Goat Grief

From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal January 31, 2012

It’s officially been four months since twin goats and their mama arrived at our house. Thankfully, I can report that our experience has been relatively enjoyable ... well ... except for a few moments of “goat grief.”
The first month of goat ownership was very fulfilling. I loved looking out the window to our pasture where the goat kids played happily together. “I’m a real farm mama now,” I thought. Whenever my own children went outside to play, the goats would run to greet them, bleating happily. Our life was a picture-perfect farm.
Then, one fall day, my preschool son came screaming into the house. “She’s out! She’s out!” Dropping my mixing bowl on the floor, I ran to the door and saw mama goat Vicki happily standing near the road, on the wrong side of the fence. Luckily, she didn’t seem interested in the passing cars, and was content to simply eat the grass “on the other side” which must have been greener. My immediate instinct was to phone my husband. “No,” I told myself in my best farm mama voice, “I can handle this goat.” With my wide-eyed preschooler and toddler twins watching, I walked around Vicki, blocking her from the highway, and gave her a gentle push in the direction of the open gate. No good. She loved that grass.
Putting all dignity aside, and ignoring thoughts of how I would look to the passing drivers, I put a rope around Vicki’s neck and attempted to drag her back into the field. Nope. She was stronger than I was, and resisted the pulling.
“Wait here,” I instructed my amused children. Running into the house, I came back with an apple. “Goats love apples...don’t they?” I wondered. Just then my phone rang. It was my Las Vegas friend calling for a good chat. “I’ll have to call you back,” I said as I breathlessly answered. “I’m dealing with a runaway goat.” Her high-pitched laugh didn’t add to my confidence level.
“Here, goat,” I said, offering the apple. She looked up from the grass and eyed it, then began walking slowly to me. “Block the gap!” I instructed my capable two-year-olds. Neither one was as tall as Vicki, but they obediently stood between the goat and the open road while my preschooler held the gate open. My apron blew in the wind and I tried to look as non-threatening as possible. Farm Mama vs. Mama Goat. Vicki slowly sauntered to me, licked the apple, and then turned and walked in the opposite direction. I tried several more times, but she always changed her mind at the pasture gate. Finally, I had had enough. I picked up my phone and called for help. I wasn’t smarter than a goat.
That evening all escape routes from the pasture were sealed off, and the following days ensued with no noteworthy incidents. However, a few weeks later, tragedy struck. One day, goat twin AJ jumped from his favorite perch and broke his leg. We were heartbroken. My teenage son, AJ’s owner, was in tears. A trip to the vet spelled out our options: amputation, operation or death. Even goat medical care requires cash, and I suddenly wished for an animal healthcare plan. We spent the weekend debating: How valuable is a goat? Can a three-legged goat live a fulfilling life? “If I broke my leg would you put me down?” was the hard question asked us as parents.
Finally, with the help of generous grandparents and my son’s own hard-earned money, we decided on an operation. Monday morning I called the school secretary to inform her of my son’s delay. “He’s taking his goat to the vet,” I told her. The other end was silent. “Well,” the stunned secretary finally admitted, “I’ve never heard that tardy excuse before.”
AJ was left in the vet’s capable care and my son went to school with a promise that I would call once the operation had started. This time, a different secretary answered the phone. “Please let him know that AJ is in the operating room,” I said. The secretary’s voice immediately oozed with sympathy. “I’m so sorry,” she offered. “Would you like to give the news to your son yourself?” “That’s OK,” I responded, not wanting to admit that the operee was a goat.
In the end, infection forced the operation into an amputation, and AJ returned to our pasture as a tripod. After a week he was bounding happily with his sister again, and my son thankfully accepted the outcome. Watching him suffer emotionally had been difficult enough, and knowing that our pet goat was in pain hurt terribly. But I survived, and this mother is wiser for it. There are no longer just children in our family; we now have nine children and a few “kids.” Goat grief? Perhaps it’s the real “farm mama” test.

