A huge thank you to my friend Dana Burrell for letting me use a drawing from one of her art journals to illustrate this week’s story. You can see more of Dana’s work on her website: www.DanaBurrellArt.com
And a second thank you to a new friend, Krista Diaz, who raises goats, sheep, angora rabbits, llamas and alpacas on Wiggly Goat Farm in East Thetford, Vermont.
She graciously allowed my husband Jay and I to take pictures of her flock for this story. And we got to touch noses with a llama!! That was a first! Look for Krista at the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival in Tunbridge the first weekend in October.
Sometimes, Christine Tennyson didn’t know whether she hated Houdini or admired him. But after three years of dealing with the goat’s attitude and foibles, she was sure of one thing—she didn’t like him much.
“Look at the time you spend fetching him from other people’s backyards,” she said to her husband every time they got into one of their circular arguments about whether to keep the “Great Houdini” or not.
“Oh, it’s not that bad,” Lee always said. “It gives me a chance to visit the neighbors. And he’s never caused any real damage…”
“You’re forgetting Mrs. Darcy’s crabapple trees,” Christine interrupted. “I have to listen to her retell that story every time I run into her at the Coop.”
Lee squirmed a little bit. “The only reason the bark on that tree got scraped was that Houdini wanted more fruit. He didn’t do it maliciously. Besides, Mrs. Darcy never picks those apples.”
“No, she lets them ferment on the tree, and Houdini likes the feeling they give him after he’s eaten a few,” Christine said. “Really, Lee, why don’t we let the Bengstens take him? They’ve got a bigger pasture than we do.”
“And then what do we do when Bippity and Boppity go into heat? Load them up, and drive across the state so Houdini can service them? He’s already here, the girls are used to him, and it saves us a lot of time,” Lee said. “Besides, we’re going to be expanding his harem soon.”
Christine’s eyebrows scaled the heights of her forehead. “Soon? What do you mean by soon?”
Lee blushed. “I got you another doe today, a yearling.”
Christine sighed as she threw in the verbal towel. “Is she…?”
“Black and brown?” Lee grinned. “She sure is, and she’s really pretty. I think she’ll keep Houdini closer to home.”
“So when is she supposed to arrive?”
“Well, she’s here already, out in the truck,” Lee said. “I was going to surprise you.” As he looked down at his wife, the hair that never stayed in place fell between his eyes.
“You’re giving me that puppy-dog look of yours,” she said.
Lee grinned. “Is it working?”
Christine shook her head, and sighed again as she slid her feet into her yard boots. “It always does. Let’s go see this new girl.”
Houdini was working his way through a new hole in the goat pasture’s fence when he heard a strange nickering from afar. He glanced over at his regular consorts but Bippety and Boppety barely flicked an ear in his direction. A strange nicker or two wasn’t going to alter their routine.
Between the two of them, the intrepid does ran a tight barnyard—sheep on one side of the large pasture, ducks in a cluster around the small pond, and the Belgian horses that Lee insisted on rescuing corralled on the other side of the road where they couldn’t bite or kick anyone.
Over time, they’d countered Houdini’s resistance to their insistence on order by ignoring him—except when the vehement bidding of their breeding cycles made contact necessary. Then they tolerated him long enough for brief interludes before leaving him to his own devices.
Which is why Houdini indulged his natural curiosity and sense of adventure by escaping from the Tennysons’ goat pasture on a regular basis. What else was a boy to do? There was more to life than chewing cud. Houdini was still a young guy, a goat with muscles that needed exercising and a keen mind that required regular challenges like fences and apple trees.
The nickering sounded a bit closer now, riding on the breeze that swept uphill from the barnyard. Houdini backed away from the fence hole to tilt his ears forward. The nicker’s tone reminded him of one of the does that lived in the barn where he was born, a well-built female named Molasses with a dark blaze that plummeted straight down her brown face from her forelock to her shapely nose.
Houdini’s mouth turned up as he remembered the way Molasses moved every time the goats were turned out of the barn on those long ago spring mornings. Oh, that doe had the finest sway to her backside.
Bippety raised her head, and chuffed a warning at him.
But Houdini had grown so used to her disapproval, he never heard it. He took a few steps forward, straining to hear more.
Boppety raised her head now, the rectangular pupils of her eyes narrowed in the sun. She chuffed, louder than her sister.
The nickering was more pronounced now, and Houdini sensed the approach of two humans, the male who liked him and the female who didn’t. The two does chuffed in unison.
Houdini widened his nostrils, trying to catch the scent of anything that wasn’t grass or human. Then he saw her, a solid package of female goat pulchritude skipping far ahead of her human escort. Houdini noticed she retained some of a kid’s skip in her step as she charged uphill. His gaze lingered on the dark blaze that spread down her face and over her nose.
He stepped forward with a brisk pac. Bippety and Boppity were close behind, chuffing and chafing at this interruption of their morning peace.
Then the young doe spotted Houdini and stopped full on, her front hooves digging into the turf as she waited for him to come close enough for them to touch noses. Lee and Christine watched from a distance, ready to intervene if necessary.
Houdini’s heart soared with delight as he took in the delicate glow of the young doe’s eyes, the span of her hips, and the way she raised her head at his approach. She’d not been sorry to leave the farm where she’d been born because all the goats there were so set in their ways. All they wanted to do was cloud watch while their jaws worked their cuds from side to side.
She wanted more. She was curious. She craved adventure. And now she felt she’d found her soulmate at last.
Houdini swooned as soon as the doe nickered in a way meant just for him. Behind him, the two older does chuffed warning after warning.
“See? Everything’s going to be all right,” Lee said to his wife. “We’ll call her Boo to round out the Bippety and Boppety. And Houdini likes her.”
At that moment, the newly-named Boo nuzzled Houdini, and he nearly floated from the pasture with ecstasy.
“Whaddaya say?” Lee asked. “Don’t you think she’ll be a good addition?”
Christine nodded slowly. She’d never seen Houdini in this type of mood before. “Hmmm, I guess so.” She took her husband’s hand. “I guess we’d best leave them to it.” And they turned toward the house.
“So, what do you want to do first?” Houdini asked.
Boo looked over his shoulder. “Is that a hole in the fence?” she asked.
Boo bounded forward. “Shall we go through? I’ve always wanted to see what’s on the other side.”
Thank you for journeying with me to Carding, Vermont. If you subscribe to my website, you’ll find a short story in your inbox every Thursday morning along with food photos and recipes from the Crow Town Bakery, and other green peak moments from Vermont.
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The Carding novels are (in order of appearance):