Monday, October 22, 2012

Goats from Another Planet

                                                 Once upon a time on the planet Astra Funari there lived a very strange animal. There wasn't what you'd call a specific name for this animal. The Funarians called it "thingy". (The Funarians had just started to watch TV and their vocabulary had become limited.) Thingy was a stalwart, clever creature who could reproduce three, four, five other things at a time like clockwork every spring. Soon the broad plains and distant mountain ranges of Funaria were crawling with great herds of the voracious, fun loving little devils. You can imagine the Funarians didn't like them much. The Potentates of Funaria were men of the athletic persuasion. It was hit, tackle, block, run, crash, bang, boom all weekend. No time for anything weird. One day a herd crossed the playing field hopping and skipping thereby interrupting the 'Canes and the 'Noles at a critical juncture! The head Potentate, this was in the first Millennium, was much put out, and he banished them from Funaria forever.

  If you look carefully you can see in their clever, eager faces the wisdom of the great Odyssey. Being banished from Funaria they rock-and-rolled through the universe on great mother ships. Another Millennia or so they happened upon Earth, which reminded them of their distant memories of Funaria. They had been much tattered by this journey. My theory is that they fell through a black hole, and as they fell, tumbling upside down, backwards, forwards and every other confusing which way, there was an information loss. The coding that was lost had to do with a certain prominent body part—the ears. This forlorn and lonesome creature landed on a farm in Oregon without ears! They say she was partly Spanish. (And if you believe that, you'll believe anything.) Eula Frey, who owned the farm, was breeding Nubian and Swiss stock. Her excellent bucks took immediately to the little devils. She named their off-spring LaMancha. She remembered the name from some book or other that she had read in school.

  Now the same thing that happened on Funaria is happening on Earth. Year after year the LaMancha breed has become increasingly numerous. Some Earthling weirdos even like 'em. They are my personal favorite. LaManchas' small ear is their predominant characteristic. Their ear, minus the appendage to whirl around, is like a glorified hole in the head, and their faces are cute, intelligent. My theory is that they have to pay attention because no flaps can drop down to cover the holes, thus preventing, as in young college students, any sound conveyed knowledge from entering their brains. They are, therefore, the perfect sponge, the perfect spying machine. What's to stop a rumor from making it in? People who do not know goats wonder if their ears have been "docked" or cut off. But they really lost them in the great Odyssey when they got sucked into the black hole. The characteristic then established itself in Mrs. Freys' herd. Incidentally, that realm of Mrs. Frey's herd in Oregon has always been a location of extra terrestrial activity. And so it is to this day.
  LaMancha is rugged and efficient. They'll browse outdoors all day; they prefer brush but they are not particular. In winter, if appropriately fed and watered, they never complain—I at least have never seen any sign of complaint—, and even in the coldest weather they will produce milk efficiently. They seem more friendly and curious than the other breeds. They are energetic, inclined to show interest in the two-legged animals on the other side of the fence. They kick up, catch their forefeet on the fence, extend their necks and take a gander at anybody going or coming. Their stare is half in wonderment and blank fascination. I think they are a little neurotic. Their intention, I imagine, is not to lose an instant of the comedy transpiring before them. I have often wondered, as they stare at me, on which side of the fence the animals are. They rise up from their afternoon nap, saunter nearby, crane heads up over the fence, stare. Last I knew, I was the herdsmen. But these fence standing wonders from another planet often persuade me to doubt myself.

  I remember when we had numerous LaManchas. I used to drive in late in the dusk from work, and the bunch of them would rush the fence. They'd honk at me derisively. I was never sure what they had in mind. I'd wander in the barn, face them down, say "Hi!", throw out an extra flake of hay. When I worked at a home for mental patients in town, one day I brought to the farm with me one of the residents. Our mission was to shovel enough manure in the back of my truck to fertilize the residents' garden. That I should arrive with another body instead of alone got the LaMancha kids all in a dander. They proceeded to jump the fence, as if a mere fence would slow down their curiosity, and soon they were inspecting close up this unusual phenomenon. My wife shouted at us from the front door of the house, "What are you doing to them?" As soon as we lifted them up over the fence and dropped them on the other side they jumped over again. Took awhile till they were satisfied and they stayed put. "Goats some crazy," the mental patient announced, tapping his forefinger on his head.
  There was a LaMancha buck who was an escape artist. Any time I was outside, he'd catch sight of me, and in a few minutes he'd figure out how to get through the fence, and he'd follow me around like a puppy. In fact, I have never raised a more intelligent goat as far as finding ways out of the fence. I'd fix one way so he couldn't use it any more, and he'd just find another way. At a certain point his intelligence led him to become unusually playful. He was pure white, no markings at all on him. Other than the strange bedevilment of intelligence handed down to him from Funaria he was rather ordinary. He was small, too small for us to keep. He went to the auction. His intelligence was a hassle. Even if he had the size and proven breeding, I doubt that we'd have been able to keep him. Sometimes you'd really like to keep a certain buck, but you can keep only so many, and the ones you do keep need champions in their breeding. It is farming; it is hard.
  For the most part LaManchas have finely shaped, well supported udders with well placed teats. A solid specimen will stay in milk for ten years or more. Each spring, when she freshens, a mature doe may bear anywhere from two to four kids. I have heard of quints, but that is unusual. The best strategy is to remove the kids at birth and bottle feed. It is a little more time consuming, difficult, but you can establish a bond with the kids which is very helpful when the milking starts. A half-wild doe from another galaxy is not fun to milk. The milk is unusually rich and creamy. Only Nubians produce tastier milk.
  LaMancha tends to be easy breeders. When you study a certain line and establish it with a certain buck, you can foretell how the breeding will look or whether or not the line will be productive in quality offspring. But they are overbearing. It is one drawback to breeding them. They will run the herd to their liking. If you pen another breed in with them, Nubians, for example, a much more laid back breed, the LaManchas tend to take the polish off the Nubians, and they won't develop the way you'd like.
  This is my wonder: when they have done spying and have returned to their planet, what will they report? I have caught in the corner of my eye many critical glances. I guess from now on I'd best behave myself.

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