Tuesday, April 14, 2009

School's out

The baby goats were getting big, and happily drank down daily their two quarts of milk, then ate hay all day long and nibbled at whatever grain might have been spilled in their yard. They also practiced their escapes and generally wreaked havoc with the fencing. 

One favorite activity of us all was called 'goat TV'. We'd stand by the hour and watch them cavort. Sometimes the human children got into the mix and all 10 or so wild beasts dervished together.

Dear Old Dad made the mistake one day of lying in the warm sun, in a spot of soft grass that appealed to him and happened to be in the kid pen. He was soon covered with young goat damsels. The blade of grass in his mouth didn't last long...

We couldn't wait for school to get out so we could take a break from getting up too early and start enjoying each other in a less-structured way. The children had been playing with the next-door neighbors. Their children were similar in age to ours except for the youngest, who was just emerging from toddlerhood. Other children in the neighborhood played with ours, too. I envisioned a summer of ball games and running through the sprinkler and the squeals of a dozen or more happy vacationers. 

But it was not to be. 

The family next door seemed to share our interests, and I was full of hope for a real friend in the old house so near ours. But things weren't progressing too well. Our family seemed to be greeted with suspicion every which way we turned.

It wasn't our lifestyle per se, it was the sense that we were out to cheat them somehow. The father particularly seemed looking for offense, but both adults at times acted oddly. It seemed to begin with the warm weather, when we were all outside so much more often.

One incident seemed innocent enough: the neighbors' year-old puppy, a doberman gangly and goofy and named Spanky, came loping into our yard when I was the only one home, trotted up onto our open porch, and grabbed Dusty's feed bowl. I opened the door to coax her to let go, but she was already heading for home. 

I ran over to their house myself so I could keep an eye on where she went. That other property had a big barn plus a carriage house on it, in addition to their home, and I knew Spanky could take the bowl anywhere, then lose interest, and I might never find it.

But she went straight to her house, where Nancy (the mom) and her mother, visiting from another state, had just come home from buying groceries. 

I ran breathless around the corner to their door. Spanky was already inside, greeting Nancy with huge wags. The bowl was sitting just outside the door.

Both Nancy and her mother looked at me curiously, then Nancy went into the house with bags of food. I explained to her mother that Spanky had come over and carried off Dusty's bowl, and I was there to get it. I picked it up from where it lay at her feet.

But she objected. She said that Spanky didn't do that, wouldn't do that, and I could leave the bowl there. I started to laugh, then saw that she was entirely serious, grimly serious.

I looked for Nancy to come out to tell her mother that that wasn't Spanky's bowl, but she didn't. 

I left without the bowl, figuring I could pick it up later when grandma wasn't around. I was filled with confusion. Spanky was certainly acting as any puppy might, and I found it mildly amusing. It was human behavior I just didn't get, the flat contradictions and doubting my word over such a trivial thing.

That was just the first...

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