My three goats won't stop jeering me, and I love them for it.

Stories from the farm.
Feb. 18 2008 3:01 PM

Getting My Goat

My three goats won't stop jeering me, and I love them for it.

One of the author's goats. Click image to expand.
Always jeering and nagging

Whenever I walk out to the barn to do the chores, I am hooted and jeered. By my goats.

The jeering is sharp, loud, and to the point—a quick, nasal "baah" that is presumptuous and annoying. Goats are the cable talk show panelists of the animal world, ready at a moment's notice to interject, interrupt, and opine. They have something to say about everything, little of it complimentary. They are the most impertinent animals I have ever known.


I love them, of course.

"Nuts to you, goats!" I yelled when they catcalled me a few mornings ago. "You don't know anything. Bug off. Be quiet." They will not be. They can't be. You might as well tell the wind to stop blowing.

The jeering continued that morning, as it always does, first as I fed the donkeys, then as I checked on the cows, then as I walked the dogs. It abated a bit when I brought the goats some cookies, then resumed when I headed for the car.

Goats are not like sheep. Sheep have no interest in me or my life, unless I come at them with a border collie or am hauling grain around. And once the dog has moved them to another pasture or they've eaten their grain, their lack of interest resumes. The cows are even more laissez faire. If I bring them apples or corn, they are very concerned about me. Otherwise, they gaze out at the fields around them. They are not about to move their big bottoms to check me out or comment on what I am doing. The donkeys are curious but also quiet and soulful. If they have anything to say about me, they keep it to themselves or share it with each other. I sometimes suspect the donkeys do laugh at me, but they are discreet about it. They are not rude like goats.

My goats are not contemplative, accepting, or introspective. They are the Greek chorus of my farm, sometimes of my life. They watch me closely and remind me that I am foolish. Unlike cows, they are not accepting. Unlike sheep, they are smart. Unlike donkeys, they are intrusive. Unlike dogs, they are useless, except to annoy me (also just like the guests on cable talk shows).

My goats were all bought from the same farmer at the same time, for $150 apiece, and the only bit of wisdom he wanted to share about them was this: "Sheep eat low, goats eat high." This turned out to be so. Sheep eat grass low to the ground. Goats eat branches of trees, tall grass, shrubs, and weeds. But to me, it missed the point about goats. They jeer.



The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer


Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.


Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 24 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Partial Solar Eclipse of October 2014
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.