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Smiling With The Goat No matter what stage of life, humor is a good medicine and antidote for many troubles. “Use your muscles to smile rather than frown,” my mother always said. If there is one creature in the world that can make you laugh, it is the goat. Of course, you may have been saying off-color things to that same goat only moments before. Not many of you live on a farm as I do, but I am going to share a life lesson with you that I learned from a goat. This lesson includes some goathandling skills, just in case one walks into your life (or should I say, walks into your yard under your fence).


uy a whole bunch of pasture fence. Make sure it’s five feet tall. To be safe, buy deer fencing and weave it together so it will be about 24 feet tall. Spend your whole weekend getting it up. Do nothing else but focus on that fencing. Run electric wire on the top of the fence and the bottom of the fence. Heck, put four strands of electric wire on the fence. Get some rebar and tap it into the ground all along the bottom and then wire it to the fence. Wow, that fence will hold a rhinoceros, you think. So you can go get a goat now. Before you put the goat in the pasture, introduce yourself by first name only. Goats are smart; they know you have a name. Show the goat the gate, and put her on the other side of the gate. Smile. Explain to the goat that her side is there, and your side is here. Point out that her side has electrical currents. OOPS! She figured that out. You have worked hard! You are now hungry. Make a good sandwich, preferably with homegrown tomatoes and homemade bread. Add some lettuce and greens. Get a lawn chair. Now you can sit and enjoy that sandwich. Refrain from alcohol at this stage. As you chew the luscious tomato


you’ve spent months nurturing, take notice! The goat is happily roaming in the nicely fenced pasture you made just for her. Call out to her. “Hello! I see you!” Enjoy the sweet sounds of the goat calling back to you in goat bleats. I will translate: “Hello!” says the goat. “I see you too! What are you eating? You are so close, I can smell the bread! I love bread. Must have bread.

Best Years Yet • January/February 2015

I’ll be right there! OH! Ouch! Electric current! No problem, it’s over now. There now, here I am! I will join you and your sandwich.” Do not panic. Do not raise your voice to the goat. It is your fault for eating within 500 yards of her. Say nice things to the goat, then lead her back to the pasture with a bit of the bread. Ask her if she learned that touching the electric fence has consequences. She stares at you. Return to your lawn chair, and your sandwich. Fidget a bit in the chair getting your position right. Finally, you are settled and comfy. You are anticipating that moment your mouth meets that tomato. But what is this? Footsteps, quick little footsteps, are coming from behind you. “Hello! I’m right here with you again!” says the goat. “Good, there is more bread!” Although you are getting a bit irked, try to refrain from yelling. Once again, lead your goat back to the pasture.

What’s that? She won’t budge. Entice her with more bread. Nope, she won’t move. This usually works: pretend you don’t care what she does and don’t look at her as you walk back to her paddock and take an empty bucket and put rocks in it. Shake the bucket. “Why are you shaking rocks in that bucket?” the goat wonders. Move on to the next plan of attack. Kick the bucket and say things directly to the sky. This will do no good as far as getting the goat to move your way, but you’ll feel somewhat better. The lunch hour is way past over. You have other things to do. There is only one more alternative. Go back to your lawn chair. Fold it up. Forget about the lawn chair. Go back to the goat pasture. Find a good rock to sit on. Enjoy your sandwich as much as possible. Because here comes the goat. Share the crusts with her. Rush to the gate, shut it. You have slight indigestion since you ate so fast. Return to your house for some antacid. Oh look, the goat is there to greet you! How did she do that, you wonder? Do not waste one more second wondering. Just accept it. The sooner you accept a goat is a goat, you will have learned a valuable life lesson: there is no such thing as control. As long as the goat is at your side, stand with her for a minute. Yes, she is tasting your shoelaces, but while she does, take the time to just be yourself, standing with a goat. Look at the sky. Look at your roses. Look at the goat eating your roses. It’s okay; they will grow back next year. The goat loved your roses. You have given her a beautiful gift with them. And she has taken away your control fetish, which can cause much stress and lead to all sorts of physical symptoms (especially at your age). So you see, having a goat around will keep you much healthier. They eat your bread so you won’t, keep you walking and prune your plants. Katherine Dunn is an artist, writer, and shepherdess living on Apifera Farm with her landscaper husband, lovingly known as The Dirt Farmer. Apifera is also home to many adopted elderly barn animals called The Misfits, which she writes about in short stories. Her art is showcased on Sundance, collected internationally and featured in her books. You can see her art, photography and books at and meet the many Misfits on her blog, apiferafarm.

Profile for Randy Hill

Best Years Yet: January-February 2015  

Best Years Yet: January-February 2015