P80120They are excellent at weeding and vegetation management too, particularly where brambles are too thick to get through. They also convert unwanted vegetation into useful fertilizer. Goats are remarkably versatile and useful machines around the garden.

The goat in this picture is no ordinary goat. She is a pygmy fainting goat. Her kind were bred to faint when startled, in order to keep a predator occupied instead of eating other more desirable livestock in their herd. What a strange job description! When we went to Oklahoma a few years ago, we stayed on a farm with quite a herd of these small and pleasantly mannered goats.

It was winter while we were there, so there was not much to do in regard to vegetation management or gardening. There were a few blackjack oaks near the homes that I pruned up for clearance and just to neaten them up a bit. The goats came over to watch what I was doing, and seemed to know to stay back when branches fell. Nonetheless, the commotion of some of the larger branches falling was enough to cause some of the closer goats to faint and fall to the ground. They would get back up within a few seconds and proceed to eat the twigs from the branches. By the time I was finished pruning, only the larger stems remained to be dragged off and staged next to a burn pile of other debris that had accumulated earlier in the year.

Late one evening, my friend Steven decided to burn the burn pile. ( https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/11/19/oklahoma/ and https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/12/13/birthday/ ) I do not know why Steven thought that it would be a good idea to burn it in the dark. The neighbors off in the distance were probably wondering the same thing. Once it was started, there was no point in extinguishing it for a more convenient time. I went out to help him finish the job.

The initial pile flared up pretty well, and then took some time to die down. All the goats who happened to be in the main pasture at the time came over and gathered around to watch. They all seemed to be so interested, and formed a very neat and uniform circle around the fire. Their happy faces glowed like those of a really big troop of Boy Scouts.

It took a while, but the fire eventually died down enough to start throwing on the staged limbs of the blackjack oaks. The goats did not seem to mind as Steven shooed a few of them aside to get a nice hefty limb. From a few feet back, Steven innocently dropped the limb onto the fire.

The limb went down.

The flurry of sparks went up.

The entire herd of goats went down.

Neither Steven nor I saw much of what happened after that. As fast as the goats got back up, we both went down, laughing too hard to stand. The neighbors must have thought we were crazy. The goats were more certain of it. By the time we recovered and got back up, all the goats were gone . . . off into the distance and the darkness of that cool winter night in Oklahoma.

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18 thoughts on “Okie Mowers

  1. Ha, that’s such a good story! My daughter in law would like to have a fainting goat or two, but we live in a boro with zoning rules. We considered try to tell the boro that it’s a very unique dog…….nah.

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    1. They really were nice goats, with that strange habit of fainting. They were out when a small tornado went through the neighborhood (the day before the really bad Moore Tornado), and they all fell down and were completely unharmed.

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  2. A wonderful story! Goats are great animals in the world of brush-fire prevention — there are several herds in this area owned by cities wishing to control the growth of grasses and other low brush!

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    1. Oh my, that would be korny. Besides, they are not exactly common there. They do not exemplify the common livestock of Oklahoma. There did happen to be just one ‘normal’ Nubian goat there. It came over to watch while Steven and I were changing a front wheel bearing on a car. Steven though it would be funny to make it faint, so yelled at it. It just gave him a blank stare back. That was funnier than it would have been if the poor thing had actually fainted.

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    1. They work on some of the freeways in Los Angeles. I can not figure out how they work. It seems like they would eat everything. Even if they do not eat the iceplant, there are many other desirable plants out there that they would eat. Also, the temporary fencing seems to be more work than managing the vegetation without the goats.

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  3. I love this story. I have never heard of fainting goats, are you making this up? I used to have an Anglo Nubian goat called Henry, he had long ears and a very aristocratic Roman nose. I used to take him for walks on a lead and people used to stop me and ask what sort of a dog he was. He never fainted though.

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  4. I had a look on YouTube and I have to say I felt a bit sorry for the goats with all those people purposely scaring them just to see them fall down. Your story is very amusing though, and you weren’t mean to the goats.

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    1. The goat were quite happy. There were two babies that came inside with us when the nights got cold. Their mother’s did not seem to mind too much if it was just for a few hours at a time.

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