I will cut to the chase on this one: my goat’s leg is broken. Well, broken below the knee and splintered up along the bone above the clean break. It is not an ideal situation. In fact it’s a horrible situation. Actually, it’s a horribly shitty situation – let’s just call a spade a spade. Although I have no idea how this happened I suspect it stems from one of these two scenarios:
- In a capricious moment of sheer joy, probably also driven by the pregnancy hormones pumping through her little body, the goat (Loretta Lynn) did something stupid while play fighting with another goat – resulting in a fall.
- Our infamously temperamental herd queen (Pearlsnaps) knocked the snot out of her at some point overnight.
Regardless of how it happened, this time, I’m going to skip the details because, by now, you know them. By now you’ve read about the putrid claw of fear that grips my stomach upon such discoveries. The adrenaline rush that dictates actions I never remember taking, that always feels like running under water. I have a blurry memory of rushing inside to announce the latest tragedy to Jeremy who bundled the babies and carted them out in the stroller while we heaved Loretta into the back of the car and screeched 40 miles down the road to the vet. I have a vague sense of the open-mouthed stares of strangers as me and a vet tech lugged a 150lb goat through the waiting room and into an exam room for X-rays. After all that, after the vet explained the uncertainty of Loretta’s recovery, the uncertainty of whether her pregnancy (she’s due to kid April 22) will seriously complicate healing, after telling me to leave while she set and cast the leg – I went out for donuts. Because at that moment, the only thing that made sense was a small pile of fried and sugared dough. I stumbled into a little donut shop, wearing shit-smeared overalls, my hair unraveled from a haphazard pony-tail. I had not washed my hands since 8am and there’s no telling what shade of gray (and brown) covered them. My eyes were red from the tears I’d fought (but had not yet shed) that morning in the barn, from all the sniffling on the drive to the vet – one hand on the wheel, one hand on the head of a goat that moaned softly from pain.
A kind-eyed woman asked for my order and after I quietly mumbled “apple fritter” she leaned forward and said, “Look at you, honey. You look like you had a hard morning with some animals – am I right?” My lip quivered and I bit it hard, nodded in response. “Oh honey, I love my animals too – don’t know what happened to yours, but it will be alright – ok?” I nodded again – wiped a tear fast – the only one I let slip past my dam against the flood of emotions I’d fought for two hours. I wanted to hug her, whoever she was. This woman who makes donuts, the most comforting of all foods, at a shop just one mile from the town’s only livestock vet, within a community built exclusively on the back of agriculture. I was hardly the first sad farmer to walk through her door on a mid-morning, stamped with the obvious signs of distress and trauma. I would not be the last. “Thank you,” I whispered as she handed me the warm bag of cinnamon and apple dough.
When I got home and we had Loretta back in a bed of hay, surrounded by alfalfa, her head in my lap – I finally cried. Here in the barn that Jeremy built, Loretta was patched up and as comfortable as possible thanks to my husband who stayed home from work to take care of the babies, to help me load and unload the broken goat. My mother had rushed over to help with the babies so Jeremy could work remotely, and there in the barn I received text after text from friends offering suggestions, promising to send the X-rays on to other vets and mentors for further advice and input. It is the flood of support I receive that always breaks my own dam, and I couldn’t help but sob quietly against Loretta beneath the weight of gratefulness that I never know how to repay.
As we all know – no one is an island – and this truth resonates most on the mornings I can hardly bear alone. We have done a lot with this land, but don’t be fooled into thinking it was ever just me and Jeremy and a tractor. We are part of a village of mothers and grandmothers and like-minded friends who know, without asking, exactly how helpless this lifestyle can sometimes feel. A hand is always reaching out to help so long as I ask and look up long enough to grab it. Thank you to my mother, my mother-in-law, Amelia, Ericka, Fran, Rachael, and all the others who are quick to offer a hand (or a shoulder) – it’s the only reason we’re still out here kicking.