Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Life lessons or . . . Never wrestle a goat

Goats can be hard to contain.

Recently, as the long indoor barn season started to wind down, Cal and Eamon, our two bucks, decided they'd had enough of their stall and took to going over its walls every day.

For lack of a better solution, I took to stalling them in the pen under the stairs to the loft. They didn't really like that and before too long they'd worked out, like Woody, the pen's previous inhabitant, how to get out of the pen, up the stairs and into the loft itself. When Woody first tried this trick, I worried about leaving him up there, but he seemed pretty content and could go up and down at will, so I left him to it. Same thing with Eamon. The most recent addition to the pen, Cal, also figured out pretty quickly how to go up, but unlike Woody and Eamon, was unclear how to come down. I guess the stairs are steep and a little intimidating. Anyway, I noticed over the weekend that Cal was doing a lot of whining at mealtime (not unusual), from up in the loft (a bit unusual), but not actually coming down to eat (very unusual). The notion of a goat unable to traverse stairs seemed unthinkable, so I didn't think about it too much. Until Sunday night when I went out to do the last feeding and checking and tucking in and Cal was still up in the loft and as far as I could tell had not come down all weekend.


I couldn''t leave him there right?

So I went up to get him.

Lesson number 1:  Never wrestle a goat.

At this point, let me point out that Cal is a big, spectacular Pygora buck who weighs, at minimium, 120 pounds and sports a very impressive set of pointy horns at least 2 feet across tip to tip. They make pretty good handles, as long as you hold on tight. Cal also has the sweetest personality ever bestowed on a goat of either gender, so I thought nothing of going up to lead him down myself if need be. What are those horns for after all?

Lesson number 2: Never wrestle a goat on stairs.

We shouldn't have to learn this lesson, right? It should come for free.

I climbed the stairs that are wedged tightly into the corner of the first stall. Did I mention they're pretty steep? And there's no rail of any sort. It's a barn after all. At the bottom of the stairs is a tight little turn in front of the hard oak kickboards of the barn wall. At the top of the stairs was Cal, watching me with a worried little look on his beautiful goat face. I climbed high enough to talk to him, face to face, eye to eye, but even with my encouragement, he was adament. No stairs. I took a deep breathe to clear my late night sleepy brain and thought, "Ok, horns it is. Let's get this done."

I grabbed hold and gave a gentle pull.

No go.

I pulled again.

He put a tentative hoof down a step and stopped.

I set my feet firmly. Yes, I clearly remember thinking, "Get a good foothold," and pulled harder.

He put a second hoof down on the steps.

I must have encouraged him to continue with another tug. Such good horns.

He started to scrabble on the boards.

I stopped pulling.

He started falling.

I pulled up now, instead of down.

Yeah, that's right, at this point I'm still thinking "I can control this."

Ha, I can no more control the descent of 120 pounds of flailing goat from ten feet in the air, than I can fly.

Though fly we did, in a manner of speaking. Together, in perfect unison, the two of us, tumbling through the air, bouncing off the stairs, scrapping along the wall, and finally, landing together in one big heap, wedged up against the hard oak kickboards at the bottom.

Poor sweet Cal on the bottom, with dumb farmer lady on top (who weighs, by the way, considerably more than 120 pounds.) Cal seemed to have landed fairly normally, with all his body parts in the right configuration and orientation. Dumb farmer lady did not.

Cal seemed more confused about having the dumb farmer lady on top of him then anything else. And he definitely didn't understand the screaming.

Lesson number 3: Never go to the barn without your cell phone. 

Let me digress for a second to say, that in the few years that I have been doing this animal husbandry thing, novice that I am,  I have always been serious about keeping my phone with me. Not because I worry about the 120 pound goats really, but we have ponies as well and, well, with an 800 pound pony, you just never know right? So, I always keep my phone on me when I'm in the barn. Always.

Except Easter Sunday 2016.

As I lay scrunched up, screaming, at the bottom of the stairs, with my upper leg going one way and my lower leg going the other, I realized I did not have my phone.

