I didn’t know her. She didn’t know me.
But last week, in the midst of parallel tragedies, we found each other.
Laura was faced with the daunting task of dispersing her herd. Faced with divorce, financial devastation, a pit bull attack on one of her does that left babies orphaned, and her leased pasture being rezoned, she had to grapple with the unthinkable – selling, in some cases giving away, animals that in so many ways felt like family.
Over the past month and a half, I had suffered four deaths. My Nigerian Dwarf goats, Scout and Boo, were killed on otherwise lovely day. I had returned one early evening from having been gone for just 45 minutes. My dog sat between their bodies in the pasture. A month later, having decided to try again at raising goats, this time Nubians, I returned home from work to find Klaus and Violet, just a month old, dead. This time, the kill was in their day stall, a horse stall retrofitted for baby goats to not escape. It was the first day I had left the dog in the backyard since the first round of death. For hours, I sat in the dark stillness of night, shotgun readied with game load, convinced that a predator would be returning any moment. And when it did, I would deliver retribution. None came. The predator, my brain finally told my heart the next morning, had slept under my bed that night. A few tests and consultation with the veterinarian later – who agreed that the dog now posed a threat to my children – and it was time to do what my gut had screamed at me after the first two were killed. It felt like a very Sopranos sort of day.
I had been poking around the internet in the days that followed and landed upon Laura’s site because she was just a few hours north of where I lived and happened to raise Nigerian Dwarf goats. But a plea for help she had posted caught my attention. A few text messages later and it was arranged. I would take in a few of her does that needed a loving home.
I borrowed a truck from one friend; a horse trailer from another. When I woke that Sunday and gave my children back to their dad, it was time to go. I couldn’t eat for the excitement. The 55 mph drive to Oroville felt like an eternity, with me, fretting, the entire way. Would they go willingly? Would they be so stressed they’d make themselves sick? Just how friendly was this LaMancha breed anyhow?
When I got to Laura’s pasture, I noticed an abundance of babies frolicking about, and one very distraught little Nigerian dwarf wandering around by himself. After settling matters about the two LaMancha does I’d be taking, I asked Laura about the babies. “Oh, no one wants them – they’re boys,” she said. “I’ll probably just have to sell them for meat.” I looked at the horse trailer that could easily have transported her entire herd back to my four-acre farm. “Laura, can I have them? I can’t let them die,” I said. Laura’s face lit up, a smile spreading widely as the distinct reality of death evaporated.
Twenty minutes later, I was driving down Highway 70, a horse trailer of four boys, one yearling doe and a very pregnant 2-year-old doe in my rearview mirror. As we bumped down the road, other cars passing us by and passengers straining to get a glimpse of what I could possibly have in the trailer, I named each and every one of my new babies. They would be the Highwaymen – Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson (KK), Wailin’ Jennings and Johnny Cash, my sprightly little Nigerian dwarf. CoRhona, a registered doe from award-winning dairy lines, is now affectionately called “Mama” and my somewhat skittish yearling, with her beautiful hazel eyes, Stella.
They happily grazed in the pasture for hours upon our arrival home, making their way like an odd parade into the paddock, and later, into the foaling stall of the barn. Every morning, I’m greeted by bleats as soon as I push back the heavy barn door. They wait for me to open the top of the dutch door before getting up, the girls from their regal poses in the corner, the boys from their haphazard pile in the middle of the stall. Every morning, they follow me diligently out into their pasture, one by one making their way past the chickens, over the tires, through the gate. Every morning, I smile as I realize that the dream is real.