Sunday, January 21, 2007

X1, X2, X3

There are some things that the farmer never talks about because of the fear of jinxing. One of those things was the fact that in the seven years since we have been on the farm, the farmer had never lost a baby goat.

Not even Snowy, the tubby round-headed Nigerian buckling who had to be delivered by c-section after he got stuck fast on the way out. No baby goat that was born alive ever died here.

Until today.

This morning Brandy the herd queen went into labor. This was very bad to begin with, since Brandy was not due until the end of February. The farmer went out in the morning to feed, and everyone was standing around the feeders, quite greedily, as usual, jockeying for position for when the alfalfa flakes are served, and doing the usual ear-biting and tail-pulling.

Except Brandy. Brandy was down in the lower pasture, all alone, and when the farmer went down to look at her, she was calling out softly to her babies, the way the does do when they have just given birth, or when they are about to give birth. This is an unmistakable sound, if you have ever heard it. So the farmer knew right away what was going on.

Brandy was whisked up to the barn, and the farmer ran inside to check the delivery dates again to make sure there was no mistake.

There wasn't. But on the other hand, Viceroy our LaMancha buck is extremely athletic and has long legs, and after all maybe he had somehow jumped out of his pen, and jumped the lower pasture fence, and jumped the upper pasture fence, and come calling on Brandy, and jumped back in before anyone noticed. This was what the farmer said, anyway, even though it didn't sound quite plausible. It was better than thinking that the babies would be born over a month premature.

Everyone agreed, this is probably what happened, even though it didn't really seem likely. After all, things don't have to be likely to happen.

But within an hour Brandy had started to deliver a very tiny baby, and before the baby was even all the way out the farmer could tell that it was dead. This first baby was a little doeling. She never moved or drew a breath.

A half hour later, Brandy delivered a little buckling. At first it seemed that he, too, was dead, but then he wiggled and twitched, and tried to take a breath. But within a few minutes he died.

A half hour after that, Brandy delivered another doeling, tiny and perfect and very beautiful. This little girl fought and fought to live. And even when you couldn't tell if she was still breathing, you could see her heart beating determinedly under her skin.

But in the end she was just too little for this world. So she went on to the next world.

The babies were not really here long enough to get names. So we were calling them X1, X2, and X3, because this is an "X" year in the goat world. But for some reason, the farmer has started calling the last little girl, the one whose heart didn't want to stop beating, Sophie. The way she fought, she just didn't seem like an X3.

Brandy is resting quietly, alone in her stall. Every now and then she calls out softly to her babies.

And that's what happened today at the farm.