Operation: Re-Goat

Me with the new baby goatsIn 2005, a pack of dogs killed all but one of Selina's goats. The dogs weren't hungry; they didn't eat what they killed. They even killed other dogs. The really tragic part is they belonged to people who didn't care enough about them to take proper care of them and eventually; the dogs were hunted down and killed. But not before they'd killed over a dozen goats, chickens and pigs.

Although this story has a sad start, I promise the adventure itself is funny. Yeah, we can all look back on it and laugh.

Selina, the editor and publisher of Yard Dog Press, raises goats to have and to sell milk and cheese. So they like Nubian goats, which are good milkers. She also loves her goats and so the loss devastated her.

So this story is really more of a testament to how loved Selina is by her friends than it is about me. I was just the instigator. In that respect, this will be a sort of "I Love Lucy" escapade, except there are three dizzy redheads involved in the scheme. Once I had the idea of re-goating Selina, I enlisted the aid of two of my fellow redheads--Julia S. Mandala and Dusty Rainbolt.

Pre-Planing the Trip

At first, we three thought to visit local Dallas-area farms to pick out adult goats. Then we considered the fact that goats are livestock and not "the family pet" making us wonder if there were laws about transporting goats across state lines, as Selina lives in Arkansas. Not really sure what we should get, I e-mailed Lynn and asked her what we should look into buying. Lynn said to buy baby goats, because if they are hand-reared they would easier to milk later on. And it would give Selina a chance to bond with them. So we changed our strategy. And we decided to find goats in Arkansas.

So Dusty made all the arrangements for getting us large crates and her husbands van for the trip while I began the many month-long secret process of collecting donations and communicating with goat breeders in Arkansas. Knowing Selina would have to breed the goats so they'd get pregnant in order to produce milk, I wanted every goat to have different bloodlines. So I ended up dealing with two different breeders, planning to get two goats apiece, each to have different parent-goats. Lynn had said that three does and one buck would be all Selina could handle. Lynn also told us what breed of goat to buy. Until then, we'd figured goats were goats and all goat milk was essentially the same. We learned differently.
I'm certain the breeders thought I was nuts, as my criteria for buying the goats included--being a good milker and we were looking for certain colors, as Lynn had told us Selina liked the spotted ones and she liked the brown and red ones. Plus, Selina wanted them to keep their horns, which was, apparently, an unusual request. When we had started the project, there were no baby goats available, only pregnant goats. So I had a couple of breeders keep me posted on when their goats were expected to deliver. Regularly, birth notices came my way, saying who had a doe or a buck. And when there was one just right for Selina, we essentially made an e-mail agreement that on a specific day, we would drive up and pay for the goat.

In the meanwhile, all sorts of donations were coming in via paypal and from checks in the mail. We received a lot more than we needed. I began to e-mail some of Selina's good friends who had said they wanted to donate and would be able to when they received a paycheck to say they didn't need to. They could just send a card. We had all the cash we needed. Yet every one of her friends still wanted to donate to the cause even when funds were strapped for them. See--this is really about how much people appreciate all that Selina has done for them.

The Adventure Begins

Me petting Linda-goatAlthough we called this our secret "Operation: Re-Goat," the Great Goat Adventure could as well be called "Bubba and 3 Redheads Go on a Road Trip." Surely Lucille Ball would be proud of us. (The "bubba" would be my husband, Chris, who surely deserves some good karma or award for being our driver on this escapade.)

Before the trip, we made every preparation. I printed out maps for every leg of the journey--starting with a map from Julia Mandala's house to Dusty Rainbolt's house as we hadn't been there. Then I had a map with the route from Dusty's house to the Hoyt Farms in De Queen, Arkansas. The next map went from De Queen to the Wagner Farm in Pine Bluff. Then, we traveled from Pine Bluff to Selina's house. In all, the estimated driving time was right around 11 hours. That didn't account for stopping to eat, take a break, or buy goats. Nor did it account for rain. As it turned out, it didn't account for the fact that not a single map was right!

