A History of Animals

There were always animals around while I was growing up. My dad was and is a farmer, but we didn't live on the farm. My grandparents did and we lived one mile south of them, in town. I was always given the impression that our farm animals were more of a hobby for my dad than any real money-making venture, but they were many and ever changing. One summer it would be pigs rooting around in a pen. The next, there would be cows in the barn. There were stories of a short-lived horse before I was born. Always, there were dogs: Newfoundlands and Great Pyrenees. I have the most vivid memories of the goats. The all white one with a beard I named "Grandpa" and the brown splotched one who jumped a lot "Bronco." I was clearly very creative. There was also "Cutie" who was tethered up by the house. She was the favorite of my grandmother and dad used to let the goat in the house to annoy her. I'm fairly certain that Cutie was an orphan, her mother being killed when a giant snapping turtle pulled her into the lagoon. I have absolutely no idea whether this story is based on fact or my imagination.

For all of their presence, my siblings and I were required to do very little (if anything) in their care; or anything at the farm, really. I remember my interactions with them as that of a visitor, not a caretaker. I don't think this was due to a lack of willingness on my dad's part. He was all too eager to acquire me a steer to raise during my very brief tenure in 4-H and I'm sure he would have been happy to include us if we had asked. If anything, I think it has to do with the impulse to have one's children exceed one's own success. I think my father's generation of farmers sought to get their kids off the farm by sending them to college so that they might have a "better" life than the one that they experienced. To get good jobs and buy houses and live in cities. I can safely say that I've tried that and I'm not a big fan. For me, the real success and real freedom is in doing honest, hard work that does some good in the world. Animal husbandry is one of these things.

I'm a bit obsessed with heritage breeds right now. The population of my dream farm is quickly growing. I slipped "turkeys" into a conversation the other day and Steve was not amused. But how could you look at a Narragansett and not think they are beautiful? All in good time.

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