Goats Gone Wild

The following, hands down, is the most common phone call I receive.


Me: Hello?

My mother: Your goats are out. They are (eating my garden/eating my trees/eating the neighbors garden/eating the neighbors trees/in the slough/across the creek/up by the highway).

Me: Shit.

Here is a common variation of the above call.


Me: Hello?

My patient mother: You have a goat stuck in a fence. It is (below the house/near the slough/on the river/in the pen/in the top pasture).

Me: Goddamnit.

Or this one.


Me: Hello?

My very patient mother: Do you know where your goats are?

Me: Why?

And then there was this one.


Me: Hello?

My extremely lovely and very patient mother: Someone called from the trailer court and left a message on my machine. Your goats are out. They said specifically that the goats are going wild in the trailer court.

Me: Those fucking goats.

I imagined the goat does running through the trailer court, flashing their udders at unsuspecting passerbys, jumping on cars, and butting children walking home from school. The goat buck, Perfecto, mounting the does indiscriminately and occasionally pissing on his own face. The thought crossed my mind that I could become a goat tycoon and make millions following goats around with a video camera and call the series Goats Gone Wild. Frank Zappa's offspring would have no choice but to write a song about me. My fantasy was cut short when I found them 30 minutes later walking calmly and purposely down one of the roads in the trailer park, going the opposite direction of the farm and not at all being wild although their udders were swinging quite shamelessly in front of the nearby residents.**

Me: Hey!

The Goats: [silence]

Me: Where the fuck do you think you are going?

A couple of them turned back toward me, unimpressed by the swearing and then continued to meander down the road toward their unknown destination (see below).

Goats in Trailer Court

And then there was the time in Miles City. We went to a James McMurtry concert and afterward decided to stay the night at a local hotel.

This is the conversation I had with the hotel clerk.

Hotel clerk: Where are you from?

Me: Oh, I have a little farm in the Blue Creek area south of Billings.

Hotel clerk: Are you the one with the goats?

I look up slowly from signing the reservation form.

Me: Excuse me?

Hotel clerk: Do you have goats?

Me: Why? Are they out?

Hotel clerk: Umm...I don't know.

Me: Those assholes. They are probably out, roaming the banks of the Yellowstone River, doing whatever the fuck they want. That's what goats do you know, they do whatever they want. I'll tell you one thing, you should stay away from goats. I'm serious. Don't ever do it. I bet I missed a call from my mom. Well, it's too late now, if they are out, they're out. I'm not driving two hours back to Billings at two in the morning.

Hotel clerk: Umm...ok.

I never thought to ask him how he knew I was the one with the goats.

I'll stop there. I won't tell you about the time I found the goats lounging on my neighbors deck, chewing their cud contentedly in the sun, their legs dangling off the side of the porch, the baby goats playing in the flower garden with little goat poop pebbles scattered about everywhere. I won't tell you about the time a goat was stuck in the fence and someone called the sheriff because they thought they heard a child screaming for help. And I definitely won't tell you about the time that I woke up in a hotel room in Denver and opened billingsgazette.com and saw a front page picture of two goats stuck on a bridge.***

A lot of people approach me and they express a desire to raise goats in the future. They have dreams of retiring to the country, raising goats, milking them, making cheese and watching the babies frolic in the sun. That sounds really nice. It really does. But there is a lesson to be learned from these short goat vignettes, these short windows into my life that I occasionally share with you.

The lesson is profound and deep and important.

Goats are assholes. Don't do it.****

*Just kidding.

**If you are are wondering what the big deal is, you should know my goats are less like this, and more like this.

***They ended up not being my goats but they very well could have been.

****They are also really awesome and smart and, if well-managed, do amazing things for the land but you better have really goddamned good fencing because if you don't, they will get out and you too will end up with a slight nervous tick every time the phone rings and you aren't exactly sure where your goats are. Think very, very deeply about this before you get goats.

You've been warned.

Goats on hay bales                

2 Comments on “Goats Gone Wild

  1. Mr. Fox and I have enjoyed tending goats while you were out of town. I am proud to say we experienced few unexcused absences on the part of most goats.

  2. I was standing around one day while on break from a solar photovoltaic workshop. I’d struck up a conversation about the finer points of life with a farmer who’d come to learn about putting a small system on his homestead. I mentioned one of the thought’s I’d entertained about the 4 acres of pasture behind our house.

    “I thought about getting a few goats,” I said.

    “Do you have a good fence?” he replied.

    “I figured I’d build a good one.”

    “Do you know how to test a proper goat fence?”

    “No, not rightly,” I said sensing that I’d probably not thought things entirely through.

    “Well, you build your fence and stand on one side of it with a bucket of water,” he said.


    “Yessir. Then you proceed to toss the water out of the bucket towards the said goat fence. If any water makes it to the other side of your new goat fence, then you haven’t built a proper goat fence.”

    “I see.”

    “Crafty bastards they are.”

    We later learned this when we spent a week on the Navajo Reservation with the elders resisting forced relocation by Peabody Energy and their Kayenta Mine. We’d often find the sheep in the corral, with the goats outside mocking human authority and the sheep’s lack of ambition.