Knowing we had a full day of driving, Chris and I arrived at Juli's house about 6:05 am. She had everything ready in the garage.  We backed up and loaded quick in the rain. Juli brought the big cooler for the milk (as baby goats would need milk) and a really, really big pillow. If you get the chance to talk to Juli at a convention, ask her for the story of "Big Green Pillow". We needed the pillow because Dusty's van, a cargo van, only had 2 seats.

We did pretty good until we got lost trying to find Dusty's place. The map insisted 2 streets intersected that didn't. Eventually, we called Dusty to get new directions. By the time we finally arrived, we were already off our schedule. Still, we hit the road a little after 7 am.  And it was raining there too. It rained for almost the entire trip--letting up only when we were nearly at Selina's place. At that time, this area of Texas and Arkansas had suffered a severe drought for months.  And the one day we get a good, long, soaking rain is the day we're planning to surprise Selina with goats for her birthday. I like to think the rain was an extra gift from Heaven, because getting rain was a very good thing.

We left Dusty's house and we're on the road, using those apparently cursed maps in conjunction with Dusty's road atlas. Remember, her van had 2 seats. So Chris drove and Juli navigated. Meanwhile, Dusty and I sat, lounged, and reclined on big green pillow. We had luggage and the cooler between us, not to mention a big wire cage (or crate) that Dusty had gotten from a dog rescue group. We used extra pillows (as we were planning on spending the night at Selina's) propped against the luggage and all the other stuff to give us a complete "pillow surround" ride. I think we had the best seats--especially after we picked up the goats, because I could pet their noses through the wire.

As we neared De Queen, we were, naturally, getting excited.  Until we realized this map was no better than the one to Dusty's place. We wove through backcountry roads in the rain, hoping we didn't get stuck. The roads went up and down hill, twisting, and weren't paved. After some wrong turns and missed streets, we sort of spiraled our way toward the farm. Astoundingly, we arrived about the time I had estimated in e-mails to Barbie.

Barbie Hoyt and her family were very nice and friendly. Their farm is lovely and they keep all sorts of animals besides goats. It was easy to tell they loved their goats--which was one of the reasons I'd picked them. Anyway, the rain decided to pour down by the bucket-full about now . . . naturally.

Remember I said we were "prepared"? We had the crate. We had maps. Juli made Selina's birthday cake. We had everyone's cards, the cash for buying goats and then some. We had everything we needed. Yet none of us brought an umbrella or raincoat. And yes, it WAS raining at all our houses while we loaded the van---in the rain. So, now the bubba and 3 redheads reference is probably starting to make sense as a "title" to this little novella-adventure.

We sloshed across the Hoyt's back yard. The family was fixing eggs, having a late breakfast.  They even invited us to join them. Like I said, nice people. Barbie got suited up in an oversized pair of overalls with mud boots. If she had big gloves and one of those netting hats, she'd have looked like a beekeeper. After feeding their boys (teenagers), her husband suits up in a rain slicker and hat, making him look kinda like the Gordon Fisherman man-but in black instead of yellow. He later joined us in the barn. As we sloshed across the field, their dogs ran alongside us, excited and enjoying the rain.

The barn was big and filled with all sort of goats, including adorable Pygmy goat babies. If they hadn't all been pre-sold, Dusty would have bought a Pygmy goat for herself. Anyway, Juli shot some footage with her digital video camera so we could show Selina her 4th goat, a baby buck that Barbie wanted to stay with his mom. He was the mom-goat's first baby and she didn't want to separate them so soon. In the original plan (as nothing went entirely to plan), we'd figured to the buck here, along with the doe (which Selina later named Linda). Since Barbie wanted the buck to stay with his mom for 3 months, she wasn't going to charge extra for that. Lynn knew about the arrangement and said that'd be fine, as it's really the does that needed to bond with Selina so they be easier to milk when they were older. We paid for both babies, but only took Linda-goat with us. The transaction lasted about an hour--longer than we'd intended, but there was a lot of paperwork.  See, these aren't just good milkers, they're pedigree goats. On the papers, we put Selina's name as the owner/purchaser and put her address and phone number.

