The highway was dark and windy through the hills. So remote that for about an hour in each direction, there was no cell phone reception. I was off the grid. It felt unnerving and yet addictive and liberating all once. Like taking a downhill slope without poles.
On the way there, my children chattered eagerly in the backseat, naming the four-week-old baby goats we were in route to pick up. Our herd of eight was about to expand by three more – two does and one buck. Triplets born May 28 to Truman and Cheryl, experienced goat farmers who been through the kidding season all their lives and wanted to enjoy retirement and the serenity that elder does bring to a farm. They were selling the bottle babies for a song, and even lowered the nominal price when I said I would take the boy. “Do you know anyone who might want to take on a buckling? I can wether him for ya,” Truman said when I called. “You mean there’s a third?” I asked incredulously, shocked that their sale didn’t just list them as a trio that needed a home. “I’ll take him. I can’t split them up.” They were named 10 minutes into the two-and-a-half hour car ride. Klaus, Violet and Sunny, named for the main characters in the Lemony Snicket novels. They are Nubian goats, the same breed and names as the pair we had lost months before to untimely death.
Darkness settled in as we pulled away from Truman and Cheryl’s humble farm, where I was peppered with questions about my goat-rearing abilities. What kind of bottles would I use (Caprine nipples atop long-neck beer bottles – raised eyebrow), do I know how to trim hooves (yes – audible sigh of relief), will I vaccinate (yes, I do it myself – nod of approval). I tucked the three babies, already calling for their mother – enter pangs of guilt – into the dog crate retrofitted with cardboard and alfalfa that was tucked tightly in the back of my SUV. Truman and Cheryl looked concerned. “I’ll show you my ranch,” I said as I ushered my son and daughter into their booster seats, feeling as if the goat herders might change their mind should I linger a moment longer. I tapped on my camera and up popped the lock screen photo of my son hugging our newest La Mancha baby, Merle Haggard, and kissing him atop his fuzzy brown head. Cheryl looked pleased.
We laughed as the baby goats entertained us for a few minutes with a chorus of “Mehs,” like a trifecta of Yiddish misfits bemoaning mushy matzah. About 20 minutes into the drive, my children fell into a deep sleep and the babies finally tucked their legs under them and huddled close, drifting off as the miles passed by. Patsy Cline crooned softly on the radio, crackling every once in a while like vinyl due to my streaming the album through an unused radio frequency. It was the only function my phone had at the moment. Calm set in. That is, until a turn jostled the babies. One stood and mewed softly. A minute later, the car was filled with an unholy stench. I yelped to no one in particular, convinced that my nostrils, and my car, would never be the same. There was still 65 miles left in the journey.
The smell dissipated after about 30 minutes. The last stretch of our trek, my mind shifted to what my life has become: adventure, farm-edition. Life, death, laughter, sadness, joy, pain, work, rest. But most importantly love. Love for two people I do it all for – my children. Love for animals that might not know it otherwise. And love for myself. For the strength I’ve found and the fearlessness with which I now live my life. And what a life it is.