Idle Hooves are The Devil’s Workshop

Ugh, kids these days–always lazing about the pasture, twiddling their cloven hooves, and complaining about how bored they are. Back in the day, goat youths used to show some respect to farmers, but now all they do is sit around and baah at you. Yep, back in the old days, if a kid ever talked baah to a farmer, they’d get a good walloping atop their horned forehead, but try something like that nowadays and you’d likely get you thrown in jail. So my question is, how do you discipline a goat that likes to ram you in the butt? 

Really, I’m asking. I’m new to goats, and although they seemed at first like interesting and fun-loving ruminants, there’s only so many times a man can get battered in the backside before he starts ruminating about what side dishes pair well with barbecued goat. In fact, I’m starting to wonder if God created goats for the sole purpose of testing human patience by way of testing human fence-building ability. I hate to admit it, but, after a decade of raising various types of livestock, I  secretly considered myself an expert livestock chaser, having logged many miles behind horses, cows, and pigs. But pride goeth before the goat. I just spent the better part of two hours pacing up and down a fenceline, trying to find the short in our electric fence, all while playing ring-around the farm gate, as the goats took turns getting out faster than I could get them back in. 

Pigs are by far the most intelligent animals I’ve tried to contain, but goats are natural escape artists. Literally, I actually watched one of our goats escape from our pasture while sleeping. He was laying beside a metal tube gate, which has a half-foot gap from the bottom rung to the ground. While sleeping, he rolled over (perhaps dreaming about greener pastures), only to suddenly awake in the green grass outside the pasture.  

To be honest, I should have suspected goats would be trouble. As a preacher’s son, I always wondered what Jesus was going on about when he talked about the parable of the sheep and goats, but now I know: idle hooves are the devil’s workshop. 

Kids these days!

Good Fences Make Poor Farmers

My neighbor Nell is a real agricultural ignoramus, pardon my French. A thousand times, I’ve told her cows are herbivores, and as such, my cows eat her herbs, particularly her basil and oregano. It’s just simple biology. Hence, there was no need for Nell to buy a shotgun and take shooting lessons, all just to pepper my cows with bird shot. Really, all she had to do was stop planting culinary herbs and start planting inedible weeds. A garden of pigweed, curly doc, and buttercups would suffice. Cows hate those pasture weeds; in fact, mine walk right past them on the way to Nell’s garden. 

Unfortunately, Nell always finds the hardest way possible to solve a simple problem. Concerning my cows crossing her property line, she now believes a good fence is the solution, which is exactly what someone who hasn’t studied agriculture would think. A good fence has never solved anything. For instance, the Chinese built an impediment fifty-foot high and 13,000 miles long, made of stone no less and with archers atop, and cows still got out. Cows will find a way.

The problem is Nell has no mind for agriculture, no mind for anything but sappy poems and iambic pentameter. A former English teacher, she is particularly fond of the Robert Frost poem “Mending Wall”—you know the one where the old farmer says, “good fences make good neighbors.” Like most English teachers, she ignores facts–and the fact is Frost was a pitiful farmer whose agricultural advice should be altogether disregarded. He was such a bad farmer he quit and made more money writing poetry—rhyming poetry!

Thus, I had to set Nell straight, lest she make a big mistake. I told her listening to Frost for farming advice was like listening to Emily Dickinson for travel recommendations. I told her a good fence is a lot of work, even for a small garden like hers, but she could borrow my post hole diggers if she’d like.

“My garden, lordy no,” she replied. “I meant your pasture. Your fence is falling to pieces. Isn’t it the farmer’s responsibility to maintain fences to keep good neighborly relations?”

She delivered this with a straight face, an attempt at deadpan humor, which she really sold by pointing the shotgun at me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for second-amendment rights, but I believe there should be restrictions on gun ownership for people who like poetry. You never know when they may have a “spontaneous overflow of emotion,” as Wordsworth put it, and blast somebody. 

“Now, Nell,” I said. “That’s funny—though you really shouldn’t have taken the safety off. In fact, for a split second, I thought you were serious. But then I remembered everybody knows good fences make poor farmers.”

“How so?” she asked. 

“First, if farmers had good fences, they wouldn’t gain experience chasing livestock, which is an essential animal husbandry skill. Second, if farmers spent money building good fences, they’d be so poor they couldn’t buy livestock to go in the fence. Third, farmers have a lot more important stuff to do than mending fences, like chasing livestock.” 


Had I not ducked, I likely would have been sprayed by bird shot—but I noticed Nell starting to froth at the mouth as I talked and figured she was about ready to burst with one of those spontaneous overflows. To miss the second barrel, I timed my leap perfectly, springing upward right after she said, “Die, cow farmer!”