"I know I have dishes to do, but first I have to go scratch baby backs." How many of you have used this excuse to put off a household chore or a wash the car chore? I have successfully used this excuse for over 12 years, to go and scratch baby kidsí backs. There are many important reasons for scratching baby kidsí backs, much more important then doing dishes. When I tell Lee I have to go and scratch some kidsí backs, he just accepts it and nods. He knows how really important it is. The only time he protests is when we are cleaning out stalls in the barn, and then I have to postpone scratching kidsí backs. Lee just hates to be alone with the only pitchfork in use during barn cleaning time.
Now how can baby back scratching be so important, you ask. Iím glad you asked. One of the obvious reasons is that kids are very limited on being able to scratch their owns backs. Another reason is to tame the kids. I have long since given up my track shoes to chase down a goat to treat it. Either I am raising faster goats or have to accept the obvious, my track shoes are wore out. So, why embarrass myself trying to chase down a goat when I know I canít? I know it would give the neighbors a good laugh, but Iíve opted to reserve a shred of pride by scratching baby backs and taming them down. That way, once tame, I can usually walk up, grab a collar or put a collar on, and treat them without them getting all upset.
So, from the first hour they are born, I go in and gently scratch their little backs and tell them that they are simply gorgeous. And, I continue it every day, no matter how many kids there are. Now, would you run away from someone who pats you on the back and tells you that you are gorgeous? Good grief, no. If anything, they probably couldnít get rid of me. Thatís how Lee has kept me around so many years. And, thatís the way many of my kids and adults goats are now. They see me or Lee and they want to come over and say Hi and see if we are handing out any free back rubs or compliments.
Now, this year when I was sick all during kidding and Lee was over run with chores, I didnít get to scratch backs at the beginning with the kids. So, what I have now are a bunch of wild hooligans with only a few that have caught on to late back scratching and compliments. These few who got scratched late and like it are helping me tame some of the others down but itís a rough go. Most the kids look at me and yell, "Run! Run! She looks like sheís needing a kid snack!"
Or, Iíll put out the grain and in their eager attack on the food, they forget me for a few seconds. I then attempt to scratch a few backs, only to have a kid try to shoot straight up my nose and do leg work like the cartoon road runner and disappear in a puff of smoke. I can tell this is going to take a while.
Another good reason for putting off household chores to go and scratch kids and goatsí backs is for observation. Sit yourself down on a stump in the middle of the herd and just watch them. I would have suggested you carry a bucket out to sit on in the middle of the herd for your observations, but if they saw you carrying a bucket out to them, I just couldnít guarantee your safety. I learned the hard way one day when all the goats were in the middle of the pasture and not a stump was around. I innocently picked up a bucket and headed out for them. It didnít take long to get to the herd because as soon as they saw me and a bucket, they all came to the same conclusion. Feed!!!!
When 60 goats in one of our herds stampede straight for you, itís a frightening sight to behold. I just barely saved myself by throwing the bucket up in the air and pretending that I had track shoes on. Their eyes followed the movement of the bucket and went after it instead of me. At least it shows I can think fast on my feet, even if my feet are moving way too slowly in my opinion.
So, itís better to find a stump to sit on or a tree to lean against in this quiet observation of your goats. I can sit or lean against something for an hour easily in observing the goats. During that time I am busy scratching backs, but you still can learn things from the goats. You learn who is boss over whom. You learn what acting normal is to each particular goat. Why is that important? Later you can glance at a particular goat and know almost instantly if it is sick, just because it is not acting as it usually does. Very important.
Why is it important to know who is boss over whom? And, why do I keep repeating "whom"? I rarely get the opportunity to use it so Iím tickled to know itís available. Even if there is a good chance itís being wrongly used. I can at least say I have used the word "whom" at least once. Back to knowing which goats are the bosses. If for some reason you have to divide the herd up, you donít want to put a major bad boss in with a bunch of timid ones. Sheíll eat them up. Repeatedly. Sheíll think she has died and gone to heaven, but the timid ones are just as sure they know where they have gone.
And unlike timid people who tend to go "postal" at times and turn on their tormentors, the timid goat never turns. They just get even more timid and terrified and stand in their corner waiting to be tortured or they say, "You go ahead and take all the food. Donít mind me, Iíll just stand over here and starve." Horrible thing to do to a timid goat putting a bully in with them. You want to be able to divide the herd out as evenly as possible and letting the bullies stay together to fight it out. Oddly enough, many times the bully does donít fight it out. They just eye each other and agree to pretend no one else is there and very carefully stay away from each other. A few will stand off and decide whoís the supreme bully, but once thatís settled, they are careful to ignore each other and stay away from each other, but they donít go hungry like the timid ones do.
Another thing about scratching baby backs and observing the herd... Oops. I see Lee looking for me. Probably wants me to mow the lawn or something. I think itís time to go and observe the herd again. Iíll tell you later what I have observed, after Lee has forgotten what he wanted me to do. Gotta go.