THE FARM WALK
by Connie S. Reynolds
As I trudged out through the field the other day, I suddenly realized I was walking totally different then what I had early that morning. See, this is what happens to you when you spend a lot of time out among the goats. Your mind jumps and leaps and bucks around to some of the strangest thoughts.
I realized I was honestly "trudging", putting one heavy determined foot in front of the other. I was tired, I had gates to open, other gates to close, let the herd out to pasture after a night in an enclosure with their livestock guard dog to protect them from predators, count goat heads, do a quick check on the health of the herd, and so on and so on. And, those feet of mine, the best they could do was trudge -- heavy, tired, but determined.
There are so many walks that a goat farmer has that itís hard to keep up with them all. Like early this morning doing the 5 a.m. feeding, I definitely was not trudging. In fact I canít remember anything except a foggy feeling. So, I must have been doing the "Foggy" walk then. You just donít think that early in the morning, you just go around in a fog, going on automatic, getting the work done.
Other days I have "Brisk" walks. I briskly walk everywhere to get everything done in a brisk amount of time. I feel sharp, I feel good, and thereís nothing that I canít briskly walk to and get done in seconds flat.
Then thereís the "Casual, Jerk, and Leap" walk. This is when I think Iíve seen a snake. The other day I was walking down the hill casually behind Lee and out of the corner of my eye I could have sworn I saw a Copperhead snake.
I jerked to attention, did a sudden leap forward, and it was Leeís quick reactions that saved him from being bowled over and knocked down the hill. He understands the many farm walks I have and was able to save himself. After the leap forward, landing at the bottom of the hill, I had to go back and see what I had reacted to. Naturally I was ready for another quick jerk and then leap, but discovered I had used all that energy to get out of the way of an old rope.
Then thereís the "Hunker" walk. This is where you hunker down, moving slowly from hay feeder to hay feeder and then nab a goat to worm it. A different version of this is the "Hunker Scootching" walk. Itís a speeded up version of the "Hunker" walk. You are just hunkering down and scootching along at good speed to catch a goat that happens to be scratching itís back. It has its head turned and you only have a second or two to nab it before you come back into the goatís sight. I believe Lee has perfected these two walks. He has it down to fine art in nabbing unsuspecting goats. Heís the best hunker scootcher Iíve ever seen. One of these days I hope to be as good.
Then thereís the "Iím Not Doing Nuthin" walk. This is where you act all unconcerned that you are in the middle of the herd. You are humming or whistling, "The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music" and then suddenly, your hand darts out and youíve caught a sleepy goat. A piece of advice, the "Iím Not Doing Nuthin" walk does not work two days in a row. Goats catch on by the second day. You have to let it rest a week or two before you try it again.
The "Igor" walk is always entertaining for the visitor to the farm. This is where you are walking around with your back twisted, one shoulder higher then the other, and you have a very decided limp drag to one leg. This is where a kid has tried to dart past you during worming and youíve twisted and grabbed and the weight of the kid did pretzel things to your back and one leg. The drooling you experience afterwards is just the reaction you have towards the pain as you continue to try and keep up with the farm chores.
Have you ever been on a hillside and stepped down hard on a frost covered garden hose you use for watering the goats? It doesnít matter what kind of tread youíve got on your boots, your feet fly out from under you and down you go. I call this the "Step, Fall, Flop Around While Trying To Get Up With Your Breath Knocked Out, and Hope the Neighbors Didnít See" walk.
My then 72-year-old dad showed me the "Michael Jackson" walk. One day he was walking down the hill to the barn. It had just quit raining and the clay soil was good and slick. Suddenly both feet flew out from under him on the hillside. He snapped them both back under him, landed in a squat, threw one arm back on the hill and pushed and was standing upright in a matter of seconds and continued on down the hill as if nothing had happened. One of the smoothest Michael Jackson walks Iíd ever seen.
The other day Lee showed me the "Jump and Split" walk. We were out in tall grass putting up electric fence. Lee turned around in time to see a movement in the grass. The grass was parting from some short fat animal, building up steam, and heading right for him. He tried to duck and dodge but the parting grass kept coming straight at him. So, at the last second he jumped in the air and did a really neat split, while a big fat ground hog ran between his legs to his burrow that Lee didnít realize he was standing in front of. I had to clap. Leeís presentation of that particular farm walk was simply spectacular.
The next day, Buck, one of the livestock guard dogs, showed the exact same walk when he accidentally stood in front of the ground hogís den. You never saw such a surprised look on a dogís face. The ground hog disappeared after that. I think Buck did not approve of a dog doing the "Jump and Split" walk and took matters into his own hands, er, teeth.
Then thereís the variety of walks when winter comes. Thereís the "Walk, Slide, Suddenly Sit" walk when the ice is on the ground. The good olí "One Step, Fall, Bottom Buster" walk when the ice and snow is there. Also, donít forget the "Step, Slide Twenty Foot" walk. All the above are favorites of my neighbors as they sit in a warm house all winter while Iím outside feeding the goats. The neighbors donít need cable TV while Iím outside in the winter practicing all the many farm walks.
And, thereís the... wait a minute. Iíve got to go do my "Flying Leap off the Porch" walk to save a kid hung up in the woven wire fence. Weíll discuss the other walks at another time.