Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Don't Ask

The farmer is very curious I guess because the farmer often asks the question, "what next?"

Especially the last couple of weeks the farmer was even asking Scouty the Nubian like she would know, "what next?"

It all started in September. First the farmer brought the young swollen-headed prom princesses home from the fair with their ribbons. All three of them got the sniffles, from being around lots of strange goats in a day care type setting. These sniffles immediately spread to the rest of the herd so that all the crazy ladies who were coming into heat had to wait to be bred.

So the crazy ladies stood around bawling their heads off, which made for quite a symphony of outrage with the LaManchas singing an angry tenor and the Nubians leaning more toward a soulful Delta Blues type register.

Nobody knows the troubles these ladies had seen. But nobody. It was a big sound.

So the farmer then foolishly asked, "what next?"

The next day the farmer came out to find Xtra Joy the LaMancha kid with a grapefruit-sized swelling on the side of her head. The type of swelling that makes you take a step backward when you see it, and say, "Holy Smoke!"

In the corner of her mouth Joy had a small cut as well, not noticeable until you peeled her lip back, which caused her to shriek in an ear-piercing way, making a nice counterpoint to the Wagnerian chanting of the crazy ladies. Of course there was no vet available so Joy had to wait until the next day when she was whisked off (2 hours away) to the first goat vet who could see her.

The farmer had started her on antibiotics and banamine to keep the swelling down. The vet looked dubiously at the grapefruit, opining that it felt like scar tissue.

"From what?" the farmer asked. "How can she get scar tissue between breakfast and lunch?"

The vet suggested keeping her on antibiotics to see if the swelling would go down.

"I will do that," said the farmer, "but can you please sedate her and examine inside the cut as well since we came all this way."

Joy was sedated and the vet began probing the cut and got a little flashlight out and some tweezers and a surprised look came over the vet's face and within a few seconds the vet extracted a rubber door stop from deep inside Joy's cheek. Somehow Joy had managed, who could even imagine how, to a) impale herself on the rounded rubber door stop behind the milkroom door with enough force to cut through her cheek and plunge the rubber door stop inside and b) pull her head back quickly enough that the rubber door stop came off and stayed embedded in her cheek.

Foolishly, the farmer asked, "what next?"

Then the old farm truck broke down.

"What next?" the farmer asked.

The new farm truck broke down.

"What next?" the farmer asked.

The phone rang. It was the farmer's neighbor calling to say that Tommy the appaloosa, down in the summer camp pasture in Longbranch, might be feeling sick. This turned out to be the understatement of the year.

Tommy was in a terrible state, horribly swollen, feverish, standing on three legs and shaking with pain, unable to move. Most shocking of all, Tommy would not eat anything.

What had happened to him? No one knew. He was swollen all over his hindlimbs and underbelly. The type of swelling that makes you take a step backward when you see it, and say, "Holy Smoke!" His legs looked like elephant legs.

Even such a hardened character as the farmer, fresh from seeing a goat with a rubber door stop embedded in its cheek, was shaken.

"Holy Smoke," the horse vet said, when he saw Tommy.

No one quite knew what was wrong with Tommy. For three days he could barely move, and had to have buckets of water carried to him to drink. He was loaded up 24 hours a day with pain medicine and antibiotics. The farmer secretly thought that he would die, but never said anything, just stood next to him in the paddock, chatting casually to him but not touching him, since even his skin was sore so he couldn't be patted on the neck.

On the fourth day, still horribly swollen, Tommy began to walk a little, dragging his toes.

On the fifth day it started to seem that Tommy - probably out of stubbornness - was not going to die.

Tommy has always been extremely bossy, in fact he thinks he is the center of the universe, but like so many animals, when he was very sick he conducted himself with extraordinary dignity and sweetness. He was grateful for every kindness, and nickered softly whenever he saw the farmer.

Now, several weeks later, he is back in charge of the world, and ruling with an iron fetlock, even though he still has a little bit of swelling.

The farmer was looking at him this morning for a long time. And then it seemed like the farmer might have a question, not for Tommy but for the universe.

But then the farmer didn't ask.

Probably a good idea.