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November 12, 2009

Mad Goat Attack

One Of The Perils Of Life On The Farm

I previously described the lines of defenses being erected to secure the farm against invasion by stray cattle from the lane and a squadron of swallows that had moved into the workshop area of the Zeppelin Shed. I was also rash enough to state that after I blocked the entrance hole high near the hay roof that the latter were using, we would be impregnable when they return from their winter migration. But I hadn't counted on the goat.

We're on the side of a mountain with lakes and trees falling down to the village of Dromahair and Loch Gill on this side, and rising for several miles behind before falling again to the old coal mines at Arigna (popular tourist attraction) and the town of Drumkeeran. There's all kinds of wildlife up there, including a mix of hardy wild goat breeds that normally don't come down to inhabited levels. But this has been a severe winter (global warming), and quite possibly the shortage of food higher up prompted some descent to more favorable climes.

Sheryl was away in the States, visiting her daughters, and as I stood in the kitchen first thing in the morning waiting for the coffee to brew before going through to the office to get on with the book, I saw it in the open-sided hay-barn part of the Z. Shed, nuzzling its face up into the clothes hanging on the line. My God! I thought. It's going to eat the laundry! So I went out to bring everything in, figuring that the goat would go away when a human appeared. Not at all, at all. On the contrary, it came up and started pushing me with its nose, and then followed me back to the house. And when I entered the kitchen door, it tried to follow me in. (We have a German neighobor called Michael who has kept goats and told me later, yes, goats will do that.)

So now I'm grabbing its horns and wrestling with it in the doorway, trying to force it back out. But it has made its mind up that it doesn't want to go out, and we're having quite a tussle of it. Now, be aware here that we're not talking about some little nanny of a thing that you see in kiddie's petting zoos. This has shoulders not far short of a moose (at least, seemingly, when you're fighting with it), and horns like a Harley Davidson--go here for a picture of what I mean. And the rancid stench of a male goat is indescribable. I've lived in the American South and West, and I'll take eau de skunk anytime.

Things are getting desperate. Fortunately there's a coal shovel just inside the kitchen door, which I use to beat it over the head, at the same time delivering some hefty kicks to the snout--Horatio on the bridge--which forces it back sufficiently for me to get the door closed and turn the key. Phew! Cheeky bugger, I think to myself. I'm just about to return to my coffee making, when CRASH! An impact like a battering ram hits the door and glass explodes all over the room. CRASH! The f***ing thing is trying to break the door down! CRASH! And the door is buckling. I think, if it gets into the house there won't be any house left inside. So I have to go out to it. Seizing the shovel again, I march out to do or die in battle, and it's touch and go until I scoop a shovel full of turf ash (very fine, clingy) from the bucket inside the door and deliver it full in the goat's face, followed by several more. Having eyes, nose, and ears full of turf ash can't be pleasant, and the goat backs off long enough for me to grab the phone just inside the door and call Tommy John, the next neighbor along the lane. The goat has retreated to the Z. Shed to contemplate its next plan of attack, when Tommy's car turns into the driveway and disgorges Tommy, armed with a hefty cudgel of a stick. Tommy uses his cell phone to call Michael, the German, and between the three of us we manage to get a rope around its horns and tie it to a steel pillar supporting the hay loft. Michael then departs to bring a trailer, which he'll use to haul the problem away.

However, when Michael returns and we manhandle the beast into the trailer, it promptly begins demolishing it from the inside. So there was no option but shoot it there and then outside the kitchen door. There was something of an upside to it all, nevertheless. Not far away, just outside the town of Ballymote, they have a wild bird sanctuary with eagles, vultures, and various other avians that aren't caged in at all but know the staff and fly away and come back again when they feel like it. Well, the regulars there had a rare wintertime feast that must have lasted for about a week.

When the guy from Sligo came to fit a new door, it turned out that every one of the five security bolts down the edge had been broken. When I asked him if he had ever seen the likes of that before, he replied, "Well, yes--on houses that have been broken into. But on those occasions it had been done with a sledgehammer."

There is also a downside that I regret I have to report. When I related the above account to those whom I had believed to be friends, their reaction was universally weak-kneed laughter to the verge of physical collapse, with not a dry eye among the lot of them. So much for my faith in human nature, and my fond belief in the reality of such delusions as compassion, sympathy, or concern for the possible violent demise of one of their number. So let's hope that this will be the last such story I have to tell for a while.

 
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