Teaching a New Goat an Old Trick

both goats
Aren’t they cute?

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….

Lamb nipples vs. baby nipples

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!

Charlie’s just a big baby….

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.

… Buster likes his milk a little harder.

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….

Let the Good Times Roll


The other day hubby and one of our offspring returned from hauling wood and asked what the Cajun phrase was for “Let the good times roll.”  After responding it was Lassaiz le bon temps rouler, I inquired why they wanted to know.

They’d had a discussion that if you yell Timber when a tree is about to fall, what would you yell if a log was about to roll over you (I do have a family that tries to be prepared)?  Rolling seemed straightforward enough, but of course they couldn’t leave well enough alone and also came up with Let the good times roll.

Now that’s what I call being optimistic.

That got me to thinking about people who try to make a living at something they enjoy, but the element of work still encroaches on such endeavors (no, you don’t want to know how my mind works).  I’m listening to music as I write this, and shortly will track down a picture to include with the post (yes, you’ve just experienced a ripple in the space-time continuum).

Writing, music, art … some would claim these activities aren’t as necessary as slaying an animal and dragging it back to the cave for consumption (I’m going way back in our history, folks).  But those activities also help to elevate existing to living.

You can just roast that meat over the fire and eat enough to stop your stomach from rumbling.  Or you can add some salt and herbs and experience savory satisfaction that makes you ask for seconds (cooking can be a bit of an art form, too).  While you’re dining, you can add pleasure to the time by telling stories, singing songs, and then paint on the wall a portrait of the critter you ate.

One of our uniquely human traits is appreciating beauty.  The readers, the listeners, and the gazers of the world are enriched by these various art forms.  So while it’s true that trying to produce this stuff can sometimes be a bit of a chore (meeting deadlines, getting the components to jive, etc.), we artsy-fartsy types address one small aspect of helping to make the world a better place.

Yes, sometimes this can feel like work, and the monetary pay often doesn’t seem to match the effort.  But most of us aren’t in it for the money (don’t get me wrong, I do find income useful).  Our greater satisfaction is usually derived from adding some beauty to somebody’s life.

Is that a log rolling this way?  Lassaiz le bon temps rouler…!

Only Other Option


“How do I know this wasn’t your plan all along?”  Although his voice was thin and the brogue accent further stilted by flat inflections, Oswald Taggart’s gaze seemed to bore into Deuce.  “We’d be foolish to believe the Elite haven’t caught wind of our plans.”

The question was like a right cross, delivered without warning after Deuce spent a half hour explaining his defection to the elderly man.  Oswald’s gaze was not antagonistic, but Deuce could have sworn it possessed the ability to stretch into his core and twist out his soul, revealing how wretched he really was.

They sat only a meter apart, files and computer components surrounding them as silent witnesses to this interrogation.  Oswald still wore the light overcoat he had on upon entering the room, and Deuce figured he was one of those seniors prone to feeling chilly.

He decided to try a method learned from Zeke, his mentor who Oswald asked to leave when their discussion began.  “So you believe I’ve refined my skills of infiltration to uncover your alternative to this war?”

Oswald studied his face while simultaneously watching the screen of the communication device he held between them.  The man had gone deaf a decade ago – a detail Zeke didn’t tell him until they met – and the device rendered Deuce’s speech into text.

The hand-held device was both anachronistic and a testament.  These people commanded the technology to insert an implant that would enable Oswald to hear.  But their ongoing war with the Elite precluded such conveniences.

This conflict began decades ago with the Elite designing androids that perfectly mimicked people.  These imposters attacked members of the population who refused to accept the enhancements made mandatory by the authoritarians.  The resistors developed means to detect the hidden technology.  But that made using it on themselves for medical reasons, which they accepted, compromising to their own people.

So the Elite next developed fully biological infiltrators to evade detection, super soldiers genetically engineered to carry out orders, but proving to lack necessary skills to adapt to deviations.  Deuce himself was a representative of their next innovation, retaining physical prowess but also designed as a strategist.

Oswald’s gaze focused on his face.  “Is that an off-hand confession?”

“I’m not sure there’s anything I can say to ease your suspicion.”  Deuce’s conscience writhed.  Earlier today he discovered he’d killed this man’s son, but didn’t know if Oswald had been informed of that inadvertent disclosure.