Perfect. Half past ten at night, in the barn, with a busted knee and a poor silly goat struggling to get out from under me. Little faces peered out in concern all around me, but not a single one belonged to a being with opposable thumbs and a cell phone.

Dang my stupid animal-loving heart.

Lesson number 4: Never wrestle with a goat on stairs during lambing season. 

And I still had two bottle babies out in the back barn to feed.

Again, let me digress just to say, "Yippee, it's lambing season." So far, in addition to the three goat kids, we've had 6 little black lambs and our first ever white lamb (double yay - a purebred Lincoln). Unfortunately, babies 5 and 6 were rejected by their mom, so they've been in my bathroom for the past couple of weeks. I wasn't sure they were going to survive at first, but by the weekend they were doing so well that I had taken them out to the barn to live with the other lambs. Except for the constant trips to feed, it's just easier this way.

Feeding them was the last item on my to do list that night. When Cal and I took our trip down the stairs, the bottle babies were still waiting for their dinner.

Once I got my leg straightened out, it was clear I was going nowhere in a hurry. I couldn't stand on the leg at all, never mind walk. I briefly considered staying in the barn until somebody found me, but, realistically, that could have been all night, and like I said, I had those bottle babies to feed. I didn't think they'd survive the night without food.

It's a bit of a blur, but somehow, using a shovel as a crutch, I managed to get back to the house and wake-up the teenager and then somehow with the teenager's help, managed to get out to the back barn, to feed the babies.

I had thought I'd go to the ER, but by the time we were done, it was after midnight and I could tell by then that painful as the knee was, it wasn't broken and I was too exhausted to go through the ordeal of the ER just to have the doctor tell me I had sprained it, so I wrapped it up in ice and went to bed.

Monday afternoon, I did finally get to the doctor and what did he say?

After he got past all the scrapes and cuts on my face, (It's my knee that's a problem,  Doc.)

after he got past the black eye and need for a tetanus booster, (Truly, Doc, the knee?)

after he got over the sight of a woman with a polo wrap wound around her knee,

Doc, "What is that?"

Me, "It's a polo wrap."

Doc, "Huh?"

Me, "It's a horse thing. You wrap their legs with it. It's all we had."

Doc, "Oh. Well, you sprained it."

And, there it was.

A sprain.

Without an MRI, I'll never know exactly what damage I did. The doctor said only serious athletes really need to know exactly what kind of damage they have, so an MRI was out. I can't say I really disagree, although it did cross my mind that he probably has no idea how much physical labor farmers do and how shit-out-of-luck I will be if it doesn't heal well.

Still, it's been a couple of days now, and it's already somewhat better.

For one thing, I'm not screaming.

And I don't need a shovel to walk, though hobbling is a truly inefficient way to distribute hay.

One flake here...hobble hobble hobble; one flake here...hobble hobble hobble; one flack here...hobble hobble hobble.

Ahhhh, feeding goes on for hours.

And, there's a distinct wobble in the joint that was never there before.

Seems like a big price to pay for a lesson I should have had for free.

I mean, honestly, who wrestles goats on stairs?

Dumb. Really dumb.


  1. Try a knee brace. I hurt my knee badly a couple of years ago, and I bought one of those good knee braces that is about twelve inches long and costs about $35.00. It was well worth the price and really helps. I wear it often in the winter, and also when I am doing hard work on uneven ground, like during haying season. It just stabilizes and supports the knee, and it will really help you while your knee is healing.

  2. I was afraid that story was going to end with you recovering from surgery! Heal well!

  3. p.s. I would have done something similar. Sometimes I think I am Superwoman.

  4. This post is what my nightmares are made of. I am so glad you didn't break anything - sprains are bad enough when you are a one-woman show. And thank you for the reminder about toting my phone with me EVERYWHERE. Again - glad you are okay. You have a lot of dependents... :)

  5. The brace is probably a good idea. And, well, I won't give you the lecture on how sheep are better than goats ;-D.

  6. Hope you are improving. So glad it was only a sprain!