Wednesday, December 20th, 2006
Fans of Mr. Newman Goat may have been perturbed these last months not to hear any news of his doings. Frankly, we’ve been perturbed too. Who would imagine that it would be worrisome to not have this big guy trying to bust down, pillage, and destroy various structures on the farm, but it is so. In fact, the only remotely Newman-ish behavior we’ve observed is his consistent usage of the round hay bale feeder for his bed (rendering the 1,000 bale of hay both intimidating to those smaller than him, and a tad inedible to those who brave his majestic presence on top of the heap).
The truth is, Mr. Newman has lost some status on the farm. It’s a sad state of affairs when the boss is cowed — literally. Since I’ve recently been teaching my students etymology, I thought I should find out about this colorful term: ‘to be cowed’ comes from the Scandinavian (“kuga”, to subdue) and evidently has nothing to do with bovines which I find impossible to believe. Because when a 170 pound Alpine goat goes face to face with a 1200 pound (and growing) Holstein steer, there is only one word for what goes on:
cowing. It’s sort of like seeing Fonzie meet up with a tatooed, muscled biker dude. Sad. The crumbling of an icon. Oh, this is not to say that should Mr. Newman be out and about when I’m transporting a dish of feed to the steers in the evening, he does not try to bodily assault me (and he usually succeeds) … but as soon as I get within 2 feet of the fence and the large, horned, waiting heads, he backs off. You can just see him, shrugging, hands in the air, taking one step backwards, ever so slowly, “just give me three steps Mister”. And to make matters worse, Ti-gba the Haitian dog has decided that it’s fun to buzz him. She zips around his legs, teeth slashing, growling, and he responds by getting up on his hind legs, raising his height to an impressing 7 feet, and dive bombing her. I’ve never seen them actually make contact, and I suspect that in some perverse way Newman likes the challenge, but things get complicated when Ti-gba’s sidekick, Derry the livestock guardian 100 pound Maremma dog, shows up.
Derry doesn’t have to DO anything. He just has to show up. He stands there looking like a really cute polar bear or, as my neighbor has dubbed him, the Abominable Snowman, and Mr. Newman says, “dudes, I’m outta here”.
Poor Mr. Newman. But you can’t keep a good goat down for long. Last weekend he rediscovered the goat-proof runin shed roof. You know, the one we spent 3 weekends building and reinforcing and double-reinforcing so that it would stand up to goat hooves… the one that back then Mr. Newman took one look at, said it didn’t interest him, and ignored for 3 years. Now, however, it has renewed appeal. It catches the afternoon western sun, it’s easy for him to jump up (but no other goats have attempted it, and God forbid a steer should try), so it gives him that much needed height: a good view, privacy, his own unique perspective on the world, and the opportunity to work on his suntan.
Just so that people don’t fall apart with sympathy for Mr. Newman, he has been seen vigorously head-butting the steel cage that envelops the new feed shed, attempting to buckle the super heavy cattle wire that surrounds the chicken house, and giving a really good wallop to any of his “crew” if they get in his way of the tastiest morsels of hay. We are fully confident that with his level of smarts and strategic thinking, by spring Mr. Newman will own the farm again.
Till next time,
Star Gazing Farm 501(c)3
A haven for retired farm animals and wayward goats http://www.stargazingfarm.org