The Ruminant Romp

Keeping goats inside the fence is an exercise.

| March/April 2009

  • Escape artists
    Keeping pygmy goats fenced in turned out to be a bigger challenge than we anticipated.
    illustration by Brian Orr
  • Pygmy goats get delivered
    Three of the five goats were delivered when we least expected it.
    illustration by Brian Orr

  • Escape artists
  • Pygmy goats get delivered

The document that would change my life was modest, unassuming and hand-lettered. It hung on the bulletin board of the local grocery and contained only the words, Pygmy goats for sale. Cheap. The information was accompanied by tear-off slips with a phone number.

Ten years previously, my husband and I had visited a county fair in rural western Washington state and had seen baby pygmy goats just a couple of hours after they were born. They were so adorable we vowed to have some of our own one day. Now that we were settling into retirement in the outback of the Ozark wilderness, what time could be better?

After calling the number and making an appointment, we drove farther into the wilderness to find the goats living in conditions I can only describe as “Third World.” The humans who owned the goats lived in conditions only slightly less squalid than the animals. Neither running water nor electricity was in evidence, and the ancient trailer they occupied had a roof that was structurally challenged in the extreme. In fact, the roof appeared to be sinking in the middle and was held up only on either end, so it resembled the letter ‘M.’ However, the people were pleasant, the animals all looked healthy and seemed to be thriving, so we struck a deal, and they promised to deliver the goats the following day.

The entire next day passed with no word from the goat people, and we decided they had changed their minds about selling the goats. To console ourselves, we took out one of our precious take-and-bake pizzas purchased during a recent trip to the metropolis of Springfield and planned an Italian feast for dinner. As any country dweller will tell you, “real” pizza that is not from a freezer box labeled “self-rising” is pretty rare. And just as we slid the impending feast from the oven, an ancient truck, composed almost entirely of rust, shot past the front of the house and headed for the barn.

Three of the five goats we purchased were being delivered. The other two, a doe and her baby, had refused to be caught and would be “fetched along later.” We had spent a good deal of time cleaning out the pens in the barn and shoring up the fencing for the surrounding pasture, so we felt secure in unceremoniously dumping the three goats into the small pasture while we headed back to the house to devour our gala banquet and wait for the second installment of goats.

Twenty minutes later, we went back to the pasture to find not a goat in sight. We found them nestled in a creek bed and spent the next 45 minutes chasing them as they bleated piteously. We were by turns exasperated and sympathetic. My husband Steve, who has obviously been a goat herd or cattle dog in a previous incarnation, managed with my dubious help, to drive them back into the pen. The last two goats were delivered via the Rustmobile and, when it became dark, we went back to the house, too tired to really care if all of them or any of them got out again.

Pam Davidson
3/9/2009 2:31:46 PM

I read this article to my husband and three times he asked me if I wrote the article. We laughed so hard. This story really hit home. They are a lot of trouble but we love them. Our goats are a constant source of humor.

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