The goat Melody had delivered twin does-both of them absolutely gorgeous. However, Melody belonged to their daughter-who wasn't home at the time, and who wasn't sure she wanted to sell one of them. She thought she might, but didn't know which one. Anyway, we wanted to get one of those does-but couldn't.  The reason we wanted another doe was that at the next farm, there was only one doe waiting--and we had really wanted to surprise Selina with three does instead of two--and, of course, the one buck on "hold" at the Hoyt farm.

We carried Linda-goat in a carrier to the van, so she wouldn't get wet. We, however, were soaking wet. Barbie gave us some hay for the crate bottom, and we were on our way. Linda-goat was a sweet, quiet passenger. For the first couple of minutes, she stood at the back of the crate where she'd gotten in. But with a little coaxing, she came to the front corner and sat beside me where I petted her head and talked to her.

It was after 1 pm by the time we got back on the road. Feeling hungry, we searched for food. At the interstate, we stopped at Taco Bell. While it would've been nice to find a sit-down restaurant, dry out and have a really satisfying meal, we opted for faster service because we hated leaving the baby alone. And we had a good 7 hours on the road ahead of us, including one more goat-stop.

To update what was going on at Selina's house (this being info I later learned, but for the sake of time-continuity, I'll relay it here), people were arriving for a surprise birthday party. Bill Allen, a great guy who's Selina's brother in spirit, if not in blood, drove down in the rain, playing dumb. "What, there's a party? Well sure I'll stick around." (Right-he knew all about it...as did everyone else there) While there was no cake (as Juli had made the carrot cake) there was a wonderful dinner spread.

Back on the road, we head for Pine Bluff. When we got lost-again, we started to lose all confidence in the maps. We stopped for fuel and asked directions to the Wagner farm hoping someone might know. While we stopped, Lynn had called for an update on our location and progress. We told her we were running behind between getting lost multiple times and the rain, but that we were on the way to pick up the second doe.  At least we'd have two babies and one pre-paid and Selina would have plenty of money to buy another goat and anything else the babies needed.

While I had Lynn on the phone, I ran our computer-generated directions past her. Partway though, Lynn says, "That's bullshit. Let me give you the directions. So, Juli, our navigator, jotted down the changes directions. We were feeling pretty good then--thinking at least 1 leg would be trouble free.

The guy at the station knew exactly what farm we were looking for. Turns out, this leg of the map was right. However, it would have helped matters if mapquest had warned us that in the back woods of Arkansas the residents don't care if you can find the streets. Streets do not have a uniform marking system that we've determined. Some had the classic colored metal signs in an X form atop a pole. The street we missed didn't. It had a skinny white picket stuck in the ground with the street name stenciled down the side. We almost missed it a second time.

We found Barbara (yeah-what a coincidence about the names, eh?) at their pet store. They have a farm and a pet store that even had chinchillas! That's where I was tempted to come home with another critter to add to the menagerie. This adventure happened before we had sugar gliders.

Barbara was also very nice. When we pulled up, she waved and seeing Juli asked, "Are you Linda?" She showed us the lovely doe, that Selina later named Julia-goat.  Little Julia-goat shared a pen with a small newborn baby buck. Newborn as in he'd been born just the day before our trip. He was Cassie's baby. Barbara called him a surprise and asked if we wanted him too. I had been waiting to hear of Cassie's state-as I knew she was due the 27th. But I hadn't heard before we left, so I'd thought she hadn't delivered. But he was a buck and we'd already gotten a buck back at Hoyt Farms. This little guy was really cute and very, very spotted with some of every goat color in him. We knew Selina would love him--but she and Lynn only needed one buck. So, what to do?

