A Socratic Rancher 8-24-09 | TheFencePost.com

A Socratic Rancher 8-24-09

In the early days of becoming goatkeepers, it was common to visit others who had goats to share stories, trade tricks, and possibly make a few trades.

One of the more enjoyable goatkeepers in our neighborhood, a lanky fellow named Bill, had a band of about 50 nannies on a spread ideal for goats. Nested in a rocky valley behind a steep ridge, his goats had the run of a half section of favorable browsing terrain and a nifty corral made from old bed springs.

One afternoon I asked Bill if he’d sell a couple of his goats.

“Could happen,” he said.

“How about that one?” I pointed to nice Saanan nanny with a long straight back and an ample udder with large spigots.

“Oh, no,” Bill said. “That’s m’favorite.”

“How about that one?”

“No, that’s my Liberace,” he said, shaking his head, referring to a nanny who apparently he used as his heat detector for breeding.

“That one?”

“No, that’s my Revere. Lets the others know when there’s dogs about.”


“No that’s Martha Stewart.”

We went on like this for quite a while, and each goat I pointed to, Bill rejected as a candidate for sale or trade, explaining the particular necessity of that particular goat to his particular operation. He had a Nixon, a Vixon, a Scissors, an Elvis, a Ringo, a Lemon, a Giles, a Scrapper, a Dapper, a Dingus, a Schmoo, a Lickpenny, and so forth.

We spent another hour or so that day jawboning about goat personalities until I finally had to get back home for chores.

I never expected to own any of Bill’s goats, until one day about a year later he called at just after five in the morning.

“Up yet?”

“Oh yeah,” I said, barely squelching a yawn. “Got half a day’s work done.”

“Still inter’sted in m’goats?”

“Well … sure.”

“Bring yer trailer over and take ’em all. Four hunnerd for the bunch.”

“All of ’em?”

“Take ’em all … or none. They’re a package I bin workin’ on for 35 years.”

We took them all.

I had no idea that, many years later, I would do as Bill did, and make the same call at about the same time of morning to make the same all-or-nuthin offer to a young goatkeeper down the road.

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