Author: Cornish, Rick

Joe the Goat; A Postscript
Time goes by so damned fast. It was seven years ago that Lynn and I drove one Sunday afternoon to Mt. Ranch and picked out two tiny Boar Goat kids from about the two dozen that were available. On the drive back we named them—the smaller, darker one we named Ted after my recently deceased brother in law, who was also small and dark. The other we named Joe….Joey….formally, Joe the Goat. Joey had been raised as a 4-H project by the young son of the breeder; he’d been allowed to sleep in the house; he hung out more with the family dogs than with his goat brethren; he’d been taught to adore neck sratches.

And it was just eleven months ago that I wrote a Welcome column about Joe and the on-going war he and I carried on for years—he would find a way to escape the pasture, I’d plug the hole, in a few days he’d find another. On and on, month after month. I didn’t really let on in the story how much I liked Joey, how I’d go out of my way to give him a neck scratch, how, in the rare event that I and not Lynn would feed the pasture animals, I’d make sure that Joe got a little extra sweet cob. I readily admit that Boar Goats, more commonly known as ‘Meat’ goats, were not bred to be pets. They were bred to be MEAT. That said, Joey was closer to being a pet than he was to being livestock and I really did have great affection for him.

Well, we had to put Joe the Goat down on Thursday. Out of nowhere his heart rate began to soar to twice the normal and before we knew it he was in congestive heart failure and his time was up. So in honor of my stubborn, escape-artist, sweet cob-loving, butting-when-he-got-the-chance goat pal, I’ll re-post the story I wrote last November.

Joe the Goat

This is the story of Joe the Goat and how he helped me reevaluate the rhythm of my daily life. The story begins this past summer, the very Saturday morning I was to leave for Grass Valley and our 32nd annual Fathers Day Festival. It so happens that one entire wall of our shower is a large window looking out onto our yard and, beyond that, our fenced pasture. While lathering up I happened to glance out the window and saw that the larger of our two Boar goats, Joe, was on the wrong side of the pasture fence and was snacking on some blood red roses in the garden. I banged furiously on the window. “NO, NO, NO!” I yelled. Joe glanced nonchalantly in my direction and then went to work on yet another rose bush.

Let me stop here briefly for a word about Joe the Goat. We acquired Joe, (Lynn calls him Joey), and Ted, the other Boar, about six years ago from a goat breeder in Mountain Ranch. The two goats were roughly the same size and had nearly the same markings, but Joe was raised by the rancher’s young daughter for a 4-H project and was treated pretty much as a household pet. Bottle-fed, taken on walks, allowed to sleep at the foot of the girl’s bed. Which is all to say that Joe the Goat behaved, (and we suspect, thought of himself), more as a dog than a goat. And though Joe is certainly not as intelligent as a dog, he’s light years smarter than Ted, and the llamas and sheep for that matter.

Not bothering to even dry off, I leapt out of the shower, threw on some shorts and flip flops and ran out into the yard in the hopes of saving at least a few of the roses. Grabbing Joe by his two huge horns, I tried steering him away from the bushes, all the while being careful not to let him gore me. Keep in mind that Boar goats, in the industry known as ‘meat goats’ get to be about 250 pounds….Rick-sized, you could say. Reluctantly Joe allowed me to lead him the 20 yards or so to the pasture gate and, once there, to reunite him with his five colleagues, all of whom by now were watching with anxious curiosity. (Anxious, because pasture animals tend to look out for one another.)

Upon returning to the house I discovered that Lynn had been watching the whole show.

“Change in plans, I presume,” my wife said, rather than ask.

“What do you mean,” I knew exactly what she meant.

“Only that before you can leave for Grass Valley you’ve got to figure out where that goat got out and make sure he doesn’t do it again. Rick, you’re going to be gone for nine days and we can’t have Joey getting out. It’s bad enough he’s eaten our own landscaping. What happens when he spots our neighbors rhododendrons?”

Of course she was right, but for three months I’d planned on being on the road by 8:00 a.m. Damned goat.

Instead I left by noon. It took me an hour just to locate the breach, or at least what I thought was the breach. It looked like Joe had rubbed up against a section of the fence in order to scratch himself (there was matted hair on the grids) so many times that he’d bulged the fence out and, hence, had lifted it off the ground enough to somehow crawl under. It took a while to get the fence pulled back into shape, and then to drive twelve-inch nails into the ground to keep it firmly held down. While I worked five of the animals crowded around to watch. Joe, however, was at the other end of the pasture munching grass….indifferently, I imagined.

My wife’s not much of a camper, so our tradition is that she joins me at the festival on Wednesday or Thursday and leaves on Saturday. The very first words out of Lynn’s mouth when she arrived at our encampment at the festival Wednesday afternoon were, “Joey got out yesterday.”

“How? Where?”

“I don’t know,” she said a bit coolly, “I looked and looked and couldn’t find where he got out.” (You see, house cleaning and washing clothes and the like are Lynn’s job; my job includes things like making certain that fences do what they’re supposed to do.)

“So what did you do.”

“I led him back into the pasture. He was in the pasture when I left this morning. Where he’ll be when I return on Saturday is anyone’s guess.”

Joe the Goat was with the other animals in the pasture when Lynn arrived back home on Saturday. (She did have a voice message from a neighbor, however, complaining about our run away goat. Apparently Joe was coming and going as he pleased.) I got home from Grass Valley two days later, and after a day of resting up, I did another thorough inspection of the two and a half acre fence and found the spot where the Boar had escaped. This time he went over. I fixed the problem.

Several weeks went by before, again one morning, mid way through my shower, I spotted Joe the Goat headed toward the neighbor’s property. This time, however, I was off to an important meeting in Stockton and just barely had enough time to wrestle him, dressed in a sport coat and tie and swearing every step of the way, back to the pasture.

By the end of summer this goat-out-of-pasture thing had become a sort of Clash of the Titans. No, a duel of wits. It seemed that each time I found and fixed a breach in the fence (and this is a LONG fence) the goat would find a new escape route. And he’d invariably do it when it was most inconvenient…..the day I had a deadline…..a board meeting day…...a day company was coming over. Joey just seemed to know when to strike, and somehow he always had the upper hand. Sure, I was way, way smarter than him, but he knew the pasture and the fence that surrounds it like the back of his hoof (and don’t forget, Joey was led to believe he was a canine from birth). Of course, I had tools and technology on my side, but he had unlimited time. I was into a thousand different projects, had hundreds of different deadlines and scores of responsibilities; he spent, or at least I imagined he spent, his entire day planning his next break out. Sort of like Steve McQueen in the “Great Escape”, time was on his side. And maybe most important, Joe the Goat was flexible, which is to say he could make his move whenever and wherever he wanted. I was bound up by commitments—two days per week at my office in Stockton, CBA stuff, and, of course the never ending web site work, especially the daily deadlines.

And that’s when it hit me. To b
Posted:  8/30/2008

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