinner table during meals. They had a very large table, thankfully.

Now, those folks liked their goats. When one son was in jail, they gathered bond money from collecting returnable bottles and selling bundles of lighterknots. Instead they ended up buying a goat while they were on the way to the jail with the bond money.  In their defense, the goat really was a very nice goat, and the son deserved to be in jail. The term rustic is a polite way to describe their lifestyle, but they had hearts of gold.

Rhonda had a standoff with some of our less desirable neighbors one day because Bucky was out by the gate, and they rolled up in a van. After throwing open the door they began trying to invite Bucky to a barbecue. Rhonda was already trying to drag him home, and the guys were a bit insistent. Thankfully so was Rhonda.

Problem was, Bucky detected a hint of stress in Rhonda’s voice, and decided he needed to defend his mother. He wanted to get in the van, because he saw the potential for a good fight. Rhonda got him inside the gate and headed home with no shots fired and no one gored.

Goats will eat almost anything – not tin cans and such like you see in the cartoons, but they are very efficient at converting plant life into fertilizer. Especially if it’s plant life that you don’t want them to eat. I’m thankful that my beloved iris, jonquils and daffodils are perennials. I’m also amazed at how my goats will walk past bunches of sweet grass and tender young leaves to tear into a blackberry bramble that looks and feels like barbed wire.

Since there is no genteel way to put this, I’ll just say it: when goats eat, they poop. I’m fairly sure they produce twice as much manure as they consume in plants every day.

They are utterly terrified of water, however. Our goat flock is a better indication of pending weather than any app, Doppler radar or weather radio. The first raindrops generally fall about 30 minutes after they have taken cover. Yes, I have timed it. It’s amazing. I think my friends at the National Weather Service need a flock of goats outside their office.

I used Bucky’s hydrophobia to my advantage one crisp fall morning. He was in a serious mood for babymaking—oh yes, goats rut twice a year, unlike civilized things like deer, horses and cattle. I was hauling a bucket of water in my off-hand when he decided to start the day with a challenge. A few stout cracks with my walking stick across his horn boss made no difference, so out of desperation, I threw three gallons of water in his face.

You might have thought I had grievously injured the goat.

He cried. He ran, he jumped, he bleated and baaahed and blatted. Finally he settled down a few dozen yards away and pouted. I swear he was crying like a hurt child. After that, I only had to raise the water bucket, and he would run for the hills. An empty three-gallon bucket was far more intimidating than 42 inches of white oak.

Still and all, we love our beloved demonic wretch, and his progeny. Even when he and three-legged Magnum beat each other bloody, even when they climb onto the roof of the car, or go hood surfing down the driveway when you’re already late for work, even when they do ridiculous things to hurt themselves in expensive ways, you can’t help but love the flower-eating, musk-stinking, destructive little minions of Satan.

That inexplicable affection is why my animals do indeed get my goat.

About Jefferson Weaver 2033 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at [email protected].