Frustrated by life in the "Civilized World",a former ranter moves to the woods of West Virginia to find a life of peace and simplicity with his trusty dog Dooley.
Monday, February 6, 2012
When you live alone on a quiet mountain side it doesn’t take long to begin assigning human traits and personalities to dogs, goats, chickens, squirrels, rabbits, etc. Without other humans to talk to eventually full blown conversations with the animals will ensue which are really just articulation, one sided role play and self-debate exercises about life, philosophy, science and belief. Sometimes these conversations can lead to troubling dilemmas. For example, I remember standing next to a goat I called Paul. I explained to Paul that the rainbow I saw across the valley was a completely different rainbow than the one he saw because my eyes were higher than his and rainbows have a specific angle of refraction so he was actually seeing a different set of water droplets than I was. Paul challenged me explaining that at such a great distance and such a small variance in angle of refraction between his eyes and mine the truth is the rainbows we see are mostly overlapping and we are not seeing two distinctly different rainbows. I expected his response to be more along the lines of “What rainbow?”
His grasp of geometry and physics stunned and, to be honest, embarrassed me a bit. The presumed hierarchical gap between livestock owner and livestock narrowed to such a degree in that one astute observation that I began to question my planned “harvesting” of Paul the following week.
That evening on the porch shortly after finishing my Swisher Sweet Double Barrel Rum Outlaw cigar, I mentioned my second thoughts to Dooley. He patiently explained that even though I had unexpectedly connected to Paul intellectually I had failed to grasp the more important spiritual convictions of a goat. “Having been domesticated for over 10,000 years and existing as a revered sacrificial animal in a number human religious and spiritual belief systems the goat tradition finds great honor in sacrifice. To deny Paul this honor would do nothing but diminish his perception of the value of his own life. Instead, you should share your plans with Paul and celebrate his upcoming harvest as a day of joyful fulfillment.”
Taking Dooley’s advice I announced to all the livestock the following afternoon the news of Paul’s upcoming “harvest” and suggested a feast be planned for the night before this special day. I asked the chickens, (the most literate of the group) to prepare a list of foods I should prepare and suggested everyone should try and think of activities and presentations appropriate for the day. Dooley loudly suggested party hats which immediately created debate among the different groups. “I think it only right that Paul should have final say in our plans” I said. Everyone looked at Paul. Paul cleared his throat and said with obvious emotion, “I’m a bit overwhelmed with all the attention right at this moment. It might be best if we all sleep on it and commence with the planning the tomorrow.”
I slept well that night.
When I was planning the goat shed and pen I sought the advice of other local goat owners as to specification of height, square footage and materials. All agreed 2x4 no climb woven fencing would be my best bet for containment, and for nearly a year it had proven sufficient. Yes, Paul was gone. Escaped. (Never saw him again.)
Standing with my hands on my hips in disbelief I looked over at Dooley who was sitting a safe distance away.
Without missing a beat he said, “I guess some goats are more traditional than others.”