Mr. Newman Goat, Ex-con?

Some people never remember their dreams. Others dream frequently, remember them, and bore their friends and neighbors with detailed accounts that, quite likely, few people beyond a therapist should be privy to.

Dreams are fascinating expressions of our unconscious, however, and once, every once in a great while, quite rarely – but it happens – dreams are revelatory.

Before the contents of a revolutionary and quite decidedly alarming recent “oh my God, it all makes sense now” dream I had come to light, I’d like to share some background information. Mr. Newman Goat, as most of you will know by now, arrived at my farm from parts unknown in March of 2002. He immediately took over: incurred thousands of dollars in property damage, established his network with all the neighbors, scared and beat up some of my friends, and offended others (some permanently), and secured his position here by putting his hooks into my heart.

I’d fallen for bad boys before, so I thought I knew what I was getting into. I was wrong.

A year or so later they built the new jail just a few miles from here.  I began having unbidden thoughts about this jail. Of course, as many people undoubtedly felt, my initial reaction was “holy canole, what if some convicts escape and take me hostage on my own farm?”

But as soon as I swept those anxieties aside, ideas of projects or work I could do there started to occur. There are some very interesting accounts of animal groups who have quite successfully integrated rehabilitation programs into various prison systems: most involve inmates training shelter dogs either for adoption or for more specialized purposes. Something about the idea of unwanted people in society working with unwanted animals touched my heart.

Don’t ask me why, but images of Mr. Newman doing therapeutic interventions floated around inside my head. Initial inquiries about this yielded nothing: at this jail they don’t let the inmates outside except in a semi-enclosed “rec” area about the size of my bathroom. Animals were out of the question.

But serendipity or, dare we say fate, brought me to a community meeting at the facility which ended in my agreeing to teaching English as a Second Language in their program part time. I worked there several years until, unexpectedly and with no sensible reasons given, I was let go just before Christmas.

My work there was fascinating, rewarding, emotionally draining, and sometimes truly joyous. It probably deserves some press on its own time.

But I’ll just say this: as anyone who has a love of teaching knows (not to include the teachers who were born with as much people sense as a cardboard box – we’ve all had those!), facilitating growth in another human being is immensely satisfying. Any day you see a lightbulb going on in a student’s head is a day to celebrate.

My friends used to ask me, “aren’t you scared?” “No,” I’d reply, “I live with Mr. Newman Goat.”

For those who do not know (and I may still have it slightly wrong – our judicial system is confusing!!), a county jail is a bit of a criminal repository system: anyone charged in the county will be sent there while they await sentencing. Those who receive under 18 months will serve their full sentence there. Federal inmates will be ultimately sent to federal prison, and others go “upstate” as they put it, to one of the state prisons.

So I had students with all different charges: drugs (both taking and selling), drunk driving, assault, breaking parole, money laundering, vagrancy, prostitution, robbery, murder, rape, looking crosseyed at a policeman (OK I’m joking about the last one). I didn’t know the charges of many of my students. I never asked, and most never told. And in any case, it is my firm belief that the classroom should always be a level playing field.

No matter what. Over the years, I did know there were some gang members in my classes. Some were from MS13, and some were probably from other gangs. The tattoos told some stories, but it was (a) not my job to know this stuff, (b) against policy to talk about it. So long as I did not observe gang-related activity in my classroom, as far as I was concerned, these were students like any other.

For security reasons, it was important for me to keep details about my own life quiet; however, I often spoke of my farm animals as a way to generate conversation and break the ice. Many of my students had grown up on farms or semi-rural areas and warmed to the subject of farm life. They particularly loved hearing about the antics of Mr. Newman Goat (but of course, mon ami).

I was a popular teacher; I made my students work really hard, but I always brought them something to make them laugh. The result?

Motivation. Even the officers noticed a difference in my students. It was cool. My layoff was a mystery to everyone. But the pieces are now falling into place.

I can see that my landing at the jail was no accident, my friends. No, no, I fear there has been a conspiracy from the very beginning. Anyone who has known a bad boy knows that they are master manipulators. Are you ladies with me here? But we deny it! We say “oh no, he just needs a little moreloving, another chance, some discipline, a good haircut. He’s really a good boy underneath it all.” Right?

We’ll hear nothing negative said about our bad boys that we love so dearly. So it has been with Mr. Newman. “You’ll regret it”, said one, “he’s going to destroy your farm”, opined another, “he’s just so BAD”, said others, many others. But most of us have been utterly taken in by this beast, this utterly handsome, utterly charming, utterly terrible beast.

And then it came. The revelation.

I dreamt (this is true, folks, there is no way I could or would want to make this up) that I was shearing Mr. Newman (just as I would shear a sheep – absurd of course, Alpine goats don’t need shearing). As I shaved off the hair on his side, a very large tattoo emerged on his skin. It said: “MS13”.

So has this all been a ploy? Newman’s ‘accidental’ arrival at my farm? My’happening’ to go to a community meeting at the jail just when they were looking for an ESOL teacher? And now – I can only assume that someone must have snitched (and I’m suspecting Little Boy Goat because Graham Goat is just way too sweet and Little Boy has lately been vying for “Top Dawg” so he’s got an axe to grind) about Newman which led to my being condemned as a “person with undesirable affiliations”.

Odd. Newman has been distant to me lately, and he did completely bust off the door of the galvanized steel duck pen the other day and disassembled the hardware cabinet in the barn, distributing junk, tools, plastic, and nails and screws everywhere (ever tried picking up nails embedded in manure?).

So OK, he’s mad. But he also persuaded me to let him Twitter (http://twitter.com/mrnewmangoat) and he supervised my setting up his Facebook fan page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mr-Newman-Goat/37398639363). This has all happened post-layoff.

I find it suspicious, alarming, and generally pretty bizarre – I mean, who else do you know who lets a goat run her life?

Till next time,

Farmer Anne

Star Gazing Farm 501(c)3

A haven for retired farm animals and wayward goats