Tuesday, January 11, 2005

The days of Elmer, GFH

I was going through some old photos last night and I came across a group of them from, oh, around 1985, when the kids were 4 and 5 years old. In the photos, they're holding a bucket for a small white goat, which is standing on his hind feet to reach. Cute. And I thought , Elmer!! The Goat from Hell! I (mercifully) haven't thought about Elmer in years and years.

It started off as a good idea. We hadn't lived here long and most of the property was covered in an impenetrable thicket of multi-flora roses, blackberry vines, wild grape vines, poison ivy, all intertwined around and over black locust trees (think of thorns the size of your thumb). Every weekend we'd venture out to whack away at some minute portion of it with scythe and loppers, only to have it grow back before we even got back in the house for fresh band-aids, sort of like the castle of sleeping beauty that the prince battles. A friend, B., suggested we get a young brush goat to graze on the stuff. I was sceptical at first, but B. assured me that goats are brush eaters by nature (not grass grazers as I had thought) and that one would clear the place "in no time". So off we went one weekend to the livestock auction with B., and came home with a 4 month old wether goat we named Elmer. Note, when I say wether, that means a male that has been separated from his, er, nuggets. No one, outside of goat breeders, wants billy goats. Every day we chained Elmer to a tree in a different area, and between eating the stuff and dragging that chain across it, he managed to clear a swathe pretty well. There were only two problems. First, Elmer loved our Husky dog. Whenever he got loose, he'd make a beeline for the dog, peacefully sleeping on the front porch, and he would, um, straddle her and proceed to hump like crazy. You try explaining this sight to a five year old. "they're playing" I'd say. My daughter would reply, "I don't think Shadow likes it much." To get to the dog, Elmer would cross our driveway, and if one of the cars was in the driveway, so much the better. CLippity clip he'd scale the trunk, up onto the roof, and then down the hood and off the side, sharp little hooves gouging away at the paint. If he was dragging the chain, he'd make sure it got dragged over the car too, just to make sure the sides of the car didn't feel left out. This is when he began to be known as the GFH.
The other problem was, Elmer didn't like going in his shed at night. It stands to reason, right? It was clean and dry in there, fresh straw on the floor, water, salt block, grain, hay, all the mod cons. So of course he took a bizarre dislike to it, standing on his hind feet and bawling at the top of his lungs if you were within earshot of the shed.
And did I mention horns? Oh yes, Elmer grew horns. It seems you can either get the vet to cut them off, or you can paint the horn buds with some caustic stuff that keeps them from growing in; B. was a little vague on what you used and where you got it, so we just let things slide til Elmer had a nice set of wicked horns.
Fast forward about two years. Gone is the cute little kid. Now we have a BIG goat, his diet clearly agreed with him, one that stamps his foot and tosses his (horny) head at you when annoyed. By now the dog is a wraddled wreck, just the sound of clip clop sends her frantically trying to get under the deck and away from the (horny) weird GFH. The property is devoid of any and all brush cover, and the cars have a peculiar dimpled surface.
The final straw was one day after it had been raining all week. I had Elmer firmly by the chain and was taking him to the shed for the night. It was a tricky manouver, to unclip the chain, push him in the shed with your legs and shut the door all in one motion. The ground was muddy and wet, and my timing was off. Elmer threw himself in reverse and took off for the front porch, with me still firmly holding onto the chain. He had me off my feet and down in the mud so fast I left a hole in the air. By now we had fence posts up, connected only by a single strand of electric wire. As Elmer towed me effortless into the fencewire, just as he whipped the chain through my lacerated fingers, I thought, this goat has got to go.
Now hubby, N. is a softie. He didn't like the idea of selling Elmer, afraid that he would go to someone who would abuse him. I was rooting for someone to barbeque him. But on a Saturday, N and I loaded the GFH in the back of the pickup and headed back to the auction. We finally got him in a little pen, said Whew! and went out front to wait for the auction to begin. There was a little paddock area in front of the auctioneer, they would open a door on one side of it and usher in one animal at a time to be auctioned, and then open a door on the opposite side and usher it out. It went pretty quickly and when it came time for the goats, they moved all of them into one big pen near the entry doorway. Every time they opened the entry door, I got a glimpse of Elmer. I knew it was him because he was humping away at all the other goats, big , little, male, female. B. was at the auction too, and I thought he would do himself harm, he was laughing so hard. But when the time came, Elmer sold quickly, and we were off before they changed their minds.
I just hope they didn't have dogs.

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