Don’t Let ‘Em Get Your Goat

Stories from our readers about the challenges of raising goats, consummate handymen, opossum precautions, and a neighborhood turkey.

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by Rachael Leystra

When I was in seventh grade, I went through a rough patch in my life. I didn’t really have any friends, I was often bullied, and I needed a healthy distraction. When a new member joined my 4-H Club, I signed on to her goat project. I fell in love with the goats instantly, and told my mom I wanted one. She quickly pointed out that farm animals weren’t allowed within the town limits. Later, someone encouraged me to petition the village board to be able to keep goats in town. So, I wrote a letter to the board, and presented my proposal.

I tried to change the city ordinance so I could raise three goats and five chickens in town. Though the board denied the request, one member suggested I apply for a conditional use permit instead. I presented information and answered questions from the board members and the community during two meetings spanning 2 to 3 months. When it finally came time for the board to vote, I was a nervous wreck. The final vote was 4-2 in my favor.

Ecstatic, I spent the next month searching for breeders to find the perfect goats: an American Alpine I named Alanna, and Brooke, a Nigerian Dwarf. From that moment on, through my senior year of high school, I raised these goats and showed them around the state of Wisconsin. Showing goats exposed me to new people, and I made a lot of friends from all over the U.S., as well as at school, where I joined the Future Farmers of America (FFA). My goats and I were featured on a local news channel, and our story was published in a magazine. I continued showing them at the county and state fairs in Kentucky, and even took them to a national competition.

Those on the outside have often viewed my dedication to showing goats as simply a hobby, but they couldn’t be more wrong. They don’t see what goes on behind the scenes; they only see a goat ready for show. They didn’t see me cry when the goat I’d won through an essay contest died. They didn’t see the girl who sat in the barn for days waiting for her favorite goat to kid, and how it wasn’t an easy labor.

Why am I bringing all of this up? Because this journey, with all its ups and downs, quite honestly saved my life. Showing goats wasn’t just a hobby for me; it was a huge part of my life.

My life has followed a different path than I first thought it would. I’m now in my third year of studying Hotel, Restaurant, and Tourism Management and Golf Enterprise Management. I also have a minor in Spanish. On the day I donned my blue FFA jacket for the last time to receive my American FFA degree — the highest honor the FFA bestows — I knew it was the last page of this chapter in my life. It’s tough to swallow that this chapter is officially closed. But I can look back at my journey and smile, because without it, I don’t know that I’d be who I am now — a successful college junior with a bright future. Those of you who have a passion to pursue, don’t let anyone “get your goat.” Stand tall, and be proud of what you’re doing.

Rachael Leystra
Cambria, Wisconsin

Bailing Wire and a Pair of Pliers

After reading Rebecca Martin’s “Space Junk” editorial (November/December 2019), I was reminded of my Dad’s own inventive tinkering. He grew up when the phrase “he can fix anything with a piece of baling wire and a pair of pliers” described the consummate handyman.

On one occasion, my dad received news that my sister had lost control of her car, gone off the shoulder, slid down a sloped bank and through a fence, and ended up in a junkyard. He assessed the wreckage and proceeded to make the most of it, building what would become a “Goliath.” He stripped off the car’s body, leaving just the frame, drivetrain, and front seat. He then mounted a hydraulic hoist where the back seat used to be. It resembled a mini tow truck. Because Dad had a truck repair business, this new vehicle was perfect for throwing a chain on the hook, and lifting motors out of trucks when he needed to rebuild them. Of course, it also helped him transport the engines easily around the shop. It didn’t look like much, but, like most things Dad made, it was functional.

Nebraska Dave
Omaha, Nebraska

From Scrap to Scarecrow

In response to Rebecca Martin’s “Space Junk” editorial (November/December 2019), I’m proud to report my latest invention. Deer and rabbits kept coming into our garden during the growing season, eating our strawberries and the tops off the perennials, so I pieced together a scarecrow. He’s made out of some pallets and scrap tin I had lying around. I used a couple of old 2-by-4s for arms, and an unusable 2-gallon bucket for his head. I later added gloves and eyes. As an added bonus, he “talks”! He sports a hidden compartment that houses a radio. We love our new garden addition. Since he’s been out there, we haven’t had any more issues with deer or rabbits!

Jason Gleason
Coldwater, Michigan

Opossum Precautions

I just finished reading Jo Ann Abel’s “The Misunderstood Marsupial” article (September/October 2019). I found it very interesting and informative, but was surprised she didn’t mention the connection between opossums and a debilitating nervous system disease in horses called equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM). The opossum is the definitive host of this disease, passing on the parasite in its feces. If the horse ingests the parasite while grazing or eating hay contaminated with opossum feces, it’ll develop lesions in its brain and spinal cord. There’s no cure for EPM and horses don’t fully recover from the disease. I respect opossums for their contributions to Mother Nature, but I also recognize the dangers they present to horses.

Ethel Richard
Amboy, Illinois

Tom, the Neighborhood Turkey

Not too many neighborhoods have a wild turkey to brag on, but we love ours here in the north Georgia mountains. He showed up last July, and at that time there were two of them, but they were still so young that we couldn’t tell if they were male or female. A neighbor down the road fed them. All he had to do was call and they came running, or rather, flying. At night they’d disappear into the woods to roost.

After a while, there was only one left, and it soon became apparent he was a tom turkey. He started making daily rounds to all the neighbors. We tried to hand-feed him, but he kept his distance, and often ran off if anyone tried to get too close. So, now we feed him corn that he shares with our chickens, and one neighbor gives him popcorn. He loves to range in the vineyard up the hill.

He’ll often stand in the middle of the road, refusing to move to let cars pass, and sometimes he even chases them. It’s hilarious to watch. One day, we noticed quite a few feathers on the side of the road with no sign of him. For a few days, we waited for him, and eventually assumed he’d met his fate and been hit by a car.

Then, lo and behold, after a week or so, he showed up, but he couldn’t fly. He still runs like the wind and gets up about a foot off the ground, but he can’t soar through the air like he used to. Many days, he’ll perch himself on our fence, and spend the day there, watching traffic and preening his feathers. He’ll come around for a few days, then disappear for four or five days, and then return

Sometimes, when he’s on the road, people will stop and tease him, which I think has given him a bit of an attitude. He stands about chest-high to me, but I don’t turn my back on him. One day, he chased me around a signpost. I was scared to death, but my husband finally came and chased him off. His head turns blue and his snood gets long when he’s angry. But most of the time he’s happy to see us, and we love to tell him how handsome and beautiful he is. He responds with his turkey noises and approaches within 3 to 4 feet of us.

Many people will stop and talk to him or take pictures. He isn’t much of a poser, but if you can trick him, you can get a good shot. We’re happy he’s become our new friend.

Arlene Jeness
Blairsville, GA

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