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by L. H. Hall

Chapter 16 - Goats


by L. H. Hall

Chapter 16


We were all up early the next morning. Even Sheba had gone hunting earlier than usual. The air of excitement and anticipation of the exploration was on everyone. Sheba trotted toward the jungle several times, and barked, as if she were saying, "Hurry up." Then, she would come back and lie down for a few minutes before she started out again.

Finally, breakfast was over. We each put an army belt over our shoulders. Each belt had a canteen, a pouch of jerky, and the cover that held our floppy handle skillets hooked to it. We each selected a stick to use for a club, and Sarah, Jamie and I had our machetes. "C'mon, Sheba." I whistled. "Show us where the goats are." I had gotten an old stiff goat skin, and let her sniff it. She barked, as if she understood exactly what I wanted. In any event, she was ready to lead, and we were ready to follow.

She led us down the familiar path toward the orange grove. A few steps past the jungle bathroom, she swung to the right along a trail we did not even know existed. It was just her size. To follow her, we had to cut and hack our way with the machetes. It must have taken an hour to go a few feet. Sheba stood in the path ahead, barking impatiently. We, finally, broke through the thickest part, and had easier going. Swinging to the right again, she led us on a trail up the mountain behind the cave. We were less than thirty feet from the back fence of the goat pen. We climbed, crossing the stream that ran through the goat pen, until we came to a sheer rock wall on the side of the mountain. We turned left along the wall for several minutes, until the wall ended and the mountain rose steeply. The trail turned slightly up the mountain. It was an easy climb, but the underbrush slowed us down after we had passed the wall. It was not nearly as bad as the first patch had been. Suddenly, the underbrush was behind us, and there was a large open area. It was solid rock, mostly, but there were thousands of clusters of trees and bushes of about every variety, coconut palms, mangoes, breadfruit, papayas, bananas, red plantains, and others. There was enough food ready to pick to feed an army, but most important, on many of those green patches were goats, young and old, grazing or lying in what little shade there was, chewing their cuds.

Sheba stopped at the edge of the clearing, and whined softly, as if awaiting instructions. "There must be hundreds of goats out here." I surveyed the mountainside in front of me.

"Now, how are you going to catch them?" Jamie wanted to know.

"If we could get one of those big potato vines around one's neck we might be able to drag it back, but we could never get close enough for that." I prayed, "God, show us what to do."

"What if we got a baby," Sarah asked. "Do you think the mother would follow it?"

"She'd probably attack whoever had it," I responded.

"The rest of us would have to keep her back with our clubs," Jamie said.

"It might work if we were to tie a vine around a baby's neck, and pulled it. She might follow it. It would be crying, and we would be far enough away that we wouldn't be in too much danger. We need to get one that's fairly young, old enough to walk well, but young enough for us to catch easily. Watch them; see if you can see a kid lying in the grass. I'll get some vines."

When I came back with the vines, Sarah had spotted a pair of twins lying a short distance from us. The mother, heavy with milk, was eating a few yards away. "Come on, Sheba. You gotta protect me, but we don't wanna hurt'em." I pointed toward the nanny I wanted. "Go get'er"

Sheba was off like a shot. The nanny ran in circles, but the kids did not move. I ran to the kids before their mother knew what was happening, and tied the vines around their necks. The nanny did everything she could to get to me, but Sheba stayed between us. When the vines were secure, I backed off, maybe twenty feet away, with the free ends of the vines in my hands. The babies did not know what to do when the vines tightened. I began dragging them. I stopped, and called Sheba off. The kids got up, and their mother ran to them to check them out. I tugged at the vines again, and again. The babies fell down to be dragged. The nanny was frantic, but did not seem to know what to do. I stopped again, and again, to let the kids up, but they always fell down when I started to pull them. Finally, after being dragged several times, they began to get the idea. The nanny followed, running around frantically, but Sheba would not allow her to get between the kids and me. It was slow going, but by mid-afternoon we had them in the pen. "Now all I have to do, is make friends with her," I told the others.

"That may be more difficult than getting them here." Sarah observed.

"How are you gonna do that?" Debbie queried.

"I'll just spend time in the pen with them every day."

"How long's that gonna take?" Julie wanted to know.

"I don't know. I'll start right after lunch. I'm going to make a gate in the back where the stream comes in so we won't have to go all the way around."

"You'll need some help with that." Sarah alleged.

"No I won't. I don't want any of you in that pen until she gets used to me."

"Who's gonna keep her from attacking you while you're in the pen?"

"I'll take Sheba this afternoon. After that, I'll depend on a club."

By the time Sheba showed signs of wanting to go hunting, I had converted a short fence into a gate. I was ready to cut a wide path through the undergrowth to Sheba's trail. The distance was much shorter than I had imagined. It was hardly more than ten feet from the fence. When I came to the path, the cliff was in full view. A few feet above its base was a large hole. I recognized it, as the large window in Sheba's den room.

I decided that we would probably be using this path frequently, so I took an hour or so to clean out the sharp stubs. A new growth would come, but we would not have to worry about hurting our feet, if we kept it open and clean.

After a week, we had five nanny goats and eight kids in our goat pen. I was spending a couple hours in the pen with them twice a day. The first ones were starting to get used to me, but it was another week before I could get close enough to milk the first one. To do that, I had to tie her head close to a tree.

It took me a while. I had some bruises from being kicked, but I finally figured out how to get the milk out. We each had a taste of some warm milk. None of us liked it. I told them it would be better cold.

I got some rocks, and built a place in the stream, about three feet back in the stream passage, where we could set the milk bucket in the cold water without it floating away or turning over. Of course it was in the way every time we went into the cool room. More than once, one of us came out with a bruised or bleeding toe, but eventually we got used to it, and walked on the other side of the stream.

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Copyright 1995
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.

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