Sunday, July 18, 2010

In Memory of a Goat Named Zeptha

These hot, hot July days always remind me of Zeptha, an honorable goat and a fine lady. She died on such a day..a hot golden day..and a sad one.

Farming is always hard work and not always fun and the death of Zeptha was a low, low point in farm history. The piece below is a repeat in memory of a great goat lady.

In Memory of a Goat Named Zeptha

In full sunlight, full of new babies and a loving steady heart she strangled her last breath against the toe of my boot.

With absolute and total disbelief I watched Dr. Rainey pocket his stethoscope and disappear up the path toward his truck.

I thought she would live for ever and of course she couldn't.

It took forty-five minutes. He had said it was a shame. He had said she evidently had some kind of allergic reaction to a new grass that closed her throat. He had said, meaning to be kind, that he knew she had a "cared for life" by the way she leaned into me even at the last and "turned her head toward me" and was so "obviously glad I was there for her". He meant to be kind but he might as well have stabbed me with a hundred knives.

She depended on me and I let her die.

I walked the field for awhile sobbing like something out of Shakespeare until, stricken with a panicky thought that the problem might have been not enough available water buckets, I spent the next half hour refilling all the buckets I could find and spacing them around for everyone but Zeptha..

I bought Zeptha at the sale barn five years ago. She was old then according to her teeth, but was a loving, gentle old thing and had the most beautiful doe kids. She never picked on the weaker and newer, as many others did. She was patient and steady. She was as good a goat as she knew how to be. And she liked me.

Well maybe not JUST me… she liked.period. She liked her feed and hay and visitors, (even at very private kidding moments) and hard toast and soda crackers. She liked sunny mornings and misty evenings and gentle twilights.

She did absolutely despise and abhor rain, snow, sleet and mud. She was very beautiful.

Goats are extremely familial and I had always suspected that Rachel and Zeptha were related. Rachel, the pampered darling of a two-goat family and Zeptha, my sale-barn reject, were close companions here at High Faith Farm. Their markings and breed traits were so similar. But even more telling, Zeptha and Rachel always bedded together and Rachel's children, and Zeptha's, also bedded together.

Any doubt I had had about the relationship between Zeptha and Rachel, my prize Nubian, disappeared today, when Zeptha died.

Because of Zeptha's imminent birthing I had gone for hay, ten bales. Five bales of last-year's first cut brome/alfalfa and five bales of the better, second-cut brome/alfalfa. Because of her unknown, but obviously advanced, age I was planning on bringing Zeptha into a small pen and hand feeding her for the last week of her "troubles".

There is no way I can ever sneak around, in or out, without the herd knowing, and today as usual, when I turned in the drive, a herd of goats flew to the barn, hoping for some attention. I watched and named to myself each one. But I did not see Zeptha..or Rachel...or Hero, the buck.

When the engine of the truck died another sound was higher and louder. It was Zeptha, still at the fenceline 100 feet from the barn, making the most awful strangling noise. Rachel was "mothering" and "smurfing" her and Hero, male that he is, was attempting to offer the only life-giving thing he knew.. Half her size and several years younger he moved from nose to tail in an effort to motivate her to life. Rachel moved from side to side, supporting Zeptha as she stretched her neck and strangled and cried out to me and for air. I ran to her, ran back to the barn for grain to coax the others away from her..all but Rachel went easily..I had to drag Rachel away and literally push her into the barn.

I called the vet and he promised to come A.S.A.P. , which he did do,.

But Zeptha died today.

And I don't think I want to talk about it anymore.

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