13 February 2008

Kidding Again!

Our first goat kid of the year dropped this afternoon! It was a single, but a milestone: not only the first animal of any kind born on our new farm, but also the first kid born to a goat that was herself born to us.

I don't have photos, because I haven't actually seen this kid. Naturally, the doe waited until I was safely off the property and driving to Illinois for the night (I'm delivering guest lectures to a couple of political science courses at the U of I tomorrow). Mrs Yeoman Farmer did, well, yeoman's work in tending to the newborn. The delivery had gone smoothly, but with 20 degree weather the newborn kid was shivering badly. And the goat buck (who we still haven't managed to separate into his own stall), who is normally quite compliant and subserviant to the older and larger does, suddenly began acting out badly.

MYF used pasture gates to rig up an enclosure in the barn for the doe and her newborn kid, and also rigged up a heat lamp to provide a bit more warmpth tonight. This was no easy task, as all our poultry brooding lamps had either broken or been left behind in IL. She made a special trip out to Tractor Supply, bought everything we need, and then spent hours getting all the animals situated. At long last (9pm), she was finished and gave me a call to fill me in on everything before eating dinner. Yes, you read that correctly: 9pm and she still hadn't eaten dinner. For those of you contemplating farm life, that's what can happen to your schedule when newborns pick inconvenient times to drop in (or the sheep pick an inconvenient time to break through a gate, or...or...)

Anyway, back to our story. Even separated, the goat buck began sticking his head through the fence and harassing the doe and newborn kid. He even managed to latch on to one of her teats and begin nursing! Sheesh! MYF began yelling at him and hitting at his head, but he persisted.

Suddenly, from stage right, enter...Scooter the Amazing Wonder Dog! Somehow realizing exactly what the problem was, even without being called or asked to help, he tore into the stall and got all over the buck's face. The buck tried to hit back, but Scooter bit at his nose. The buck pulled back, ran down the fence, and tried sticking his head through another area. Scooter shadowed him all the way, and was right in his face again when he came through. Back and forth they went, Scooter's tail wagging crazily in delight, frustrating the buck's every move. MYF is not a dog person, but cheered Scooter on all the way.

The funny thing about Scooter is that he's not really very smart. At one point, MYF commented that we should've named him "Odie," after the brainless dog in the Garfield comic strip. And MYF frequently calls him "Stupid," like it's his own common name --- and Scooter responds to it! ("Come here, Stupid. Sit, Stupid. Good boy, Stupid.") And yet, despite his stupidity, Scooter has an unbelievable talent with herding and managing livestock. It's truly a beautiful thing to behold, and I'm sorry I wasn't there to watch him work. (And, yes, MYF, I'm sorry I wasn't there to help you.)

I've jokingly begun referring to Scooter as the "Sheep Herding Wizard," as in the Who's classic song "Pinball Wizard". Just as the "deaf, dumb and blind kid" in the song can nonetheless "sure play a mean pin ball," Scooter seems to excel despite (and perhaps even because) of his lack of brains. Just a few weeks ago, late at night, all the sheep managed to get out of the barn and way out into one of the fields. That wasn't a problem for Scooter; together, he and I (but mostly he) got them all rounded up and back in the barn almost before MYF could get her coat on and come out to help us. And I was left asking myself, "How do you think he does it? I don't know / What makes him so good..."

I had to laugh when the "best in show" winner of the Westminster Dog Show was announced today, and the newscasters were singing the praises of that prancing beagle. Scooter will never win anything like that, because he's a plain old mixed-breed working dog --- not a show dog. And while he may not be the brightest bulb in the barn, he's certainly the most indispensible.

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