I told Barbara I wasn't sure. Then she offered me a real sweet deal--take them both and get the buck for half-price. So I called Lynn. She said, get him. They'd worry about having an extra buck later. We were really glad Lynn said this because as soon as Julia-goat was removed from the pen, the poor little buck, who Selina later named Dusty, started crying and crying. I was inside with Barbara, but Dusty's crying really made Chris and Juli sad.  But who knew you could sell a baby goat that was barely one day old? You think the mom-goat was looking around, thinking, "I was sure I had a baby somewhere…dang but they sure do wander off young."

We loaded the other two goats and bought 8 gallons of milk (1 fresh and 7 frozen) to add to the 2 (1 fresh, 1 frozen) Barbie at Hoyt gave us. As we packed these into the cooler, we packed some of Chris's homemade beer between the gallons so they'd be cold for the party.

Finally, we headed toward Selina's. The sun was going down and we were on the road with 3 goats with and another paid for.  In all, it was a good day's shopping trip--and we were glad to have three (instead of two) goats to actually bring to the party.  And as we headed north, the rain let up, which meant the goats wouldn't get wet when we got out of the van. (We were so wet it'd be two days to dry out.) Since Dusty and I were sitting on Juli's big green throw pillow, we had to take our shoes off every time we climbed into the van.

On the road, Lynn called, checking on our progress. We were about 90 minutes away and feeling pretty confidant. At the party, Selina wondered why everyone was still there. And why her birthday party had no cake. Later, Selina told me her father had never stopped by to eat then stayed for so long.  He normally ate and ran, was how she put it. Yet everyone hung around and Selina couldn't figure out why.  She's real hard to surprise, but we all managed it.

Selina with brand new baby goatsAt last, we reached the Alma exit. We were home free-or so we thought. A fog had settled in over this area. While I love fog--it's very pretty--it made it hard to see country roads and signs and such. (It's the "such" that got us.) Juli had Lynn's directions and we found the S curve Lynn warned us about. Then we saw Cedar Road. The sign was on a road forking to the right--not the left as Lynn had told us. (Important note here: Lynn had told us correctly.) Our navigator thinks that maybe Lynn had gotten right & left mixed up or was thinking about approaching her street from the other direction. So we turned right. Naturally, the road was a dead end and not the right direction. Meaning we had to turn around.  Why should this leg of the journey be any different, right?

Chris pulled into a driveway to back out and go back the way we came. Unfortunately, while the right side of the road had a slightly lower shoulder, the far side had a ditch. Yep. Between the night, the fog, the hard to see out the back van, and unfamiliarity with the road, not to mention slick mud, the back end tipped into a ditch. We were stuck and the mud wasn't letting us go anywhere.

I called Lynn, saying we hit another snag. She said she'd send someone out. Meanwhile, Juli and Chris think they can push if Dusty drives. Okay--that didn't work. Maybe if the ground had been dry, we could have gotten out. We're positively stuck.

Maybe a minute after we'd been there, a car came down the road. It was a cop car. Then another car came up the backside where we were blocking half the road. For a short, dead end strip, this road suddenly became grand central station. Luckily, the vast amount of unexpected traffic could get by because, as I'd mentioned, the other side of the road wasn't a horrible ditch. The cop called a tow truck for us then flagged traffic through while we were stuck. He noticed we had Texas plates and saw the edge of the crate inside the van. He asked if we had animals. (Now that I think of it, he might have first thought we were dumping dogs; while talking to him, he said city people come out here all the time and did that. Horrible, isn't it?) We told him we were bringing baby goats to a friend for a birthday gift. He knew Selina and asked if we knew how to get to her place. He even took a look at the goats and said, "Oh yeah, she's gonna love these." 

