Or, How I Got This Baby on the Bottle….
It’s time for another regaling about life on the farm (my go-to when I draw a blank on what to blog about writing). You see, a few weeks ago I decided it was time to raise and train pack goats (yes, you read that right the first time).
But even though I’ve raised goats for, ahem, decades, we hadn’t been in the baby business for several years because I could no longer commit to milking twice a day. The brush-control squad we were keeping didn’t qualify as candidates to produce pack goats, so I needed to – and succeeded at – locating a couple of two-week-old kids.
There was one small issue I knew I’d have to confront: They’d been nursing off their mom, and goat babies are notorious for not liking to switch to a bottle.
Getting them to make this switch is nothing new for me. In my milking days I’d leave the kids with Mommy the first day or two to insure they’d get their colostrum (a component in early milk that keeps them alive). Although the babies might go on a hunger strike initially, I’ve never had one starve to death….
We named these bouncing baby boys Charlie and Buster. In case you didn’t know, they’re named after Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, two of the most capricious actors that make me crack up laughing.
When feeding time rolled around after we brought them home, Buster wasn’t daunted by the rubber nipple for long. Once he realized that was milk dribbling into his mouth, he nursed like a champ.
Charlie reacted more the way I expected. He squawked and turned his head to spit the nipple out. It’s possible more milk trickled down his chin than his throat. I shrugged and figured he’d be hungrier in the morning, and figure things out then.
But the next day Charlie didn’t show any improvement. During breakfast, lunch, and supper, Buster would chug away while his brother cried and spit and invented all kinds of contortions to get that nasty rubber nipple out of his mouth. By that evening, I’d made up my mind….
If Charlie didn’t eat the next morning, it was time to pull out an old trick.
Sure enough, that dawn he behaved as badly as ever. So as soon as the nearest Dollar General store opened, I hopped in the car to pick up a plastic baby bottle and a package of spare nipples.
Since the silicone nipples for two-legged babies have too small an orifice for four-legged babies, I cut one wider slit across the top (although in previous occasions I’ve had to cut an X to get the milk to really gush out). After warming a cup’s worth for Charlie, I brought his new bottle out to the barn.
Since Buster believed he was supposed to get a second breakfast, I carried Charlie into the barnyard and cornered him between the fence and my leg. As usual he resisted as I thrust the nipple into his mouth. When he settled into his You got it in my mouth but I refuse to suck form of resistance, I gave the bottle a quick squeeze.
Charlie still didn’t move. I squeezed a second time.
His next reaction could be translated as Where have you been all my life!
Maybe it was also because the nipple was smaller and softer (in my milking days, I always preferred to start kids off with broken-in, softened nipples). But there’s something about squirting the milk into their mouths that’s more effective than counting on gravity to dribble it. Charlie guzzled down the milk with as much enthusiasm as Buster … maybe more.
Once finished, he gave me the goat equivalent of a hug, and since then considers me to be his best friend in the world. Oh, there is a way to work some philosophy about writing into this piece: When coming up with the right words seems like a struggle, just try some old trick to get something started (just a squirt), and it’s likely the words will begin to flow.
And I was also able to return to my writing, satisfied with the knowledge my track record of never having a baby goat starve to death on me remains intact….