The Original Baa-Baa Dude

With winter fading, spring freshified the land. Every cell of life on that farm beamed a vibrant howl and the first of the baby goats were born. I discovered two of them one morning in the field beside mothers browsing the foliage. An indent in the grass pillowed the third kid. I tapped it with my boot and a swarm of flesh-flies dispersed in a flash of rotten air. The overnight moisture shaped dewy mohawks on its rump. Wilton peeled the corpse from the spongy careless earth. He carried it to the electric fence on the hillside and tossed it over. Men like Wilton maintained the chain of agriculture, men who performed the ugly tasks without hesitation, seeing the time in which they happened to have already passed, men with vision for progress biased toward action. In winter's absence the kids multiplied. They hopped around the fields and birth pens as together they learned to use their bodies. Wagers teetered between us about which mother might pop next, as many threatened, their plump udders and swaying teats in evidence of ripe birth terms. Though through April a general warmth sustained the days, one unlucky kid dropped from his mother overnight in a fluke surge of freezing temperatures. We found him shivering blind beneath a membrane of afterbirth slime, separated from the cold-shield safety of the herd, his survival fraught in ill-favor. He was the official runt outcast of the herd. Because his mother rejected his attempts to feed, Hadley and I adopted him and fed him three times every day with a powdered milk solution. We named him The Original Baa-Baa Dude. The fields' jutting rocks served as the testing grounds for the kids' motor skills. One rock in particular held status among the group for its steep edges. Juvenile skirmishes littered its base and day after day, the kids flopped from its peak. For weeks The Original Baa-Baa Dude bobbed around alone at the rock's periphery, timid to engage with the others. Then one day he mustered the gumption to join. But he lunged too fast and crashed headfirst into the rock. The largest kid was the first of the hierarchy to drift from him. The rest of the group then joined as they abandoned their preferred spot to scan the field for new playgrounds. Wilton thought The Original Baa-Baa Dude should have been left to die his first morning in the field, he said it was a waste to raise a runt of that size on a bottle, because they never turned out right. He embodied a farmer's often-required hardness; the practical, detached mentality needed to end the runt and re-purpose the invested energies toward more productive work. Every morning we used a soda bottle to mix The Original Baa-Baa Dude's meals. Once the ratio was right, we capped the bottle with a rubber feeding nipple and held it under hot water until it warmed. We cut up some old socks and wrapped them around the bottle to hold the temperature as we walked the fields to find him. The rest of the kids fed with enthusiasm, butting at their mothers' udders for withheld stores of milk. The Original Baa-Baa Dude had his own way of charging at the bottle whenever we fed him, but his spitfire blitzes always landed him past the rubber nipple. When the milk solution was gone, he would charge the bottle a few more times until we pulled it away. He'd lay a few minutes in one of our laps, a faux milk foam ringing his mouth, cuddling up with snout puffs and a warm steady heartbeat. When we left for other chores, we watched as he trailed the herd alone, awkward and uncanny, in obvious contrast to the consensus bounce of the other kids. A few times he noticed us watching him and turned back, tried to angle a jump through the electric fence, got shocked, and bleated his high squeal out over the property. The fields' electric fences likened the boundary of my life's direction; so many possible paths and causes in equal weight; it splayed shin-bonkable obstacles and covert damage volts, infinite offerings empty of any proof for their legitimacy as correct, or incorrect courses of action. I had no idea what I should do, and I shared this shortcoming with The Original Baa-Baa Dude. “There's something really wrong,” Hadley said. “With the runt. He's always running past the bottle and falling down. Plus his little baa-baa's sound all hoarse and scratchy and wrong. He doesn't sound like the rest of them. He doesn't even sound like a goat. It hurts me that his mom won't feed him. The other ones won't play with him. There's something really wrong with him.” She was right. There was something really wrong with that little goat, but we made him ours.

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