on conversing with goats

Actual conversation with Grace (smallest goat on the place):

hnw: Oh, Gracie, those are rocks! Please don’t eat those. [Grace crunches the last few rocks gathered from beside a nearly full pan of untouched sweet grain and strolls off with no further delay to thing #2, the siding on the house.]

hnw: No, Grace, not that! [Grace flicks her ears, gives the siding one more rake with her teeth, then strolls over to thing #3, a heavy stoneware urn that used to have a green plant in it until somebody’s littlest goat took a shine to said plant.]

hnw: Graciela. Leave that alone. [Grace bobs her head, rests one knee against the urn, considering her options, and then walks off to thing #4, the front license plate on the car, and proceeds to duck slightly beneath it, turning it into a back-scratcher, yes, but nearly unhinging said tag.]

hnw: You! Now! Quit it! [Grace kicks up her back heels and shakes her head in a way that says Any Act of Obedience Is Only Temporary Anyway and hops stiff-legged and sideways across the yard to thing #5, the snoozing pig, where she will now just stand breathing on him until he gets annoyed.]

hnw: Oh for crying out loud in a bucket, get out of there: you know better! [Grace nods, long white chin hairs all a’quiver, still munching on her rocks, then turns all the way around to face the Human-Who-Cannot-At-This-Moment-Be-Pleased, takes two beats, then saunters in a most ladylike and unhurried, even leisurely manner out of the pig’s pen and down the line into her own. Then she pivots on her hind heels and looks at the Cross Human and very pointedly over at the next smallest goat on the place–who has, in the short meantime, made it to item #5 and is about to roust said pig from his slumber, only not using mere breath alone like her sibling has just done because, well, Gertrude cares less about lady qualities and more about heft and results–and then downright dainty Miss Grace stares implacably back at the human: So what are you gonna do about *her*?

[hnw looks around for the sheepdog, who isn’t ready yet to bed down, which the next-to-smallest Gertie goat believes signifies Not Bedtime For Anyone Yet, and sighs. Audibly. Next-to-smallest goat Gert kicks up her heels and rounds everybody’s pen headed one direction, then stops at the far end and eyes the Human-Who-Cannot-At-This-Moment-Be-Pleased for a long few seconds over the panels, then kicks up her heels skittering rocks and dust with every step headed the opposite way, rounding every last pen, the trailer, the truck, the sheepdog, and the Cross Human, and then sails into her pen as if it had been her Intended Destination all along, whips around to stand by her sister and stare at the H-W-C-A-T-M-B-P/CH quite peaceably, all told. If said human didn’t know better, she could’ve sworn both goats wore satisfied smiles, having, after all, made all their points reasonably well and without a single word required. Sheepdog walks into his pen. Human shakes her head, closes all gates, and heads for her own pen. Wordless at last.]

The meaning of human existence in one conversation. There ’tis. A thing of pure de ol’ glory, complete with white chin hairs and the capacity to stroll and saunter and hop sideways for a full sixty feet without pause for either breath or effect when faced with an unreasonable authority passing out orders like she owns the place. Tomorrow, those smiles said, we shall pick up right here where we have chosen to leave off. G’night, you: you’ll do for a human. In a pinch.


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