Friday, March 21, 2008

Near Disasters: Goats!

We keep hearing stories of how, shall we say, 'interesting' it is owning a goat. The bravest, and stupidest act I've ever seen involved goats. A near disaster, indeed.

During the summers while I was in high school I worked on a construction crew. We were building a goat barn for a young couple who had a small herd of milk goats. Things were not progressing well, to say the least. The building site was difficult for vehicles to access, being across a small creek and soggy pasture. The ground at the site itself, however, was anything but soft, and we had to pick-ax our way into the earth for the foundation.

The goats were a constant problem, they were quite curious, and good at getting in the way. Ever have a goat climb on top of the pile of dirt in your wheelbarrow? It's not good, I can tell you that. Eventually we had the owners banish the goats to the far pasture, enclosed by an electric fence, and across the creek.

Once we had the foundation formed, we had a concrete truck come in and pour. In the process, the truck managed to smack our forms with it's trough, and our foundations had to be completely re-done. That meant knocking out three walls, and starting over with only one wall done. Things went pretty well after that, we got the barn built, and then it was time to pour the floor for the milking parlor.

For this floor we ordered special concrete that would finish perfectly smoothly. The cement truck that delivered this load was very large, and had an extra set of wheels in the rear to help support the weight. The wheels were down when the load was delivered, but the driver raised them as he was leaving. This caused the wheels to contact the high voltage power lines. That's when the real disaster potential escalated.

The power lines fell across the electric fence, and into the creek. The goats were still in the pasture on the other side of the creek -- the pasture with the electric fence. Ever curious, they were quite interested in the fact that the fence was down, and wanted to come see what all the hubub was, bub!

Thats when our foreman did the bravest and stupidist thing I've ever seen. He grabbed a 16' long 2x12, laid it across the creek and crossed over into the pasture, ducking under the electric fence. The creek and fence that had high voltage power lines lying on them. Then he grabbed the nearest goat and, hugging it to his chest, slid under the electric fence on his back, and slid across the plank, pushing himself along with his feet.

He did this 6 more times, rescuing all the goats, risking his own life every time. Incredibly brave, but really, really stupid. Eventually the power company showed up and fixed the lines, and that's when we remembered the concrete! We barely were able to strike a nice finish, but we managed to make a perfect milking parlor floor; gently sloping to the drain, perfectly smooth.

We nailed the doors shut, and put up a plywood barricade to keep the goats out. Unfortunately, if goats truly want in, they will find a way. The next morning we found the goats in the barn, and the milking parlor floor was ruined. Another near disaster, and more chipping out and replacing concrete. All-in-all, the simple barn cost more than twice the estimate, and my boss ended up taking the hit for most of that. It's a beautiful structure, and still there today. Here it is on Google Earth. I half expected it to burn down within a year of building.

Whidbey has it's own goat rescue service, simply named Goat Rescue. It's a wonderful service, with lots of lovely goats available for adoption. We met the owners at the Clyde one night, and they're very nice people. If you're looking for a goat, check them out.

Lots of goats on Whidbey Island.

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