Saturday, September 17, 2016

Out Of The Dark

It's interesting that whining seems to be almost a universal offspring behavior.  The little goats are successfully weaned - for the most part. We are still bottle-feeding a few of them - not because they need it, but because we were trying to tame them.  The bottle-fed babies are not just tame, but will actually attack you if they think you have milk.  If you walk by, they bleat with the same persistent, high-pitched, piteous and annoying sound that Clothilde makes when she wants something and feels ignored.

A terrifying thing happened to me and the girls last week with David.  We were walking up to bring the cows their salt and minerals.  The sun had set, and it was that in-between time of evening when it is so difficult to see.

The cows were on the last line, and Ethan was milking Matilda way down at the milking shed.  I had started pouring the salt and minerals into their dishes when Rose suddenly said, "Something is coming!"

We peered into the gloaming.  There was a faint rustling along the path, and suddenly David, huge and black in the failing light, loomed out at us.  Oh no! I said.  He can walk through all of the fences, and was heading straight for us.  He has attacked me and the girls before, but I had a stick handy and had managed to protect us.  Clothilde leaped into my arms, Rose huddled behind my back and I quickly scanned the ground, trying to see if there was a stick, a fence post, anything.  The ground looked grey and homogeneous; there was nothing. 

David walked through the electric fence, towards us, bleating a small, psychotic bleat.  We dropped the mineral scoops, and backed away carefully, hoping that would distract him.  There was a grove of small pine trees we went into, hoping that if he couldn't see us he would find something else to do.  I looked around desperately for a tree to set Clothilde in - and then help Rose up. I knew I could scare him away if they were safe - but with one child in my arms and the other clinging to me, I felt so vulnerable.

David left the scoops and started coming towards us, bleating small bleats, almost like he was hunting us.  I saw a huge pine tree through the small ones, and thought maybe there would be a low branch.  Clothilde started screaming for Ethan, which attracted David more, and seemed to excite him.  I shushed and shushed her, while directing Rose to hide behind the tree.  David followed, getting closer and closer.  I tripped and fell over one of the pine's roots, David loomed over us, his ears raised, ready to come cracking down on us, perhaps killing us.  I screamed at him and forced myself up again, and backwards.  The large pine tree had huge branches that had fallen all around - I hadn't been able to see them from a distance.  I ripped Clothilde off of my side, handing her to Rose, and picked up two large branches just in time to bar him from pushing into us.  No longer unarmed and vulnerable, the situation had turned.

Instead of attacking us, he rammed his horns into one of the small pines very close by and savaged it, ripping off shreds of bark and shaking the whole tree.  The girls were screaming again, I begged them to be quiet.  If only they would be quiet, and not antagonize him....I wasn't so sure how the weak pine branches would hold up if I actually had to fight with him.  I had once tried to fend him off with a sturdy-looking branch that snapped right away and left me weaponless and having to keep him away by kicking at him with my feet.

I held my breath while he ripped at the tree, obviously trying to show us what he was capable of - trying to make us afraid.  He was distracted, so we backed farther away around the tree, out of the clearing.  I had both branches in hand, Rose carried Clothilde - always best to consolidate your vulnerabilities.  We headed for the open, so we could clearly see him coming towards us, ready to fight.

Just then we heard a heavy tred.  Matilda was back!  I felt relief.  Matilda takes every chance to make sure David knows he is smaller, weaker, and therefore pathetic.  She is like the guard cow.  Ethan was there, too.  He had heard us screaming, but was busy with the milking.  He found a fence post in the grass (alas, we would have had to walk towards David to find it at the critical time), and ran David off onto the next line.  The girls and I ran down to the barn while Ethan walked behind us, keeping David back.

When we reached the barn, Ethan yelled, "He's coming your way!" and we rushed for the barn and shut the door.  Then Ethan said he was holding him off, so we ran into the car and shut the doors.  David ran past, back to his girls who were up by the milking paddock.

When Ethan opened the back of the car to put in the milk, he teased us by bleating (he has not been in the situation having two children cling to him while he fights off David, so it didn't seem very serious to him).

We couldn't figure out why David followed us all the way across the farm when his girls were at the other end.  He is up for sale with "make an offer"!

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