In the barnAll the while the officer flagged traffic through we thought every car was someone from Selina's party. One of the many cars on parade stopped offered to come back with his truck and a chain to haul us out. He told the police officer to call off the tow truck, thus saving us money. So while our journey was fraught with troubles of one sort or another, everyone we dealt with was really nice.  About the time that fellow came back with his truck, Lynn, Bill and Meyers (Selina's son) came out to help. We got the van out without any damage. So disaster averted there. Just to be safe, even though we had a car to follow, Bill rode back with us.

Back at the party, Selina wondered where Bill and Meyers had gotten off to. Someone tells her they're on the porch drinking beer. Selina says she'll join them--to which there's a resounding "Noooo!" 'Cause the jig would've been up. Later, Selina told me she had figured they were putting together a surprise for her birthday--that they were building her a bicycle or something. She followed that thought with: She was too old for a bicycle. Then she promptly forgot about the missing guys and went back to entertaining her guests--who still weren't leaving.

We finally reach our destination. Lynn has Juli, Dusty and I each carry in a goat. We redheads are lined up with the boys bringing in the cake and the cooler with the milk behind us. Lynn has a camera ready and we go in to surprise Selina!

Selina's first words on seeing us is, "I can't believe you idiots"--or another of Selina's terms of endearment--"came all the way from Texas for my birthday party."  THEN she noticed we were carrying goats as we dumped them in her lap.  (Bill Allen got the really nice photo of Selina smiling so big.)  While holding her new babies, Selina's next words were, "What am I going to feed them?" That was right on cue when the boys came in with the cooler and ten gallons of goat milk.

Of course Selina gave us a bit of teasing for getting her pedigreed goats, complete with paperwork. But after seeing them, she decided Meyers "common" bucks couldn't impregnate her pedigreed girls. <laugh> We were just glad that the family thought we'd picked out some really good goats since we didn't have a clue about goat shopping.

After getting her birthday present, nobody else mattered. Selina took to mothering those baby goats.  She first put the goats in the aviary/solarium and got a bottle started.  Tad (Selina's sister) and I went down into the aviary/solarium with Selina. While Selina tried to feed little spotted Dusty, Julia-goat, the biggest of the bunch, climbed all over Selina making all sorts of noise. I told Selina that doe would be trouble and she might as well name her that. That was when Selina says-oh no and proceeded to name them after us.  She said the spotted buck would be Dusty because her name can be for a boy or girl, and that the climber/troublemaker would be Julia and the other doe (my personal favorite) was going to be Linda.

After everyone starting leaving we helped Selina set up the milking station barn for the baby goats. There's a gap under the platform so Selina got some boards to cover it. She hung a lamplight for a little extra warmth, although fortunately, it wasn't that cold--but it could turn cold, as this was the end of January. We got what hay was in the back of the van and spread out for the babies while Selina and Lynn set up a baby monitor so they could heard the goats from inside the house. Of course, all the while, Selina kept saying we were crazy. But I never saw Selina so bouncy happy and that made it all worthwhile. Besides, it was a blast--every part of it.

Outside for some sunThe next day was sunny and pretty and Selina let the babies outside for a short time. But it wasn't until a later visit, after Selina had all four goats thatJuli (the person) got some pictures of me playing with the goats (which you saw earlier in this document).  I took some pictures of Selina with her new babies that first night. Wanting goats, Selina had gotten Rudy (a polled (hornless) goat from Tad; Sadie was the only goat to have survived the dog attacks, but, according to Selina, Sadie was insane--and that skittish behavior probably saved her life.

Selina made us a wonderful breakfast with farm fresh eggs and we got the grand "E-ticket" tour of the place. Selina showed us around outside and Lynn took us on the inside tour. Juli put all this on digital video too--so we have quite a memento video of the event "Operation Re-Goat."  After getting home, Juli put the event on DVD and I made case covers and we mailed that to them as well.

