Bossy

Christine Maccabee

One cold day in March, as I hauled hay from the storage shed to the goat pen, I enjoyed watching as my three goats followed me on the other side of the fence. The air was crisp - about 30 degrees at 4 p.m. - and little Hershey Wizard (nearly one year old) ran as fast as he could, kicking up his heels as if to say, "I sure am glad the snow is melting!"

The snow had been too deep for frisking, and nearly too deep for tromping through 1 1/2 feet of the white stuff in order to bring hay to the goats. But bring it I did! Like the mailman, nothing will stop me, neither snow nor rain, sleet nor hail.

As in all herds of goats, no matter the size, there is always a dominant goat. In our case, since Fleetfoot died, Fawn has become the bossy one...and how! As she had at times been picked on quite cruelly by Fleetfoot, when Fawnís turn came to dominate, she gloried in it. Both Blueberry and Hershey fear her and "honor" her harsh buttings. She is the bossy one now.

"Bossy." That was the name of my Uncle Bartís favorite cow. Uncle Bart (Norman) owned a farm in Westminster and raised milk cows and corn. Gruff on the exterior, I knew that he had a soft place deep inside for his animals and of course for his dear wife Lucille. He was mostly a hermit type, and in his own way was quite bossy himself. He was never really appreciated by the women-folk in my family because of his crude sense of humor, and his telling of gross jokes around the Thanksgiving dinner table was never popular.

However, he had one of the most beautiful classically trained bass voices I have ever heard, and Iíve heard many. Lucille, a trained classical pianist, would accompany him on operatic arias, and songs like "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child." When I was a child, whenever we went to their farm, the very first thing we were required to do was to sit and listen to arias by Caruso on the Victrola. Was my uncle Bart bossy? Iím kind of glad he was. Thanks for the memories, Bart.

These were my exact thoughts as I delivered hay that March day to my little threesome up on the hill. I wondered about the cow named Bossy and how its behavior was different from bossy goats. No sooner did I throw an armload of hay over the fence at the far end of the pen, than Fawn began to claim her territory. Perhaps bossiness is a means of ensuring oneís survival, especially in lean years, be it in the wild or in the pen.

Moving on down the fence, I threw another armload of hay, as is my habit, so as to have at least two spots for the goats to eat, thus avoiding ridiculous competition for the abundance of food. Abundance or no abundance, the instinctive urge to claim it is alive and well even in domesticated animals. No matter where I throw the hay, the bossy one is there to claim it. Eventually the three goats settle down into a compatible compromise, especially when I leave.

But while I am delivering, there is the inevitable combat.

Back down at my house, in the warmth of my kitchen, I sat listening to classical music on the radio, contemplating the nature of things. In some ways, I am a lot like my Uncle Bart, except for the dirty jokes. My goat Fawn must be a lot like his cow Bossy. I imagined his interactions with his animals to be as dynamic and as playful as mine with my goats. I talk to them and they respond. I pet them and take care of them, and in return they lavish me with their goatly affection. As I raise my goats and my other animals I realize that nobody, and I mean nobody, understands the relationship that is born of raising oneís own animals, whether for practicality or pleasure, better than the caretaker, the tender of those animals.

Read other articles by Christine Maccabee