A few weeks ago, Carla and I took the boys to see her parents in Sandersville. A welcomed retreat from the suburbs to small town Southern life, these trips are especially meaningful to the boys. In Sandersville, they get to enjoy life in a different way.
On this particular visit, Nanny and Poppy had a couple of new additions to their household: two baby goats, only a couple of weeks old. Poppy raises goats as a hobby rather than an agribusiness, and, as he says, it gives him something to do. Twice a day he drives the dozen or so miles out to his farm and tends to them.
The arrival of these two babies was complicated somewhat by the disappearance of their mothers. So what’s a goat farmer to do with nursing baby goats and no mamas?
Bring them home and feed them from a bottle.
The smaller of the two, the brown one, was near death when they got him home. Nanny described him as looking like “an inner tube when all the air has gone out.” But on that warm February Saturday, he was prancing and hopping and running from our boys with vigor. Seems the bottle-feeding, petting and attentive nurturing he was getting did the trick.
I grew up in the city. I don’t have much experience with raising farm animals. In fact, I am embarrassingly ignorant on such matters and feel like a total city slicker when I go out to help my father-in-law at the farm. But it doesn’t seem to me that goat farmers used to be as nurturing. Maybe goat farmers have gone soft.
Oh, you can argue that Poppy was just protecting his investment. But how do you explain the petting? Or the big smile across his face when he describes how he brought the brown one back from the brink of death?
No, there is a connection here between this farmer and his goats. It’s not so strong that he won’t take them to the auction when it’s time, but it’s more of a relationship than a farmer may have had with his livestock a generation ago.
Soon, the two baby goats will be back at the farm, eating grass, hay and whatever they get in their mouths. Maybe their goat friends will mock them for being too soft. Or maybe, they’ll be welcomed into the extended goat family as two members who nearly didn’t make it.
Here’s to the bottle fed among us. A little nurturing can be the difference between and life and death.