Presidential Politics

From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal January 18, 2012

Why anybody would want to run for president is beyond me. To suddenly have your entire life put on display, like a slow movie, one millisecond at a time, for passersby to scrutinize and scowl at; to have every action, every glance, every word dissected; to have personal relationships torn to the ground - it's an exercise that only the very toughest could hope to endure. The process our nation puts politician-wannabes through is nearly dehumanizing. Their words are "twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools." The cruelty reminds me of "Lord of the Flies," a group of young boys, playing with sticks at being men, who mistakenly kill one of their own.
Our political atmosphere sometimes mirrors the mood in my home. "He said ... She said ..." How do I know who's telling the truth? Mothers not only need to be good cooks, maids, chauffeurs and teachers, they also need to be good attorneys. My college degree has been helpful, but I'll admit, sometimes I wish for a few litigation skills. A law degree would come in handy as a mother, especially when I'm called upon to serve justice. Perhaps a Pinocchio's nose isn't such a bad idea for children ... or politicians.
Mudslinging isn't new, in the White House or in our home. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, two great founding fathers, even stooped to outrageous accusations during a presidential campaign. The people were left to discern who was right and who was wrong. And they chose Jefferson. Smeared by false scandal, John Adams left town in anger the day of Jefferson's inauguration. Although they had once worked for a common cause, the two became fierce enemies. Later, they made up their broken relationship, and miraculously died on the same day, July 4, 1826, just a few hours apart.
In a country where there's no royalty, we the people must choose our loyalties. Thankfully, as a credit to democracy, there are generally honest citizens who're willing to put personal interests aside for our country. George Washington, our first president, had to be coerced into accepting the position. He preferred the country life, at home on his plantation, to that of politics. In a true show of citizenship, he gave up his comfortable lifestyle to lead our country through the first eight years, until he warded off all pleas to continue and returned to Mount Vernon. Thank goodness for men like him.
If we must go through another political season, would there be any way candidates could simply share their ideas, their policies, their plans for leading our country? Instead of the bashing, the mudslinging, the challenging, the picking, couldn't we just hear the truth? Perhaps it's too much to ask of a democracy. Until there's an outraged mother to hand around a few good spankings, there will be meanness. However, despite the criticizing, I'm still grateful for men and women who're willing to put their lives, their family's lives, and their personal reputations on the line for America. It's up to me (law degree or not) to discern between truth and mud.

What is Real?

From the Farm:


Published in the Casper Journal January 3, 2012

We’re not a television family. We don’t have cable, and rarely take the time to watch a movie. However, during September, October and November, we spent several Monday nights watching my brother, Jake Hunsaker, perform on The Sing-Off, an NBC reality show featuring a cappella groups from around the country. His group, Vocal Point, a nine-man chorus from Brigham Young University, did quite well, surviving to the top five finalists and making a name for themselves with their catchy, upbeat tunes.
It was a little strange to see someone I grew up with perform on television. I remember the day Jake was born. (He is the second youngest, and I am the second oldest.) I remember feeding him his bottle and changing his diaper. I recall many of his milestones through the years ... graduating from high school, buying his first car, going on to college. And I remember singing with him around the house and on family trips. The difference is, now he’s singing on national television.
It was fun to get the inside scoop from Jake after each episode of The Sing-Off. “The judges took nearly two hours [not two minutes] to make their elimination decision,” he told us one week. “We became good friends with that other group,” he offered another week. “Filming an episode actually takes several hours,” he explained once. In other words, reality television is only partly real. Despite what we’re told, much of what we see is carefully orchestrated.
It’s not just reality TV that’s not entirely real, however. I walked into a store the other day and was greeted by a wall of television screens. Each one played a different movie, and not one showed a real person. Blue people, animated people, creatures mixed with human likenesses, twiggy ladies with overgrown hair ... not a single being was an actual human. The blatant farce made me wonder how much time today is spent watching things that are real. A real tree, a real river, a real cloud in the sky, a real person, a real conversation ... the reality of life is slowly slipping away.
Statistics compiled by TV-Free America state that parents usually spend 38.5 minutes in meaningful conversation with their child each week, yet an average child watches 1,680 minutes of weekly television. The average youth spends nearly 1,500 hours watching television each year, and only 900 hours attending school. At age 65, most Americans will have spent nine years watching the tube, not counting internet, iPad, iPod and other “screen” viewing.
I remember taking our children to a winter park when we lived in Las Vegas. On the hour, electric blowers, hidden in the tree tops, began shooting beautiful, white snow out onto the park green. My children were thrilled. As Las Vegans, they had never actually seen more than one or two “real” snowstorms, and they were enamored with the wet fluff on their heads and jackets. After 10 minutes, the snowfall abruptly stopped, and we were left in the warm, Nevada night air, the fake snow soon melting around us. The rapt attention of those watching was incredible, and a little scary. I wondered if our world has become so computerized, so simulated, that we’ve forgotten simple beauty. Are we so starved for reality that we’re amazed at manmade counterfeits?
We enjoyed watching The Sing Off. Even after my brother’s group was voted off of the show, we continued to sing the songs around the house. Santa brought us the Christmas CD, and we’ve even downloaded some of the music from iTunes. The real music simulated by real voices will continue to make its mark on America.
Our television watching stint is over for now, at least until another friend or sibling makes it onto national programming. Watching television isn’t all bad; I just hope we’re filling the rest of every real day with real people, real images and real conversations. Because, like every group on The Sing-Off, you never know when life could suddenly change and you will be singing your “Swan” song.