I live next door to a gaggle of goats, four to be exact. Now, I know they come in herds but I like alliteration so gaggle it is. Anyway, my next door neighbor, LizzyGal, has these four goats that live in a penned area out back, just before the land slopes down to the creek below. In the ample pen, there are three little outbuildings, one serving as the goat’s sleeping quarters, another as her stained glass window studio, and a third structure that used to be a chicken coup.
When I first moved here a few years ago Liz had about a dozen chickens but they kept getting picked off by coyotes until there was only one remaining. She finally had to surrender to the inevitability of nature’s food chain and gave up having a fresh egg source.
But the goats! With two larger ones, Max and Minnie, and two smaller ones named Ruby and Olive, she has quite a family, though not by breeding. Each one has its own unique personality and I must say, they have afforded me an unusual insight as to their lovely characters. Yet unexpectedly, they have also revealed something unattractive about me, for I quickly discovered I have a kind of tepid cowardice towards these four-legged Caprines.
That’s right, cowardice. While in the very face of an unfettered attraction to them, when they ‘rush me’, I am instantly intimidated, fearing they will butt me, which Minni has done on a several occasions. She does not do this to be mean or anything; she’s just being a goat! Goats butt things: to get attention, to establish dominance, and/or to just play. Goats butt, I cower, and Liz, bless her, looks on with sympathy. My character defect is so exposed!!
The goats seem to take wild liberties with violating my personal space too. If Liz and I are sitting out back just outside the penned area, they will come up and get in my face, looking for affection from a good head-scratching. Liz patiently tells me that’s what they’re after and, while I timidly scratch the scull near where their horns used to be, the encounter is a brief encounter at best. Why? For some unknown reason I have a vague suspicion if I continue, they’ll climb onto my lap, taking liberties with the hard-won attention I have given, however reluctantly.
In contrast, Liz is amazing with her goats, and they with her, for it is obvious they are not only bonded as mammals one to another, but also, in love, the kind of love that originates from nature’s wellspring. It is so delicious and sweet to be in their company. When they are out loose, they munch on grasses and weeds but if they wander very far from her, they look around and catch up quickly, bounding away from a food source in lieu of what really sustains them: Liz’s care, respect and affection.
For while goats can be physically intimidating, only occasionally aggressive, by nature they are incredibly docile, displaying remarkably tender hearts. My cowardice puts me to shame. Is it their bulk that scares me. Or is it their love? Yet, at least I’m willing to hang out with the brood periodically, along with my protector, Liz, their functional mom! For I see she has a gutsy life force far different than mine. She does not seem afraid of physical pain, other people’s opinions, or to have an unlikely closeness with creatures that are at once demanding yet so astonishingly generous with their affections.
Besides the house in town, Liz and her husband have a little ranch near the Mataguay Scout Ranch, not far from Santa Ysabel. She takes the goats (and her dogs) out with her from time to time, to romp and play in the unfettered wildness of the desert plateau. In October there is a Mountain Man festival and she has invited me for a visit. I hope to overcome some of my cowardice whilethere, to open up and gain some confidence. Maybe I’ll even meet a mountain man at the festival, one who will challenge me to buck up and get over my shyness with my four-legged next door neighbors. If only.