Pygmy Goat Mechanics                          The Goat Kids brought to you by Lotus Pond Media

Pygmy goats love to help, in their own little ways, with work around the homestead. Our little herd, Charlie, Ella, Jack and Sally, are no different. As soon as I back out the lawn tractor, Ella jumps onto the driver's seat. If I start cleaning out the shed, Sally starts gnawing on the pitchfork. If I lay down in the driveway to look at a corroded muffler, Jack starts using my back as a playground and Charlie nibbles on my tools.

The muffler finally rusted through on my Infiniti I30 after seven years and 135,000 miles and the goats wanted to get out there and help.

I mentioned three or four times to my family that I needed to crawl underneath and check things out before we involved any garages with "quote/unquote" real mechanics. They had been listening to the steadily increasing rattle of a broken support bracket and the even louder trumpet of a split pipe for three or four weeks so their sense of urgency was building, but I know you have to approach these events with equanimity (which is a fancy way of spelling laziness). I'd even gotten so far as to put the jack stands next to the car in the driveway and found some old jeans to rip into rags as a definitive indication that I would soon reach a point at which I might think about starting.

Okay, I had no way of knowing those jeans had been washed by my daughter with bleach and smooth stones forty times to give them that carefully cultivated "worn out" look. It's not like I wash the car with bleach and smooth stones. 135,000 miles of New York roads, with potholes big enough to hide wheelbarrows, were sufficient to provide a warmly worn out patina to the car.

So, after the jack stands stood guard for a week, and we used the van to run down and get a new pair of jeans, I guess my wife started to lose faith in the repair process. One rainy afternoon (That reminds me, I was ready to jump on that repair two or three times, but who wants to work in a muddy driveway on a rusted muffler in a pouring rain?), I got a call from my daughter asking if I wanted to spend $384 and just have the garage fix the muffler--that afternoon. She could tell by the tone of my querulous response she was supposed to call her Mom with this estimate, not me.

The car had passed inspection one month before and now they wanted $384 dollars to wrap some bailing wire and duct tape around a pinhole? I suspect that $500 brake job had something to do with passing inspection. Is it just me, or does every inspection every year on every car end up in a $500 brake job? I'm starting to think this is just state-sponsored baksheesh. The inspection is supposed to cost $37 dollars in New York, but somehow it always comes out to $537. As soon as there are $500 dollars worth of repairs, the inspected car--no matter how much lingering rot and devastation is present—is magically deemed roadworthy.

I could not bring myself to spend $384 dollars for a repair I knew in my heart could just as easily cost $38.40 or $3.84. I used to work with a mechanic and, yes Virginia, there is a pinwheel in the back covered with random prices; sits right next to a set of sharpened darts. I vetoed the garage repair on the grounds that any idiot with a hammer and a torch could fix a leaky muffler and I was certainly a big enough idiot to qualify.

Next day I snuck out the front door with tools in hand. I couldn't go out the back door because the goats camp on the porch in our lawn chairs and I wanted to fix the car without any helpful pygmy paws. They have extremely keen senses and if they catch any movement, smell, or sound, they bound off to join the action.

I threw some cardboard over the gravel driveway and jacked up the car. I turned on the compressor for the impact wrench and the jig was up with the goats. As soon as they heard the compressor crank up, they knew the party was in the driveway. All four came dashing around the corner of the garage to lend a hoof.

The goats started eating the cardboard out from under me. Then the goats started fighting over the cardboard because I was laying on most of it and all four of them wanted to eat the three square inches of cardboard that were showing right above my left shoulder. This meant the goats had to fight each other for who got to eat the cardboard. Which meant they had to scramble over my head to get a good running shot at bashing in the opposing goat's forehead. While Sally and Ella smashed each other's brains in, Jack focused on eating the cardboard.

Once I got positioned under the car, Charlie wanted to lie down next to me. He's so big that once he got settled in for a nap on the driveway, nuzzled right against my side, I couldn't get out from under the car.

Sally started crawling under the car to chew on the pipe between the catalytic converter and the muffler. She could only imagine that if this thing were so important I would spend hours staring at it and banging on it with all manner of implements, it might also taste good. Ella was very concerned Sally might be nibbling something tasty Ella couldn't reach, so she started wiggling forward on her knees to join us under the car.

I had to get the goats out from under the car as it was balanced, somewhat precariously, on four 2x6's and two hydraulic jacks left over from a house remodeling project that didn't stay at the top of my list long enough to reach completion. If the whole setup started to tip, I needed to roll out of there quickly. However, I knew I'd try to save the goats on the way out and that would probably mean all of us getting squashed under the car together. There are certainly worse things than dying under a car with screaming goats kicking at your head, but there's also a long list of more pleasant options.

Long story short: total cost of the repair was $8.97 for a new gasket; a savings of $375.03. Of course, there was $5.00 of gas to get the gasket. Then $175 for the welder bought on sale at Sears--which I will use many, many times for all manner of house, lawn, and garden projects. I'm starting to draw sketches for an elaborate gateway arch over the garden entry that I can now weld together. Sure, welding classes were $227, but that shouldn't count because now I've got a trade that might come in handy if I'm ever traveling on the Siberian highway and need to fix a broken transaxle.

I also used my drill press, my compressor, my die grinder and an impact wrench (not cheap, but there's 450 foot-lbs of torque in that beast). The same principle applies; these are capital investments I'll be able to amortize over the next twenty years of repairs, and the goats are going to have so much fun helping me.

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