I was always fascinated with farm life. My older brother sometimes took care of our neighbor’s farm while they were out of town, and milking goats was included in the list of chores. When I was eight he took me with him for company, and gave me a demonstration of how to properly milk a goat– squeezing with your thumb and index finger, and thrumming the rest of your fingers in a rhythm. He even let me try once or twice, though I could never quite get it down. I was amazed that you could actually milk a goat, and the milk was ok for humans! With that new tidbit of information, and summer already underway, my new agenda for living off the land was to milk a goat.
My friends and I were constantly climbing the fence of our neighboring field to steal walnuts, eat strange berries, and gather wood for the tree house that we never built. With me as their leader, we plotted how we would store food to live off of when the day would come that we would have to. Well, in this particular field, there was a mean she-goat. I knew she was a lady goat because she had what my brother, Jarom, called “milkers.” After discovering the new trick of milking goats, I set out to milk her. I climbed the fence to get into her pen once or twice, but she didn’t like that much, and would chase me scrambling back over into the hay. I attempted a couple of times to reach through the bars of the fence while she was eating or relaxing, but she was on to me. I got a couple of good squeezes in, though, and decided she was broken cause nothing came out.
I had all but given up on my mission to milk a goat when a new one arrived in her pen. This goat seemed nicer than the other one, and her “milkers” were much bigger, and differently shaped. I assumed she was just a different species of goat, and was determined to milk this one.
I had a couple of friends with me that day. I wanted them to witness the momentous demonstration that I was about to give. I strode over to the fence after carefully eyeing the house to make sure we weren’t being watched, and emptied out the grain bucket used to scoop pellets into the pen. I set the bucket under the new goat, who ignored me. I wanted to make sure every drop was caught. I didn’t have much faith in my ability, but I just knew that a few drops was all it would take for me to be a master outdoorsman. I scrutinized the goat, working up the nerve to attack. “That’s odd,” I thought, confused, “there’s only one nipple, and it’s more like a belly button on this goat!” But the milk sacks looked full, and I was ready to take the plunge. I reached my arm through the fence until my shoulder was nearly through, took a deep breath, and grabbed hold of the nipple, squeezing tight. The goat bolted, scaring me half to death, and I fell backward, my arm twisting painfully as I fell. Not to be outdone by a stupid goat, I blinked the tears from my eyes, grabbed the tipped over bucket, dusted off the bits of hay and droppings, and climbed in the pen, determined to start again.
“Hey! Get out of there!” I stood up, startled by the voice. It was one of the people who owned the farm, running out to the pen. I lurched awkwardly back over the fence, my face red with rage, disappointment, and embarrassment. They had ruined my moment!
“What are you doing?!” the owner said angrily as I began a hasty retreat.
“Just looking at your new goat,” I mumbled apologetically.
“He’s not ours, he’s a loan to breed with our other goat,” he said sternly, “and I don’t want you going in there! You could get hurt!”
I wasn’t listening anymore. “He? Psh, he needed to get his genders straight if he wanted kids to be born this winter,” I scoffed in my head. My friends looked at me with mild disgust written on their faces. “Leisl,” one of them said slowly, “if that’s a boy goat then what did you milk?”
I never tried to milk a goat again after that.