For months afterward, people kept sending donations, which I gathered and gave to Selina at the various conventions I saw her at. So the goats had a nice fund to cover their needs. As rambunctious as Julia-goat is, Selina may need to set aside a special fund called the: Money to fix the stuff Julia broke.

About the 4th goat--the pre-paid buck…Lynn phoned (and left a message) and sent an e-mail to Barbie at Hoyt explaining the situation, asking if they could trade the buck for a doe. As I said, Barbie is a nice lady. She said that'd be fine. I learned this after we got home that Sunday night. Lynn made us all call so say we got home safe. At that time, Lynn said she'd gotten in touch with Barbie and that doing a trade was fine. If I understood correctly--it was late and my mind was getting tired-Lynn and Selina were possibly heading that way within the coming week to pick out a doe.

The trickiest part of the entire adventure was getting Selina to take the extra cash. Selina has always been the kind of woman who takes care of herself without charity. Explaining a birthday gift wasn't charity wasn't easy. In the end, we said not to think of it as money but as a fence or whatever else the goats needed. It was simply easier for Selina to get the right thing than for us to buy the wrong thing. I think all the cards that people had sent along helped too. That and reminding Selina that these baby goats would come with expenses…vet bill, they needed a new fence, hay and grain and vitamins, just to start, helped too.  Selina got real excited about some of the things she's always wanted to build for her goats and could now do with the slush fund.

All this happened at the end of January. So there was some cold weather still ahead. And when a cold snap hit, those babies were set up all cozy in the bathroom. Yeah, they had it good.

After about a month, Selina and Lynn picked up their fourth baby, a doe from Barb at Hoyt Farms. Selina really enjoyed looking over their still pregnant stock and tracking them for the birth of another doe. The new doe was named ELE--for Elizabeth Moon, Laura Underwood and Esther Freisner--all good friends of Selina's, all wonderful ladies.

Selina's Follow-Up E-mail

Date: Mon, 30 Jan 2006 09:23:52 -0600
From: "Selina Rosen"
Subject: Thanks
As most if not all of you know -this weekend was pretty exciting and busy for me which kept me from answering my e-mail. First just let me say that you're all a bunch of nut jobs and I love you all.

I just got back from the barn where I feed Julia, Linda and Dusty their bottles. Since they instigated the whole ,"Operation Re-goat," I thought they should be honored.
The truth is that I was completely blown away, which is a big event in itself because it has become a big joke to say they are celebrating my surprise birthday because until now, no one has ever been able to surprise me because I always figure out what's going on and then they can tell I'm faking it, because I'm a shitty liar.

When in the middle of my "surprise" birthday I looked up and saw Dusty and Linda, Chris and Julia I thought, "I can't believe those ass holes drove all the way from Texas for my birthday," and I was already excited and thinking that was just too unbelievably nice and then they just started covering me up with little baby goats.

When I learned that these goats and enough money to build an even more uber fence than I have built in the last month -in my dog madness- as well as get all their shots and keep them in hay for a couple of years, had been donated by you and basically everyone I know... Well I just don't know how to explain in words or otherwise -not even interpretive dance- how I felt.  Except to say -as I often have- that there is no better community in this world than the Science Fiction community and that there are no better group of people in this world than you guys.

Of course I have guilt -and what part of quit sending me stuff did you guys not understand! How can I keep my bitter edge, if people keep doing nice things for me- but I have to say that I have never felt more appreciated then I do right now. In fact I'm beginning to think that maybe, sometimes, karma really does work.

Anyway I just wanted to thank you all for your cards and well wishes and your donations to the goat cause. I love my new babies.


Final Note & In Memory Of...

On a sad note, dogs got in one more time and killed Linda-goat. The goats had been pregnant and so after ELE had a beautiful, red-coated doe, Selina named her Lucky Linda--after Linda-goat. As Selina told me, the dogs would kill the nicest of the goats. The fence has since been even further reinforced and there hasn't been a problem since.