My Dear Goat, Dusty
by Christina Carson
My natural inclination toward intensity tends to bore holes in people if I don’t let up a tad. So in a lighter vein, let me take you back to a time when I had just started farming, filled with the enthusiasm of self-sufficiency and new beginnings. We lived simply in a three-room cabin. No running water. Initially, no electricity. And for a delightful while, no phone. We were going to grow our own food, milk goats for dairy products, and breed sheep. These were the dreams of two people who were good at gardening, but had never milked, owned a goat, nor touched a live ewe. So much for triflings.
As naïve as we were, we should have at least sensed something amiss when we paid so little for a goat that milked as well as Dusty did. We should have listened a bit more carefully to why she was even for sale, but instead we chalked it up to our good fortune and only later tried to locate where exactly those previous owners lived.
Dusty, an ample milk producer, was also noisy, stubborn and ill-behaved. She insisted on jumping the fence and living in the yard rather than remaining in the field with the other animals and, in so doing, got into all manner of mischief. This choice of hers ultimately led to the horrible day when Dusty, in a world of wilderness, meaning shade trees everywhere, chose instead to sleep under the truck. So when our neighbors called for help that day, and we ran out, jumped into the pick-up and slammed it into reverse, we heard the most god-awful scream that either of us had ever heard to that point in our lives. We sat there, eyes closed, not breathing, almost too frightened to see what we had done, but knowing we had to look-now. As we peered under the vehicle, Dusty lay there, one front leg broken when the undercarriage had flipped her over. Gently, we got her out and using our newly acquired vet skills, set the leg. We’d had one broken leg during the winter with a lamb that had fallen on the ice. Having been amazingly successful with that case, we saw no reason to do otherwise with Dusty. The point we missed was that nothing swells in minus thirty but one’s desire to move to Florida. We had no idea that the other animal was “wearing” a 24-hour-a-day ice pack and thus our ignorance remained undetected. When Dusty’s leg began swelling the next day and did so with alarming speed, we knew we had to get her to the vet, fast.
This was to be another humbling experience, for as the vet informed us on one of our many visits; he enjoyed us as clients, because since we had moved into the area, he never had to struggle to come up with an incident for their Monday morning odd case sessions that the area vets came to share at this center. This one made us not only an object lesson, but also got us a good scolding as old Dusty was already on the edge of gangrene.
All came well in the end except for the fact that the goat was determined never to forgive or forget. Months after she was completely healed and sound as a dollar, she began a drill with anyone who came to visit us on the farm. Dusty would greet them in the yard, hold out her once broken leg and make this pathetic sound of victimization, obviously causing the words—do you know what these people did to me?— to form in the minds of most everyone. I say this because family and friends would stare at her, then look at us questioningly much akin to how animal rightists stare at lab techs, and many would demand an explanation. Our friends, for godsake, would hear our explanation with faces exuding doubt.
So one lovely summer’s day, I said to Dusty, “I have had enough of you. You are going to live elsewhere.” Since her original owners wouldn’t take her back, I gifted her to a dear friend who raised goats and had the proper disposition for it. She was delighted, and I was relived.
However, one morning, Dorothy called me and asked, “What’s the dirt on this lifting the leg thing Dusty does and howling like a banshee anytime someone comes into my yard?”
All I replied was, “Trust me, Dorothy, you wouldn’t believe it if I told you.”
The last thing I heard was Dorothy chuckling and the click of the replaced receiver. Maybe some Saturday night storytelling session, augmented by her red wine she bought by the gallon, I’d tell her, but probably not.
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