Being a surrogate mama goat

By: Robert Lee - Contributing columnist

At this very moment, I have a truly profound feeling of kinship to the marsupials of Australia — but foremost with the kangaroo.

I know I have some explaining to do before we can go further. The only way I can do that is in a round-about way.

From time to time, we have to take a step back and think to ourselves and ask the question: “Why did I do that?” Knowing that it is a larger-than-life, real bad decision at that moment, but still making that bad decision. We have all done it, making a decision and then questioning our own sanity after deciding. In some of these cases it is a total disruption of our lives. But we still do it.

In my case, I don’t have to question my sanity — but I can tell myself that I am not the brightest bulb in the box. I just proved it again. As a warning to those who do not have a love of animals and a sense of humor, don’t waste your time and read any further. You’ll just be bored, your time means more than that. So go on outside and throw rocks at your neighbor’s cat, you will be happier. Just trying to be helpful.

You see, I don’t have a problem looking at and laughing at life and myself. Most of us don’t. Then you have the hard cases. It’s better than crying in your coffee. (I told you it was going to be a round-about story.)

I own a small farm and raise goats. The type of goat matters not, it’s just the fact that they are goats. If you have never had the delight of goat ownership, you might not see the pain and humor that is all rolled up in one: that being the goat, itself. They are truly a pain in the rectal area as the owner of such an animal. Over 20 years ago, I was introduced to these animals from Hell. I say that in a very loving way. You might not think that by my words, but that is the only way that I can say it. It is truly a love-hate relationship.

When I picked up my first six goats, they scared me. I’m not lying, they did. They stared at me with those devil eyes, or those were my thoughts at the moment. As time went by, I decided that I was safe and the demons within in these goats only were to come out from time to time.

The first time was when I was building my house. We always stopped long enough to cook something that did not take too long. On this day, we had the grill going and had put on thin pork chops for sandwiches. As we sat, we talked. One of the roofers on that day, by the name of Cricket Bowman, found out the hard way not to look in another direction with a sandwich in your hand. Cricket was animated and talked with his hands. Here he was just a talking and waving his left hand around when the male goat, by the name of Floyd, came walking up and took the sandwich right out of his hand. There are witnesses to that day and the pork chop sandwich being eaten by the goat. I don’t care what you say, I saw it myself. Sure they eat hay. Floyd just had a taste for pork chops on that day and he got one. Cricket went hungry. A few days later we tried to see if he would eat deer meat — that was a no-go. I guess that was about like eating one of your cousins. I think it works in some countries but not here.

Now, I don’t know where the idea that a goat can eat tin cans came from. The only thing I can come up with might be that one day an old farmer saw a goat eating the label off of a tin can and decided he was going to eat the rest of it. We all know that that would be impossible — or is it? During the same timeframe as when we were building my house, I did see two of my female goats make a major mistake.

It seems that Gracie and Slick were not as slick as they thought they were. We had stopped work on the day in question and had gone home, me and the work crew that is. The goats at that time were free-range. As I had not had time to put up any fences. We were deep in the woods and they did not go far. This was home to them. It also seems that they thought they could eat their new home — or parts of it.

Gracie and Slick somehow got under the house and into the insulation. They tore it out of the flooring and made a mess. Pink particles were everywhere. I still, ‘til this day, have no understanding how they tore up so much. It gets better, but not for the goats. They did try to eat the insulation. That next day it was sad: Both of these goats’ lips were so swollen that they looked just like Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones. You know, big fat lips. Then their lips cracked open. I really had no words, then or now, for why pink insulation would even make a goat think it would taste good. You would have thought that after the first bite, the party was over. I guess not.

Now with this all said, and you have an idea what goats are all about, comes the best part: The babies. I love all babies, human or not. But when it comes to a baby goat, I come apart. This past week I had a female that was a complete surprise to me. I did not know that she was in a motherly way. She was not showing and had not dropped her milk.

One morning I went out to feed my goats and, to my surprise, I see a foot sticking out where no foot should be. Oh my goodness, she was trying but she could not have her baby. I waited on her for over 30 minutes — and nothing. I went to my shop, opened up and went right home. When I got, back the mother was down and could not have the baby. I knew if I let it go any further, the mother and the baby were going to die. So, Dr. Lee went to work. I was able to find the front legs with my left hand. With my right, I was able to get the head out. Here he was: eyes open, tongue out and crying. I cleaned out his mouth just as his sister decided it was time to play. I tried to place them with the mother. She had no milk and would not take care of them. The little girl did die. She was just to weak. I, at that point, was to become mother goat to the little male. At first he would not eat. This went on for the first day and night. I had to make him eat. On Saturday, I fed the baby and took him out to walk. He was just like a puppy and followed me to the back porch. It was a bit cool and I picked him up and put him inside of my jacket and zipped it up.

Here is this baby goat, his little heart beating a mile a minute, with only his head sticking out and I started thinking about kangaroos. I am so glad I was by myself. Reason being was because of this big stupid grin that was on my face. That’s the life of a surrogate mama goat. What was I thinking?

Robert Lee is a concerned citizen and U.S. Marine veteran who owns and operates Rockingham Guns and Ammo. His column appears here each Saturday.

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Robert Lee

Contributing columnist