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Revised 7 December, 2009

The Goats of Christmas Past

 

    When my Aunt and Uncle moved from Wyoming to Iowa and bought a farm not far from our home town, I was excited.  It meant I finally had cousins with whom I could visit and play with who were actually my own age.  I especially enjoyed the company of my cousin Charlotte, who was close to me in age.  The less said about the boys at that time, the better, of course.  .  .kids being kids and all.

    Uncle John's house had two stories, with a full basement and a path...(that means an outhouse to you city folks.).  The top floor, where Charlotte slept, was heated by a vent in the floor, which derived its heat in winter from the cook stove in the kitchen directly below.  Until Aunt Ruth put the corn cobs in the belly of the monster and fired it up for the day, it would be a freezing, wintry morning.  We slept under a mound of feather ticks (I guess you would call them quilts) and getting up to do the morning farm chores became an issue of haste to get warm as much as it was a need to tend to the needs of the livestock..

    Uncle John was a sheep farmer.  In spring, when the baby lambs were born, it often became necessary to hand feed some of the little ones because the mother might reject them or might not survive the birthing.  As a result, the lambs would follow you around like a puppy dog and demand your attention.  They were adorably cute, but sheeps is stupid.  If they fall down, they will lie there until they die because they're too dumb to realize that they aren't dead yet.  If one walks off a cliff, the rest will follow blindly to their hasty demise.  (Sort of like people)

    The hardest part about living on a farm is the need to grow your own food--i.e.. fruits, vegetables, meat, dairy, etc.  The greatest part about living on a farm is the joy of harvesting that food and the pleasure of the animals and the knowledge that you have the responsibility of so many living things dependent upon you as much as you depend on them.  I remember the first time my uncle let me try to milk a cow on my own--perhaps less said about that the better.  When I finally got the cow to release her milk so I could do my job, a frustrating effort at best, I ended up wearing more than I got in the bucket.  I obviously was not intended to be a milkmaid.  The geese were also a great deal of fun, so long as you could outrun them.  If you've ever had one sneak up behind you and snap you with their beak, you will understand fully the meaning of the term--being goosed.  They like to hiss and honk and peck and pinch whenever possible. .  .but I digress.

    In a small fenced off pasturage in the way back part of the farm, Aunt Ruth had a fruit orchard with apple and mulberry trees.  You were allowed to pick the fruit that grew therein, but it came with a price.  That price lived in the form of one randy goat by the name of Buck.  Buck seems to have felt that his sole duty in life was to nail anyone who was ignorant enough to bend over within his line of vision.  You could pick the apples from the ground, but doing so, you made yourself a target.  As sure as God made little green apples, if Buck spotted you, you may as well have had a bull's-eye target painted on your posterior.  The first thing we would do upon entering, would be to look carefully to make sure Buck was nowhere in view.  We soon learned, however, that Buck had a bottom alarm.  If yours was exposed, he instinctively zeroed in on the target.  The next thing you knew, you would hear a loud snort and the pattering of four little hooves, headed rapidly in the direction of your upturned cheeks.  He would then nail you in a direct hit and send you sprawling--apples and knees akimbo and trot off satisfied that his job was properly completed and you were left to hobble off with what was left of your apples and your dignity to find a sunny spot to enjoy your bounty.

    Sitting here and looking back, the vision in hindsight (no pun intended) still evokes thoughts of nostalgic pleasure.  One must admit, though, that a Buck was still a pretty high price to pay for an apple.. 

   Sweet music of the autumn moon
Your leaves have turned to Gold
Wee birds depart their infant nest
The air is turning cold
The Stag runs through the forest glen
The lamb is in it's fold
Our world has turned to winter white
And time is growing old.