Window Alert: Fugitive Livestock

The guv’mint agriculture office where I work happens to be a rock’s throw from our local sale barn. This is quite convenient for farmers. After they pick up their check at the sale barn, they can stop by our office to receive treatment for shell shock. Last week, I nearly had to call the paramedics when one dairy farmer about fell-out in the hallway. He realized he actually owed the sale barn money. His little day-old jersey bulls sold for five dollars each, which didn’t cover the minimum sale fee, so he netted a loss for each bull calf sold–talk about giving your calves away. After I helped him compose himself, I gave him some apt advice for his next bull calves: spray-paint them black and pass them off as Angus on Craigslist.

Being so close to the sale barn has perks besides increasing my ability to quickly help dairy farmers in need. During lunch, I like to walk down to the sale barn grill for the purposes of exercise. Dodging trucks with rumbling livestock trailers in tow provides strenuous cardio, and I’m a big proponent of being heart healthy. It’s just happenstance that the destination at the end of my walking route has the best cheeseburger around (insert freshest beef joke here), plus they make a mean batch of onion rings. Also, their fried chicken is quite tasty, especially the skin.  

Screenshot 2020-02-26 at 1.38.31 PM

Another perk to working so close to the sale barn is I never know what I’m going to see run by my office window. Usually, it’s goats. Apparently, they’re the best escape artists, followed closely in rank by young piglets. Approximately thirty-seven seconds after a fugitive piglet speeds by my window, a posse of sale barn workers will follow in pursuit. If I’m not too bloated from my exertion at lunch, I’ll gladly join in with the posse to help wrangle where needed. Chasing a piglet is even better exercise than dodging livestock trailers.

Usually, I see escaped domesticated livestock out the window, but occasionally I’ll see native wildlife, too. Last week, for instance, I saw the strangest creature. At first glance, I thought it was a skunk and dove under my desk to take cover. I’m a little jumpy when it comes to skunks (read Polecat Prone-Areas). But upon peeking out from under my desk for a second glance, I determined it was no polecat. The creature was too brown and streamline, plus there was no odor involved. And that’s when it hit me–by George, I knew this critter. At church, one frequently stared at me from an old rich lady’s scarf. 

To my knowledge, I had never seen a live mink before in my life–not even in the zoo. But at our yearly conservation field day, our local game warden had a mink pelt and skull he used for show-and-tell with third-graders. Having seen that presentation many times over the years, I felt pretty confident I was observing the rare woodland creature. I even called my coworkers over to the window to observe the mink. It scurried all over the place, giddy with excitement. Then it looked up alertly and made a beeline into the woods. 

“Wow” I thought to myself, “it’s not everyday a person gets to see a mink.”

But no sooner than I thought that, a posse passed by. Apparently, it was no mink at all–just an escaped brown ferret that someone tried offloading at the small animal sale.

Screenshot 2020-02-26 at 2.00.21 PM

Book Review: Flat Broke with Two Goats

At the library, I stumbled upon Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer Mcgaha. I thought the title indicated something in the agrarian humor genre. I thought wrong. This book is a bluntly honest memoir, recipes included–think Ron Rash’s Appalachian grittiness sprinkled into Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. The setting is rural western North Carolina. At times, the subject matter, which includes a vivid description of domestic abuse, is intense and heart-rending. But once chickens and goats arrive on the premises, the story takes an uplifting turn. The writing is top-notch, with a poetic rhythm; here’s a passage:  

“My grandmother grew up on a farm in the mountains of North Carolina, and in her recollections, farm life was never idyllic. The work was backbreaking and constant, food hard to come by. On frigid winter mornings, she woke covered with snow that had drifted through the slats  in the bedroom walls. Still, her stories made me dream of the three-room log cabin in which she was raised, of her nine brothers and sisters, of the mother who cooked dinner for twelve on a woodstove, of the father who spent his days plowing fields and hoeing potatoes, tending cows and hogs and chickens.”