I pull into my daughter’s driveway with two baby goats in the back of the Honda Fit. Kahlista, my granddaughter, and two of her playmates run out squealing in joy. I carefully open the hatch and lead the mini-Lamancha kids on leashes to the front-yard grass, where the six-year-olds pet them and take turns walking them around the house.
“Girls, we need to name these baby goats,” I say.
“Goats, goats,” they chant, dancing in a circle and laughing maniacally.
It takes some negotiating for three girls to come up with two names, but we settle on Princess for the shyer, black-banded white one, and Butterfly for the brown-and-black cutie who is butting her little, polled, baby-goat head against me, the girls, and Princess.
“Let’s get these kids home,” I say when I notice that the girls and the goats all look tired.
“They’re not kids, Grandma,” says Kahlista in outrage, “They’re goats!” I lift the cute little kids—uh, goats—back into the hatch-back to settle on the blanket and drive to my new country home.
Little knowing what’s in store.
I come home from work at lunchtime because of an appointment to get cable TV installed. The cable guy is here, his white truck in the driveway. He is down by the highway with a measuring wheel.
The goats broke out of their pasture again this morning, leaning and pushing against the fence until the staples popped off the posts, then rolling under the wire mesh. All of the fruit trees and bushes in the front have been eaten to the ground. Again.
There is a fence around the circular vegetable garden, but the gate has been pushed open. Pretty much all that’s left are the weeds. I haven’t seen the critters since I arrived home to meet the workman, and I am a little worried. Cars and trucks drive much too fast on the road in front of my property.
But then I hear a yell and look out the kitchen window. The goats have climbed to the top of the utility truck’s cab and are skittering around, alternately pushing each other down to the bed and climbing back up. The cable man is hollering and waving his arms. I go out, and he is taking pictures with his cell phone.
“They’ll mess up the truck. Get ‘em down!” he hollers. He texts the pictures to his boss.
I try to tempt the small, sturdy goats off the truck with handfuls of grain. They tease me, coming close but not letting me grab their collars, then running and hopping back to the top of the truck. The worker is yelling at them—and at me.
I sink to the ground, laughing until my stomach hurts.
It’s Christmas Eve. We don’t get many white Christmases in Harnett County, NC, but one is predicted this time. The goats got out again last night. I have rebuilt the fences, moved the wire mesh from the outside to the inside, added an electric wire at the top, and reinforced the gates. It doesn’t matter. These girls must be communing with Houdini’s spirit: They can escape from anything. I walk around the pond with a scoop of feed and some apple pieces calling, “Princess, Butterfly! Come on girls, come home. Butterfly, Prinnnnncessss!” I feel like an idiot and wish I’d given the goats more appropriate names, like Satan and Beelzebub.
I have to go, so I make sure there is a way back into the small pole barn and set out a pile of hay and some warm water, hoping it won’t freeze too fast. The dogs and I head to Raleigh to have Christmas with my daughter and grandkids. I take a packed bag in case I’m not able to get back home.
It’s afternoon of the day after Christmas before I make it back. I carefully slide the car down the 500-foot driveway on six inches of pristine, shiny, refrozen snow. No sign of goats. No footprints or goat pellets on the expanse of icy snow.
But not ten minutes later I hear a clatter on the porch. They’ve come back! There they are, frolicking and butting and leaving little brown presents on the ice. By the time I pull on a jacket and get outside, they are back in the barn munching hay. My mood lifts. I really thought they were gone this time. I close the gate, shove cinder blocks against the part of fence they pushed through, add a second layer of fencing, hammer in lots of staples, test the patch by pushing and pulling in all directions, and then turn back towards the house.
My neighbor, Brenda, is throwing out hay for her horses.
“Did you have a good Christmas?” she asks. We chat for a minute, and I ask if she’d seen where the goats were during the snowstorm.
Brenda laughs and says, “I’m not sure, but the doorbell rang during our Christmas dinner.”
I tilt my head. “Hmmmm?”
“We couldn’t imagine who’d be coming over on Christmas Day without calling ahead. Cal went to the door and there were your goats on the porch, the brown one standing on her hind legs with her feet on the screen door. He chased them off, but I felt bad.” Brenda’s a real softy when it comes to animals.
“The goats rang the bell?” I ask, mouth hanging open.
“Yup, guess they did.”
I’m dumbstruck. I can’t decide whether to laugh or apologize, so I shake my head and go back to stare through the fence at the little monsters. They stare back with their demonic, horizontal, rectangular pupils set in those golden irises. They’re laughing at me.
I can’t hear it, but, trust me, I know that’s what they’re doing. ❖