by L. H. Hall
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.
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.
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.
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
probably attack whoever had it," I responded.
"The rest of
us would have to keep her back with our clubs," Jamie said.
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"
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.
spend time in the pen with them every day."
that gonna take?" Julie wanted to know.
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
some help with that." Sarah alleged.
won't. I don't want any of you in that pen until she gets used to
keep her from attacking you while you're in the pen?"
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.
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.
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.
Leonard H. Hall, Sr.