Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Don't It Get Your Goat?!?

Betsy the Goat

I really need a goat. The underbrush in my woods is so thick I fear it will soon climb in my windows and choke me in my sleep, as in a B-horror movie. 
My next-door-neighbor died recently, and her daughter didn’t know what to do with her mom’s aged horse, donkey and goat. I offered to adopt the goat.
Betsy is a gentle soul who loves to be petted. She followed me into the small corral at my neighbor’s barn. I closed the gate, placed grain in her bucket, and approached Betsy with a llama halter. I had no idea goats were so fleet-footed. After chasing her around the corral a few times, I managed to hold her long enough to wriggle the halter over her ears. But the game had just begun.
The distance from barn-to-barn was only a few hundred feet, yet it took an hour to get Betsy to her new home. I would rattle the feed bucket and tug on the lead rope, Betsy would take a couple of steps, then she’d stop. Then we’d repeat the process. Over and over again we repeated the process. By the time I got her through my gate, I was sweating like a woman in labor, and Betsy and I were exhausted. 
Betsy’s udders were so enlarged that they bounced against her back legs when she walked. While I was taking her to the vet, my handyman attached wire fencing to the gates in the llama compound so Betsy couldn’t slip through.
The vet said her condition wasn’t unusual in milking goats. Trouble is, Betsy hadn’t been milked in two years! He inserted a small tube in each udder so they would drain. If they filled up again, we might have to resort to surgery. 
With visions of a double mastectomy in my head, I paid the bill ($72.)  By the time I got Betsy home, her udders were back to normal and my horse trailer smelled like a cheese factory. So I screwed the caps onto Betsy’s tubes, unloaded her, and paid my handyman (coincidentally, $72). After hosing down the trailer, I said good-bye to Betsy.
Next morning, there was no sign of Betsy. Suspecting what had happened,  I hurried over to her home place. Yep, there she was, commiserating with her buddies about being dragged through the woods by a crazy woman and having tubes shoved into her teats.
Wisely, I had left the halter on her, so it didn’t take long to get a leash on her this time. I tried to get donkey to accompany us. He wouldn’t budge. Again, I wrestled Betsy up the hill, a few steps at a time. This trip took only half an hour. I put my smallest pony, Nibbles, in with her, hoping the two would bond. 
But next day, guess what? No Betsy. Like the Great Houdini, she had managed to escape again. I had spent $144, and still didn’t have a goat. 
I wonder how much a cow would cost?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Little Log Cabin In The Woods

You can go home again, if home is St. Clair County

Thomas Wolfe said you can’t go home again, but I beg to differ. About 12 years ago, I moved to Ashville in St. Clair County to live in the middle of 28 acres of hydrangea-studded woods. It had been my dream for many years to live in the country so I could stop paying board for my horse, and perhaps acquire one or two more.
My "Little Log Cabin in the Woods"
I'm not from St. Clair County, actually, but I feel as if I were. My maternal grandparents were from nearby St. Clair Springs and Springville. I made many trips up U.S. 11 through the years, visiting my great-great-aunt, Jolly McClendon. That could explain why I felt so at home as soon as the real estate agent drove me onto this property, and why I was able to adapt so rapidly to rural life.
During the first 10 months that I lived here, my Homewood house was on the market and I was paying for two houses. My constant prayer was that God would not allow me to fall into financial ruin. Obviously, God has a sense of humor, because the means he provided to keep me afloat was an editor's job that was only five minutes from the house I had lived in for 28 years. (I no longer have that job.)
I’ve found peace in St. Clair County.  I love the view from my windows, which changes from season to season. I'm a mere 7.5 miles from the freeway, but when I ride my horse through my trails, I feel as if I'm miles away from civilization. That's why I call my place, and my blog, "Happy Trails."
When the seasonal rains fill my run-off pond, I drive my 4x4 down to fatten the bream and catfish. Feeling the vibration of my vehicle, they swim over to greet me. When I toss them the commercial fish pellets, the pond becomes a churning mass of shiny black skin, white mouths and whiskers. They swim so close to my little pier that I’ve actually touched a couple of cats on their heads. If I had a net,  I could just scoop some up. When the pond dwindles to a mud hole during dry weather, I just pray that the blue heron who feasts on my bream won't take the bass and catfish, too.
Of course, there are drawbacks to living in the woods, and most of them have at least four legs, lots of hair, and bite. When my oldest daughter, Heather, lived in the one-room cottage on my property, she had a stray feline visitor she called “that devil cat” for several weeks. He kept terrorizing her cats, making nightly forays through her cat door to spray his male scent all over her house.
One day, she brought home one of those humane traps, hoping to catch him and take him to the animal shelter in Pell City. She thought sure she had him when she heard a commotion on her front porch in the middle of the night. Next morning, she opened her front door to find a opossum curled up asleep in the trap. When she tried to release him, he just hissed at her. So what did she do? What any 30-year-old daughter would do—she called mom. When I dumped him unceremoniously out of the trap, he prissed up the middle of my driveway as if he owned it.
That was the same week I came home to find a note from my youngest daughter, Amanda, then 19, regarding a certain member of the arachnid family. The note read: “Mom, please remove the huge deceased spider from my bathtub.” In her thank-you note sent via email later that day, she explained, “I got my huge boot to kill him so that my hand wouldn't have to be too close, and then I missed him like four times. I’m surprised you didn't hear me shrieking.” She didn't get along with the lizards that the cats brought into our house, either, but I thought they were cute.
Despite the critters, the lack of a decent grocery store within 20 miles,  and the hour-long weekly commute to my grandchildren's house in Helena, you couldn’t pay me to live in the city again.
If Thomas Wolfe had ever lived in St. Clair County, the literary world might be shorter by one classic. – Elaine Hobson Miller