Monday, May 22, 2006

Barnyard Encounters of the Third Kind

On Saturday afternoon, P, G and I all went to the zoo with G's two toddler cousins and their parents. It's a small zoo, and in addition to a bald eagle, some llama-like creatures and a crapload of monkeys, the main attraction is a farm/barn area where you can pet (and smell) the animals. When we got there, we saw the bunnies, the piggies and the duckies first. And then we reached the goats.

Granted, I'm a city girl, but I think it's pretty obvious that goats are possessed by the devil. Their eyes make me want to call an exorcist, and the creepy, insistent way they crowd in on you -- eeep. Give me a nice, fluffy flock of sheep any day.

Anyway, G decided that she wanted to buy some food pellets and feed the goats. I wasn't sure how well this was going to work out, as G has a long history of loving animals until she gets close to them and then panicking, but I said okay and gave her a quarter. As we walked over to the food machine, there was not a goat within feeding distance -- they were all wandering around their pen, probably looking for the hellmouth so they could get back to their native home. G dropped in her quarter and turned the knob, and when we looked up again, every goat in the pen had rushed up to the fence and stuck its head through the slats. (Apparently they knew that the clickety-click of that knob equaled food. Pavlov would have been proud.)

Now armed with a fistful of food pellets, G extended her hand toward the nearest goat, and then shrieked and pulled it back again as the goat stretched its neck and opened its mouth. She did that over and over again until she'd spilled all the pellets and had to get another quarter to buy more, and then she proceeded to spill the second handful of pellets as well. And the third.

At this point, I was starting to feel sorry for the goats, infernal creatures though they were -- they'd been expecting to get fed for a good ten minutes, and instead they'd been taunted by a little girl with a twitchy goat-feeding hand. I tried holding G's hand as she reached toward the straining goat muzzles, but she just pulled it out of my grip every time we got close. So, I decided I'd try feeding them myself so she could see that they weren't going to eat her. I offered some pellets to the first two goats, which snuffled them up quite delicately. And then, as I was telling G, "See, they just take the food right off your hand," and she was saying, "I'm afraid it's going to feel too weird," the third goat in line stuck its mouth in my palm and slobbered all over me.

"Aaargh!" I said, as I looked at the goat spit glistening on my hand.

"Ewwww!" said G.

"Got ... to wash ... hands!" I said, and bolted for the nearby hand-washing station, which, thank goodness, had soap as well as running water. (But no paper towels. Maybe the goats would eat them?) As I scrubbed, I heard G behind me, calling "Hey, I'm doing it! I'm feeding them!"

"Good job," I said weakly, starting the lathering process for the third time and wondering if my hand would ever be clean enough to use again.

The moral of this story? Never feel sorry for a goat. It just gets you into trouble.

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