Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Sorrowful Saga of Seventh Goat

In addition to our goats and sheep, our property is enjoyed by other ungulates.  When we moved here, there were no fences to speak of, and deer roamed freely in and out.  A year ago, there were at least five deer more or less resident.  I saw one of them trying to run away from me one day last winter, hobbled by a rear leg that seemed to be attached mainly with skin; I guess she was winged by a car, and I never saw her again.  By early summer, we had the main field fenced off, and the hot wire may have diminished the appeal of the place a little.  The summer was pretty dry, and may have attritted the population somewhat.   However, a doe chose to give birth to a pair of fawns within the field, and they couldn’t hop the fence.  By fall they were weaned, and their mother left, but they remained.
These two little deer spent the winter getting fat on our grasses, and not feeling the least compulsion to leave.  We weren’t wild about having tame deer, and though their relationship to our flock is distant, they bring chance of disease transmission. 

Early in winter, the field’s main gate was left open overnight, and one of the twins wandered out just a little bit.  This happened just as the Real Doctor was driving off to the day’s work, and the little thing spooked: instead of heading back through the gate to home, it ran away from the Real Doctor, and down the driveway.  It wasn’t a pretty scene; the Real Doctor’s car inching down the driveway, a juvenile deer panicking in front of her, trying painfully to jump through the fence.  Its efforts were paralleled by its twin, stuck inside the fence.  Eventually, the Real Doctor got around the deerling, and the deerling calmed down and trotted back through the gate.    

One day during the dark of winter, I noticed that there was only one of the deerlings trotting around.  The next day, I found the corpse of the other deerling, without any visible signs of injury.  So, what to do?  It’s said that if you have livestock, then at some point, you’ll have dead stock, so you’d better have a way to deal with corpses.  When it comes to our sheep and goats, we’ll probably burn or bury, but I wanted this particular stiff off the farm—I wasn’t sure what killed it, and I didn’t want the chance of something infecting our critters.  I also knew, from biking around here, that there are plenty of dead deer in roadside ditches of Douglas County.  So, I got in touch with my inner mobster, loaded the corpse into the trunk of my car the loader on the tractor, and dumped the body in a ditch by the side of a dead-end side road. No trace of it remains

The tale of woe continues; the remaining deerling, bereft of its twin, grew desperate for company.  It decided it was a goat, a member of the herd by our front gate, and it spent the last month getting tamer and tamer. The last time he visited, the vet thought that we’d gotten a seventh goat, and “Seventh Goat” became the deerling’s name.  The goats, however, did not requite the affection. 

A couple of wilder deer came and visited, and the deerling did seem interested in them, but not interested enough to hop the fence.  The wild deer wandered off, and Seventh Goat wandered back to the indifferent familiarity of the herd. 

I tried leaving the main gate open again today, in another effort to get Seventh Goat to leave.  It was an absolutely lovely spring day, warm and green and bloomy, the world lush and lovely.   I looked up from my tea this afternoon and saw that S.G. had—very hesitantly—walked out through the gate.  Not wanting to spook it, I went around the back of the house while it investigated the browsing in front of the house; I sprinted over to the gate and closed it with a clang.  S.G. gave me a startled look, and I’m probably projecting to say that the look had some realization that the known world had ended.
It’s evening, and when I was doing the chores, I saw Seventh Goat forlornly patrolling up and down the fence, looking for an open gate.  The animal’s big enough to clear the fence in an easy hop, but I think it’s an insurmountable mental barrier.  Hopefully it will move on, and find cervine happiness and fulfillment, not (as we worry) the front of a log truck. 

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