Sunday, March 28, 2010

Gertie's Mad At Me. Again.

Well, I've done it again. Gertie the Goat is mad at me. Again. Even as I sit here typing this, she is outside muttering and cursing and butting her horns against the door occasionally for good measure.

Poor Gertie. She just doesn't understand.

It all started at 1 a.m. when I realized that with all of the kids at Grandma's house, no one had been here at dusk to put away the chickens. The 21 baby chicks were nestled snug in the coop, but the 17 teenagers, along with Lone Hen and Rooster Boy, had not yet been tucked in for the night.

I had a moment's hesitation, thinking I hadn't heard from the local coyote population in awhile and wondered whether it was safe to let the birds sleep in the gated pen tonight. It was probably less than a moment's hesitation, actually, as the glaring answer was, "No! Have you learned NOTHING?! You will NOT let the chickens sleep under the stars! What kind of sadistic farm woman are you? 'Just this once' will translate to nothing but piles of feathers in the morning, I guarandarntee it!"

Clearly, I could not leave the chickens out, no matter how unpleasant the prospect of putting on shoes and a coat to head out to the coop in the dead of night might be. Just to punctuate that thought properly, a lone coyote howl pierced the otherwise quiet night. So, up I got and put on flip flops and a coat, and called for our fierce new protector, Belle the Wiener Dog, to accompany me outside.

In the front yard, the other sentries - Mia and Sadie the Dogs and Gertie the Goat - sent a few warning barks and bleats in the direction of the coyote howl then raced to join me and Belle on our trip to the coop. Thankfully, there was a bit of moon glow cast on the farm so it wasn't pitch dark making our way down the lane. I didn't bother with a flashlight because I couldn't foresee being able to hold the flashlight and grab chickens at the same time.

The three big sentries went ahead of Belle and me, making sure the path to the coop was clear of danger. Gertie joined me in the pen as I felt around for the 17 teen chickens, lifted their sleepy, warm forms one by one and put them in the coop, and hunted down Rooster Boy and Lone Hen in the shed so they could be put to bed, as well. Vigilant in her defense of the chickens, Gertie reared up against Belle, who was uncouth enough to allow a fleeting expression to grace her tiny face long enough to convey that she was contemplating the idea of snagging a little chicken of her own. Gertie then poked her head into the coop to make sure the little cheepers who were already snoozing under the heat lamp were safe and sound. Satisfied that all were safely gathered in, she dutifully made her way to the pen gate, standing quietly until I finished latching the coop and let us both out of the chicken yard.

Gertie trotted alongside me and the three dogs as we walked back down the lane to the house to head in for the night. We were all simpatico, just farm hands finishing up a standard chore, enjoying a companionable silence as we approached the front door. Then suddenly, the mood shifted.

Gertie saw first Sadie, then Mia, make their way to the door, so she put her game face on and began rudely shoving her way past the dogs to the front of the line. She turned around, bum to the door, hooves planted, and stared resolutely at the lot of us. She cocked her head sideways and reared up on her hind legs, twisting her body just so and shoving her horns at the dogs. So intent was she on achieving the perfect attack form that she gave Mia and Sadie the split second they needed to slink past her into the house. Belle hung back behind me, little claws clicking on the pavement as she began scurrying in place, trying to build up momentum to bolt the second the opportunity presented itself. Just as I grabbed Gertie's collar to haul her back from the doorway before she cleared the threshold, Belle saw her opening and streaked past us so fast she was just a smudge of black motion, ruffling the coarse hairs just below Gertie's knees as she whizzed by.

Gertie was outraged. Here she had given equal attention to my safe passage to and from the coop with sly predators stalking the property. Of all the guard critters, she was the one who showed the most care towards our feathered friends. Yet, here she was again, shunned. Disallowed from joining her compadres in the house for one lousy night. Once again, she watched as those tongue-lolling canines trotted their pampered bottoms right into the warm house, while she suffered the indignity of being yanked by her collar and nudged out the door that would be slammed fast in her face.

Poor Gertie. It feels downright mean spirited to freely accept her devotion then kick her to the curb each night. But there are certain immutable laws of civilized society that simply don't allow for cloven-hoofed creatures to rest under the roofs of bipeds.

Apparently, however, there are not immutable laws keeping the shunned creatures from expressing their supreme displeasure at being treated so callously. So the headbanging and muttering will likely continue sporadically through the night. And I will endure the guilt of contributing to the division of the classes for yet another long, cold night.

Love from the farm,

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