Pygmy Goats Sunning on the Porch            The Goat Kids brought to you by Lotus Pond Media

Charlie, Ella, Jack, and Sally (our little pygmy goat herd) stare in through the sliding glass doors and wonder at the awful complexity of our lives. On their side of the glass there seems to be lots of grass to chew, pine trees to nibble, weeds and brambles growing; everywhere they turn is an abundance of everything they enjoy the most.

The pygmies are looking forward to winter. Their thick coats make the summer uncomfortable; they hide in the shade, slurp lots of water, and pant. In the winter their hair puffs up like they're wrapped in down mufflers and they enjoy walking around the property looking for dry leaves.

On our side of the glass, the cold winter is bringing heating oil prices that may be up 30-50% a gallon. Last winter we tried to bring a little of the outside inside by lowering the thermostat to 65 degrees. When the children weren't around we'd run it at 55 degrees, but then we got a cold snap, froze some pipes running through a crawl space and spent all the savings replacing busted pipes, pumping water out of the basement, and repainting the ceilings. Not to mention the new wood floor we'd put in the upstairs bedroom to ease my wife's allergies. Now they've got scalloped curves along all the joints where the water soaked into the underlayment and pushed the planks up from the floor. The good news here is that the housing market is so bad we won't be able to sell for the foreseeable future, so we're not really worried about sanding the floors back down and reapplying the finish.

After a few peregrinations around the property the goats return to the back porch and catch the noon sun just reaching over the top of the roof, warming the easy chairs by the back railing. The weather is a perfect fall 60 degrees and the sun warms their backs just enough to take off the chill. There is no better feeling than a cool wind ruffling your fur under a clear, warm sun while you digest the leaves chewed off that prized Japanese maple in the front yard; fences, hah!

You can feel how full the pygmies get in the fall, one side bulging out and unbalancing their gait. They love the dried leaves, stuffing as many down as they can. Their bellies almost drag on the ground as they wend their way around the house to the back porch to grab their favorite spots in the sun. They sit for hours and chew, watching the geese fighting over imaginary boundary lines laid out on the pond.

Every once in a while the goats will get up and bash heads together for a few seconds or bite at some spot on their legs, but mostly it’s just chewing and dozing in the sun. I often wish our foreheads were constructed to settle arguments so quickly. The pygmies lash out at very small offenses. A favored leaf is reached simultaneously by two eager tongues and all manner of bashing and smashing ensues while another pygmy sneaks up and swallows the contested leaf. As soon as the foreheads have crunched a few times, all is forgiven and forgotten. There is no scheming and plotting, no attempt to re-zone the playground or restrict the other's grazing rights. They just smash heads and move on; would that we could.

Next time someone cuts me off at the Holland Tunnel, in a futile effort to shave 12 milliseconds off their commute, (do we really need a class for otherwise rational adults on the meaning of alternate merge?), I'd like to just politely pull over on the curb, smash heads, smile, and shake hands. "Good day neighbor, hard head you've got there." "And the same, my fine fellow, sorry about that unwarranted intrusion into your personal sense of space." "No harm." Even if I lost the battle, just the chance to spill a little of that gut-churning adrenaline onto the ground would ease my sleep for months. Life behind the glass doors brings too many opportunities to just force a smile and move on; our genetics want to battle.

Jack goes to sleep first and, his ornery big brother, Charlie, walks over and lays a hoof on Jack's head. Charlie just wants Jack to know that he's only going to sleep with Charlie's permission. If Charlie is awake and wants to play, then everyone has to be awake and ready to play. Playing consists mainly of Charlie chasing the other three all over the porch with his head lowered, those long sharp horns pointed at their ribs and backsides. Sally and Ella have an advantage in the game. Ella is sleek and much too fast for anyone else to catch. Sally is half Charlie's size; she can jump on chairs where he doesn't fit. She'll stand on top of the chair and bob her head at him, pretending, or wishing, that she had horns, so she could stab at him from atop the chair. That leaves Jack down on the deck with Charlie; doing what he can to escape the horns and pretend to fight back. You can see that Jack's heart is just not in it, there's no killer instinct left after losing 500 fights in a row.

Twenty or so geese are splashing in the pond and pulling grass along the shore. They fight constantly and raise a huge ruckus as they flap their wings wide and try to scare the rest of the flock away from their ten square feet of muddy water. No matter that the pond covers over an acre and every bird could sit 100 feet from each other. They've got to crowd each other's spaces because it creates more opportunities to show their pride by fighting about the overlapping corners.

Every time we open the sliding glass doors to step out on the porch and scratch the goats or freshen their water, all four rush the door. Once inside they have absolutely no idea why they wanted in, but hope springs eternal.

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