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A Socratic Rancher 1-25-10

J.C. Mattingly
Moffat, Colo.

Humans owe a great debt to goats. Goat milk, meat and fiber provided the protein and protection that enabled human brains to increase in size and cognitive capacity at a critical juncture in human evolution. It has been hypothesized that homo sapiens out-survived Neanderthals because the latter failed to domesticate goats. Now that this is established, it is time to speculate on what the future might hold for the human-goat relationship. The following are clearly on the horizon:

• In a previous column, I extolled the virtues of using goats to control weeds in the new expanse of urban wastelands. During a recent fall camping trip in my neighboring national forest, I realized the enormous potential in applying this same strategy to the reduction of underbrush tinder on public lands. Instead of controlled burns, which invite danger and cause pollution, or uncontrolled burns, which cause damages, loss of property and sometimes life, goats could be released and herded on the overgrown public lands, consuming tinder while contributing fertilizer.

Park rangers, DOW officers, Forest Service and BLM range cons could be given charge of, say, 80,000-100,000 goats each, which they would then herd and manage in carefully coordinated undergrowth mitigation strategies. This would have the added advantage of giving this group of government employees a real trade, something they can fall back on in the event of GAO cutbacks. After a few seasons herding goats, these government workers might even decide to leave the GS ladder for the high-country backwoods, and very possibly learn a thing or two from the goats.

• In 1928, when Herbert Hoover ran for president, his slogan was “A chicken in every pot, a car in every garage.” Today, one can easily imagine a slogan crafted for the modern age: “A goat in every yard, a computer in every pocket.” A goat in every yard would reduce the noise and hassle of lawn mowers and give every American family a chance at good, clean, organic milk, meat, cheese, yogurt and mohair. What a bargain. Coupled with their Blackberries (the new generation of which would be called “The Goatberry”) herders could do business in the great outdoors.

• A recent film titled, “The Men Who Stare At Goats,” featured about 50 nice looking Nubian nannies and at least three prominent billies. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I thought those goats turned in stellar performances, especially the nanny who twitched her left ear and fell over playing dead. I’d like to see more goats in the movies, and after gradual, well-managed increases in goat roles, we start to see movies in which goats take starring roles.

The only thing I definitely don’t want to see is goats used in that genre of horror film that exploits various species such as crocodiles, dogs, snakes, ants, bees, bears and birds by employing the plot line of a mad scientist messing around with their genes and turning them into mutant killers. I simply don’t want to see a movie about rampaging mutant zombie goats, and I’m rather certain none of you do either. So let’s keep it within the sideboards of family entertainment.

• Finally, in the Middle Ages, during the Black Death Plague of the 1350s, it is well documented that physicians of the day used a poultice of goat manure, rosemary and honey to soothe the buboes of the dying. Because this treatment saved many lives during the cascading calamities of the day, many of us are alive today because our ancestors were treated with goat manure. Biotechnology firms will no doubt take notice of this and include this valuable substance in future research.


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