Tahlequah Daily Press

Columns

April 9, 2012

Ruminations on ruminants will get your goat

TAHLEQUAH — Marty Tinsley loves her goats. The way I’ve heard my husband tell it, she’d just as soon live in the pasture with her goats as live inside the house with her husband, Chrys.

Marty since she took care of my son when he was a baby, and my husband – also Chris – has known her Chrys longer: They worked together at the Methodist Home, and then for NSU’s Facilities Management department. Marty worked at NSU, too, until she decided to become a full-time goatherd. Still, I have to be careful what I say: Marty’s the “connection” for those at the Press who have developed a goat cheese habit since her family’s Canyon Ridge Farm began producing the stuff a year or so ago. If Marty decided to cut us off, we’d be Jonesing in our desperate quest to score a fix.

Teddye Snell wrote a story about the farm for Friday’s Press, and when she returned from the interview, she was threatening to move in with the Tinsleys, because those 80-odd goats are sooo cute. A couple put their front hooves on her, like a dog would its paws, seeking treats or scratches behind the ears. One ripped off a page of the reporter’s notepad she had stashed in her hip pocket, and commenced munching.

I had been thinking of entering the goat fray, because the hooved mammals would be more industrious than my husband or I at taking care of our yard. We have plenty of briars, stick-tights and other vegetation, and Marty says two or three would do the job. Our dilemma would be finding a way to ensure the critters don’t wind up pressed to the pavement by a semi jake-braking its way down Highway 10. According to Marty, goats would be at least as curious about summer river traffic as they would about a reporter’s notebook.

When I was a kid, we had a big garden and sort of a quasi-farm, with a few hogs and beef cattle, as well as a cantankerous cow that specialized in kicking over the milk pail. At one point, my dad decided to get a goat from the Hopsons, a family that had dozens of the bearded brow-sers. Carolyn Hopson, who was about my age, had named this goat “Ronnie,” after a kid she had a crush on. My dad, who didn’t think animals should have human-sounding names, changed the goat’s name to “Caesar.”

We hadn’t realized how important it is to a goat to attain the highest vantage point from which to observe his domain. For his seat of authority, Caesar picked our round propane tank – a classical silver contraption with a green hood on top. That goat would spend hours walking around the tank and planning his strategy, before backing off to get a good running start. Then he’d charge, and at the pivotal moment leap into the air and utter a loud “BAA-AAA!” Then came the hollow “gong” as the goat hit the tank, following by the sound of hooves sliding down the side, and the “whump” as he hit the ground.

Caesar never reached the summit, but his efforts irked my dad, who probably feared the goat would knock something loose and cost him several bucks in fuel. So for a few days, the goat was banished to the vacant bird dog pen, which had a gabled roof he could straddle as he surveyed his world. Once released from confinement, the goat set about his appointed task of mowing. But instead of taking the Johnson grass, bermuda and weeds as his spoils, the goat battened upon my mom’s roses. Now my mother didn’t have much luck at growing flowers where we lived. Roses were the exception, and she loved her rosebushes. So did the goat. I remember the first time I saw her glance out the picture window and exclaim, in surprise, “Oh, SHOOT! That goat’s after my roses!” She ran outside and yelled, “GET OUTTA HERE, GOAT!” The response was a defiant “BAAA!” as Caesar retreated to a safe distance, only to trot back to the flowerbed when my mom went inside.

From that moment on, it was war. The combatants chose their weapons – a wooden stick for my mom, and a pair of stubby horns for her opponent. I witnessed several skirmishes, once from a perch on the garage roof, looking down on the action. My mother went outside and concealed herself in a corner alcove of the house, back against the wall, poised with her stick, awaiting the enemy incursion. Moments later, the goat peered around the corner of the house, as he checked to see if the coast was clear. Then he tentatively moved toward the rose garden, stretched out his neck, started to nibble – and suddenly, my mother leaped out from her foxhole, brandishing her weapon and yelling “Ah-HAH! GOTCHA!” A fracas ensued, with my mom waving her stick and yelling, and the goat bobbing and weaving and bleating and trying to get a good butt in edgewise. Within seconds he bolted behind the woodpile, where he maintained a vigil until my mom vacated her post.

At some point, the battles began to interfere with my mother’s household duties. Perhaps supper was late one too many times and my dad decided enough was enough, or maybe my mom told my dad it was her or the goat. Either way, Caesar went back to the Hopsons after three weeks to resume his former life.

I’ve been thinking about the Goat War lately, while pondering the adoption of a couple of Caesar’s distant cousins. I have roses, too, although most of my bushes need to be replaced. We also have a propane tank, but it’s the lozenge-shaped variety, so it might work better as a watchtower. Or maybe I’ll just wait and hope my husband decides to get out the brushhog. I presume he won’t wander onto the highway and get squashed.

Kim Poindexter is managing editor of the Tahlequah Daily Press.

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