The elder’s lips twitched.  “Surely you aren’t going to admit defeat already?”

“Defeat is not an option.  But why should you believe any of my claims, that my life is now dependent on the success of your resistance?”

“You seek to save yourself?”

His guilt over the death of this man’s son made Deuce reconsider his motivation for defecting from the Elite.  “That was my original intention.  But the time I’ve spent among your people has … opened my eyes.  I thought I understood why you didn’t want to be integrated into the central data core that binds the Elite together.  But I was wrong.  My reasons weren’t your reasons.”

“How so?”

“I questioned their authority.  You … deny it.  They taught me compassion and mercy are weakness, yet that makes you strong.  I came to you, counting on that compassion, with the offer to show you how to be as ruthless as your enemy.”

Oswald studied him but said nothing, so he continued.

“I now know that if good stoops to evil, it was never good to begin with.  So the way good stands up to evil must be … different.  Those are details I’m still working out.”

“You believe the Elite is evil?”

“How can they not be?”  His conscience stirred again.  “They demand the destruction of all who refuse to conform to their standard.  I carried out that task for them.  I … was an instrument of their evil.”

Oswald leaned forward.  “Was?”

His guilt surged.  “I know what I’ve done to you.  To your son.  The assistance I offer will never be able to wash all the blood from my hands.  I can’t fathom why Zeke suggested I should assist you with this project, when I only remind you of your loss.  I regret what they’ve made me, and what I’ve done, but that can never change the past.”

The senior leaned back and stared at Deuce.  During the silence that elapsed for several seconds, Oswald’s gaze softened and he blinked a few times.

“I agreed to this meeting not so much to challenge your offer of assistance,” he murmured, “but to challenge myself if I could truly forgive you.  Part of me wanted you to fail, so I could justify dismissing your humanity.  But this old, deaf father can tell the difference between contrition and blowing smoke, and I see Zeke’s good judgment of character proves him right about you.”

There was nothing comforting about the man’s words.  In fact, Deuce’s conscience cringed even more.

“I don’t deserve your forgiveness.”

“None of us deserve forgiveness, yet it’s always offered.  But you are no more evil than the Elite … and if you can seek redemption, so can they.  This alternative I developed to ongoing war, it’s not only for our survival, it’s also for theirs.”

He stared at Oswald.  “I don’t understand.”

“Some days, neither do I.”

The elderly fellow stood and shrugged off his coat.  Deuce recognized the black shirt with a white collar, but it took a couple of seconds to realize that Oswald wasn’t just an astrophysicist – another detail Zeke left out.  The revelation caused a tremor at the pit of his stomach he couldn’t explain.

“Just what is this alternative?”

Oswald studied him for a few seconds before replying.  “How familiar are you with the story of Moses?”


Here is this month’s contribution to #BlogBattle, and for me the word for this round turned out to be the exact opposite of its meaning:  Wretched!  Ooh, you know there’s got to be some great stories with a prompt like that, so don’t miss on checking them out.

Who Do You Love to Hate?


Antagonists – every story needs them.  Whether it’s somebody as in-your-face as Lord Voldemort or as invisible as the cold that will kill the explorer if he doesn’t succeed at lighting a fire, they provide the conflict at the heart of any tale.

Real life in the last few months has brought about a thought experiment that got me pondering where villains come from.  You’ve probably heard the mantra about how each character is the hero in his or her personal story.  It’s easy to think of bad guys as power-hungry sadists, but sometimes people antagonize others because they mean well, but they’re misguided….

That’s kind of where you run across the other mantra that truth is stranger than fiction.

What antagonist do you find the juiciest?  The evil villain that wants to rule the world, or the self-proclaimed do-gooder who actually causes more harm?

That’s a hard choice to make.  I might need to read some more stories to help me decide … and that leads to A BRIEF ANNOUNCEMENT.

Smashwords is having their annual Summer/Winter Sale (depends on your hemisphere).  Membership is free, and until the end of July many e-books are available at a discount (including mine, of course).

Just click here to get started.  I hope alerting you to the sale was helpful and that I haven’t inadvertently caused any harm….