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If you want some entertainment get a goat.

For Angeli.


She was a fox, pretty and red brown with clever foxy ways. We had taken our young goat Naryam to breed and we acquired pregnant Amy. Naryam was not too keen on getting back into the truck, she rolled her eyes, the odd rectangular iris goats have showing in her distaste for noisy speeding things.  But we would have two milk goats and some relief from having a lonely goat calling out all day long for her herd and wanting to come inside the cabin with us.They were a contrasting pair, bashful Naryam and brazen Amy. Naryam is my name spelled backwards, she was very sensitive and yielding;  Amy was a better model for me I thought watching her keep her cool and control over the new situation.

It was a long ride and they were happy companions buffering each other against the jostling truck bed by the time we headed up the mountain side. We stopped to give them water and let them browse on the side of the road. Amy tried munching on a coco cola can but finding it unpalatable moved on found a tasty piece of wrapping paper which she ate before I could stop her.  I worried she would be sick on the long winding road home, but Amy had a taste for adventure and a strong stomach.

We lived above the fog line amid the oak and pine, endless bright blue sky, the smell of perfumed resin and golden grass. Once a week or so we would drive down to Highway One for the mail, and every couple of months we would get flour, kerosene and coffee in Monterey. Bob had a permit to cut dead wood from the forestry department and could cut, split and load a cord of dense madrone in half a morning. I would get our clean clothes for the day, wash and hang up yesterday's and off we went dressed like elves in embroidered silk to sell the wood in Carmel Highlands. No problem, eighty dollars. After the essential supplies were bought we had money left over. I bought fabrics, ribbons, paints and brushes, books and musical instruments. We would stop in at blessed Esalen for a hot tub and see friends, it was the era when the hill shamans were welcome and we would sit and chat with Alan Watts and Fritz Pearls.  Sometimes we were invited to stay the night and attend a seminar the next day and we might if our mutual dependence with our goats was not a cost, they can't go for long between milking or the milk stops and they like us to be home, safety in numbers is the herd brain set.

When the only human face you see is your mate you begin to notice the wild neighbors. They noticed us when we first moved in of course, but it took us a while to see them. The blue jays commented on everything: when we came out of the cabin, when we chopped wood, their strident calls informed everyone. They are smart birds, one of the five species that can recognize themselves in a mirror; humans, primates, dolphins, elephants and all the members of the corvid birds. After a few months, I learned their different sounds, the tones when I milked the goats, the calls to let all  the wild life know that the man was raking up leaves. At first it was ," here comes a human" then they no longer sounded an alarm,  the tone of their call said, " its only Marian";  we had been accepted as forest denizens.  I began to see how the forest animals function together, the blue jays are the lookouts and gossips for the mammals,  the predators operate after dark when jays sleep.  News that hunters are in the forest spreads fast and everyone is silent and hidden.

Every few days I would take the two goats for a walk. They are herd animals and tend to stay around the rest of the herd, which was Bob and I in this case. The forest was too scary for them, for good cougar and coyote  reasons, but they would follow me if I led and there was good browsing along the trails. Sage and lilac intertwined with poppies and blue bonnet. They would eat lots of tasty plants - sometimes as I enjoyed a lovely blossom, it became goat food before I could smell it. They both ate poison ivy and we seemed to get immunity as we drank their milk, passing toxins through us without harm from this noxious plant.

After we walked for a while, goats and I would rest together. I would lie against their glossy flanks. They have sweet breath and are affectionate if given the chance. I played my bamboo flute and thought of the god Pan in the ancient groves and the wild things of his domain. In the noontime quiet, the god drew close, crickets sang, and iridescent insects hung like jewels. The consciousness that arises when you are at ease and one with nature is the basic shaman state, the rest of it is magic, but that's for another story.

We left foot prints in the dusty trail and so did the side winding rattle snake. As it passed in front of Amy goat, she simply stepped over him. It was the first time I "heard" animal communication. I could hear that snake say, "I will be out of your way in a minute", there was no danger, no fear, just another wild one passing by. My first encounter with the dangerous wild ones left me unharmed and exhilarated and snake was so elegant in his lovely skin.

Eventually the  two goats were close to birthing and we were standing with them on the roadside at twilight. Few cars came on this road yet we could see  headlights, we stepped back towards the bushes but as the car passed, the passenger fired a shot and hit Naryam, who went down with a little bleat. The car sped on. Bob quickly sterilized his knife and I held her, talking reassuringly. Such trust she showed, keeping still while he dug the bullet out. It was next to her spine but not deep. We wrapped her in Bobs jacket and got her home, she slept with her head on my lap for a while.

Naryam had her first kid that night, while we sat with her. The shock of injury interfered with her mothering instinct and she would have nothing to do with the tiny, jet black, male baby goat. He nuzzled, she kicked him away. I milked her and improvised a bottle, he drank fiercely. We called him Tagra Ba and he was magnificent at one day old. At two days old, he successfully challenged the tom cat to the warm place next to the fire. So much pure testosterone packed into a kid and he was so affectionate, nudging me  to have his head scratched and be picked up.

On the third day, Amy goat had two kids. When they started to nurse, Naryam goat noticed.  She looked and looked and then called out to Tagra Ba: baa, her soft goat sound, my baby where are you? He ran over, no problem with his instincts. Mother and kid were happily united thanks to Amy's steady goat sense.

We moved again and gave Amy to friends with five children. We had kept her milked and she was quite a producer. One day we had a peyote meeting at the ranch and I watched Amy cavorting under the full moon. When I commented on her actions, at least three people said they had given her peyote. I might have been upset but I remembered that goats will eat very weird things.

When Amy lived with me in the forest, she lived up to the story that goats will eat anything. I had left bread in the oven for too long one day. It was a solid brick of carbon when I found it. Bob thought it was funny and took it out to hit with his big splitting maul. It didn't even dent, so he threw it under the leaf mulch in the forest. Two days later, he brought the carbonized loaf back in, laughing as he showed me how it was half eaten by Amy goat.

Last year, after 40 years, I asked beautiful  Angeli what happened to Amy goat. She died, alas, of eating cement. Such a character, she is still remembered like family.

 


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