Remember the old comic skits where an Igor type creature answers the door and he has a hump on his back and one leg longer than the other? He tells the guests to “Walk this way,” and goes off down the hallway? The guests look at each other and then mimic his rolling, limping, arm swinging walk and follow him. After all he did tell them to “walk this way.”
I found myself the other day doing moves that even an Igor would have been proud of. If you’re a goat farmer that lives up north where each winter you have snows, artic fronts, and mud, all in the same week, you will find yourself walking oddly quite a bit outside. Throw in a hill farm to do all this walking on and your movements can look extremely strange to someone driving by. It could even be named a sport called extreme walking.
Last week I looked outside and watched the goats moving from one round hay bale to another. We’d had several inches of snow a couple of days earlier and then it had warmed up enough to turn that snow into mud, and then an artic front came in and it was now two degrees below zero, Fahrenheit. The temperature had just dropped down to that this morning. I watched the goats struggle from one round bale to the other and I shouted, “Oh, no! They are all lame! In every foot! What’s going on?”
I hurried out to check on things. It was time for me to go and water this group anyway so an excellent time to look things over. I strongly strode outside and by the time I got to where the goats were struggling along, I found myself walking beside them struggling too. Only I was also wildly swinging my arms around, trying to keep my balance. The ground looked firm, but the mud was only frozen on top, just enough that when you stepped on it, it held for a second and then your foot disappeared into deep mud.
And, not any deep mud. This was clay mud. Clay sticks to everything. Your boots are clumped up with this stuff, and its doing its best to hold you down, never letting you go. Also, you had better not walk as normal with one step in front of the other, you have to walk wide. Spraddle your legs out, slowly pull one foot up out of the mud, take a step and that semi-firm mud holds you for a second before you disappear to your ankles and deeper in clay mud. Now pull the stuck back foot up, take a wide step, disappear with that foot. Never, never walk in line in this situation because if you lose your balance, well, you just fall over sideways. That’s why you also need the wildly swinging arms to keep your balance, even when walking spraddle legged. Just do an imitation of a helicopter, of course without the tail thingy.
I’ve had goat customers who have insisted on coming out during these partially frozen very muddy times and I tell them to walk this way. Do what I do. Talk about an odd group of people trying to walk through the pasture and barn lot. Arms swinging high in the air and over our heads, walking spraddle legged. It’s quite a sight.
Also, with my years of experience in walking in these conditions, I warn them to walk where I walk. You need to know which is the thick mud that will only suck you down so far, and which will swallow your boots and socks whole never to be seen again, just your bare toes that come up out of the swallowed boot. You’d think after eating so many boots, these holes would fill up, but they don’t, they just move over to a different area and then move back to the old area again. So, I caution everyone to walk my path and don’t digress and take your own route. And, I also tell them that no, I am not doing this so I can laugh at them.
During these times we do try to put “islands” out for the goats and us. They can be pallets we get free, pieces of the big old satellite dishes that people are willing for you to haul off, anything that can give you and the goats a place to stand to get out of the winter clay mud for a break before moving on to the next island.
So, the next time you drive by our place and see people standing on pallets or large old satellite dishes in the middle of the field or barn lot and then see them boldly step off spraddle legged, waving their arms wildly over head, and trying to follow my exact path, you’ll know I just told them to “Walk this way.”