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desert goats

February 18, 2010

Navajo goats

One of my friends, Francine, posted pictures of her mama goat with two new born kids. That triggered a whole bunch of memories of goats. The Navajo goats are the white mohair or angora goats. They have long curling horns and long shaggy hair. Their faces and legs are covered with smooth hair so it doesn’t get caught in the brush and sticks of Navajoland.

Grandma Howe had a herd of them. There were only a few and she kept them for the sentimental value rather than the income from actually selling the hair. They were more pets than anything else, although Mom would have been appalled to hear me say she had ‘pet’ goats!

After Louie and I were married, we lived in Ohio for a year and a half. Then we moved back to NM when Notah was about six months old. You can take the Navajo out of the desert but you can’t take the desert out of a Navajo’s heart. (I guess that rubbed off on me. And our kids were born with it. Our hearts are still happiest in the desert.) We lived in Helen’s little pink house across the field from Mom’s and just down the slope east of Dorothy’s hogan.

It was a cute little house with pink stuccoed outer walls and plaster-board inner walls. The woodwork was plain white painted boards and the floor was ammunition boxes broken down and nailed across the floor beams. There was linoleum on the kitchen floor and carpet on the bedroom floor. The carpet presented a problem in cleaning because there was no electricity and the best I could do was sweep the top layer of sand off.

Anyway, back to the goats. Mom’s goats roamed free as most local livestock did at that time. They had a route that they followed every day as they grazed. I never knew where they were, but if I asked Mom or one of the boys, they most generally had a good idea of where they were. Periodically they would be gone too long and Mom would send a couple of the boys (Emma’s sons) after them. They usually came back to their corral in the late afternoon. Sometimes someone would put up the poles across the gate, sometimes not.

One of the places where the goats stopped on their travels was our little house. Our water barrel stood to the immediate left of our door and they could smell the water. (This is the desert remember and there aren’t little streams and ditches full of water running everywhere.) That’s what they were looking for. The windmill which was the major (read “only” ) source of water for the community at that time was quite a ways off over a couple hills so if they could find water without walking all that distance they would.

I got in the habit of saving my dishwater and wash water for the goats. I had an old pan sitting by the step and when they came around I’d pour the water in the pan for them. Okay, so it was a little soapy. They didn’t seem to care at all. Actually it was better than some of the stuff they drank.

Now my story! One day when Notah just a toddler it had been really windy. The dirt banked around the base of our house had eroded away on the back side and when the wind blew the linoleum on the kitchen floor would float and flap. It was an interesting sensation to watch and feel, but more importantly, it made the house chilly. Louie had been working long days and long weeks so he hadn’t had time to get it repaired when he got home. The boys had more important things to do, being teen-aged boys. ( :o)

I bundled Notah up in his coat over top of his Doctor Denton’s and went out with him to fix the house. It wasn’t any big job. I just had to dig a few shovelfuls of dirt out of the side of the hill and pile them against the house.

Notah was trucking around doing the things that toddlers do and I was hauling dirt. The goats came hustling along to see what was going on because they are, if nothing else, nosey. The dogs were following Notah because lots of times babies have interesting drool. The scrub jay sat on the tip of a sage brush over seeing his kingdom. A meadowlark whistled somewhere and the bright winter sun shone all around.

All of a sudden I heard Notah yell and when I looked up the mama goat had him pinned against the corral fence with her head! It is funny to think back on but at the time I was horrified! They were only a few feet away and of course I dropped my shovel and ran to his rescue! Whatever had possessed her to chase him I’ll never know. They were the nicest goats I’ve ever met!

When I came running the mama goat took off and Notah fell down. I grabbed him up and comforted him checking for bumps, bruises and so forth. Not hurt at all, he was as confused as I was. He’d always loved watching the goats. They were his friends! No more, from then on he had it in for the goats! Louie was horrified. He had it in for the goats too. After I got over the shock I decided they were just animals doing what came naturally. I didn’t even stop giving them water and potato peelings.

I’ll never forget the sight of Notah in his little gold and brown jacket with a hoodie and his red Doctor D’s spread eagled against the fence with that big old goat’s head and long horns holding him there!

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