It’s a baby goat house party!

We had a “baby goat in the house” party this afternoon! At lunch break, Phil came downstairs and told me he’d had a hard morning at work. I knew just the thing to perk him up. After cleaning her muddy feet, I invited Coral into the house!

Cute baby goat overload!!!

The first thing she noticed was the apples on the kitchen counter. Yum!

So how could we resist giving her one?

Oops… it rolled under the cabinet. Phil will fetch it.

Next she tried to eat the imitation jungle that adorns our Korean War bomb tail. Sorry Coral–no plastic for goats!

She was quite puzzled by our carpet. She kept sniffing and nibbling at it like she thought maybe it was grass, but she also knew there was something not quite right about it.

Next Coral asked if she could play with the X-Box Kinect.

Or go upstairs?

Or maybe downstairs to the basement?

Coral seemed very intrigued by the sound coming up the stairs from the blower on our wood stove.

“How about you come give me a hug!”

What an adorable little face! I couldn’t help falling in love with this baby goatie. I’m so glad we kept her!

Goats and Ghouls and Dragons

Phil and I attended Rye “Halloween Town” again this year but left the goat-drawn hearse at home this time. We like to mix things up, so a 9-foot inflatable dragon was our showpiece this year. I originally planned to bring the cart and give rides to kids, but we had so much stuff in our truck already that I decided not to bring one more thing. I also planned to bring Tigerlily as my wizard sidekick (she almost looks like a unicorn), but Phil was worried that she would mess up the truck on the way to town and we wanted a nice clean pickup bed to put the dragon in. Sputnik is the only goat who reliably controls himself while riding in the truck, so Sputnik came to Halloween Town with us.

I wrapped Sputnik’s horns in “lightning” vetwrap but he wore no other costume. He did all his dress-up duty for the year at State Fair when I made him wear a humiliating chicken suit. I was a wizard. I chose this because it was a very cold evening and I needed a very warm costume. I stayed nice and toasty.

Phil was an executioner. He was warm except for his hands. He forgot to bring gloves. The kids were terrified of this costume! Many of them would start toward the candy and then freeze in their tracks and just stare at Phil with their mouths open until he spoke to them.

I thought the truck looked pretty awesome. The lighted skeleton that we made last year to “drive” our hearse looked great laying at the feet of our vicious man-eating dragon. We used the coffin from last year’s hearse as our candy holder. Green and purple lights adorned the coffin inside and out, and another skeleton guarded the candy. Some of the kids were just as afraid to take candy out of the coffin as they were to approach Phil and the fire breathing dragon!

We had some really fun pumpkins this year. We went to a corn maze and pumpkin patch on Sunday with my family and the specialty pumpkins were free. We picked out a few gnarly ones, including a ghoulish green one, a pumpkin that looked like it had cancer, one that had green warts, and a “red warty thing” pumpkin (yes, that’s its official name!). We also carved some normal pumpkins into jack o’ lanterns, and they looked pretty cool once darkness fell.

The skeleton got creepy in the dark too. We had our fog machine going for an eerie effect.

Our truck after dark.

Sputnik did not have a very good time, unfortunately. He did ok at first, but early in the evening he got mobbed by about six kids at once and he freaked out. I took him for a walk in some out-of-the way places, but he never really settled down. He’s used to having Finn by his side and he reverted to his younger, skittish self. He didn’t want to be touched at all but was overly eager to perform tricks and get treats. He’s usually not rude about treats, but he was last night, especially after I introduced him to the candy! He was ok with most of the costumes, but one full-body T-Rex suit freaked him out. He got pretty loud for a while but since it amused the crowd I guess it was ok. Someone said they thought the dragon was roaring, but it was just Sputnik hollering from behind the truck. On the plus side, he never messed the sidewalk but politely did his business in the grass.

Picnic on Bartlett, or Sputnik’s Day in the Spotlight

Saturday Phil and I hiked up Bartlett Trail again, only this time we took Finn and Sputnik and packed a picnic lunch. Since there wasn’t much to bring, Sputnik did the honors of carrying the pack while Finn went in the buff. This was Sputnik’s day in the camera lens. Finn usually hogs the frame, and if Sputnik isn’t wearing a pack he becomes invisible even if he’s somewhere in the picture. But Finn stayed out of the way this time (I guess he was ashamed to be doing no work), and Sputnik’s red panniers helped him stick out against the sparse fall foliage so I indulged in taking way too many photos of my beautiful packgoat.

T-Bolt Charioteers!

Rye Homecoming was today and Phil and I hitched up our chariots for parade! Phil wore his Thor thunder god outfit. The theme this year was pirates, but we didn’t know that so we went with the Thunderbolt theme since we can’t go wrong with that. The football team is the Rye Thunderbolts or “T-Bolts” as they are known locally.

I went with sort of a lady Thor outfit. The T-Bolt’s colors are purple and silver so I was going to wear a purple cape with my silver dress until I realized that we used all the purple material to line the coffin in our Halloween goat hearse last year. So I found a leftover scrap and made a sash instead. The wonderful purple wig came from Phil’s mother and it was perfect for the occasion!

Finn and Sputnik were pretty good considering how little we’ve driven them lately. I think we’ve only been out once since the International Goat Days Festival six weeks ago. Sputnik thought it was a race, not a parade, and he kept trying to trot ahead and pass everyone. Luckily he’s very good at the “whoa” command but it meant that we went along in short bursts where we trotted and then screeched to a halt before trotting on when the parade got far enough ahead.

Finn took a more leisurely attitude about the whole thing and almost got left behind a couple of times. Finn loves attention and doesn’t mind lingering in the street while people admire him and take pictures.

Hiking with the girls

Phil and I hiked a couple of miles up the Bartlett Trail last Sunday. Since Finn and Sputnik were nowhere to be found when we were ready to leave, we took TinCup and Nauti who happened to be loitering around the house looking for attention. They happily loaded into the truck and then very unhappily scolded us all the way to the trailhead, but once we got there they settled right down.

It was a beautiful, golden day. Most of the aspen leaves are gone but there are some patches still lingering here and there. The scrub oak is a lovely burnt orange right now and the grasses are tawny, giving everything a warm glow.

I had a hard time getting pictures of these girls because they were so clingy and insecure about being taken on a new trail away from home. They kept crowding me at first and trying to squeeze past me at every opportunity, but with the help of my jacket I was able to discourage them from constantly stepping on my heels and bumping into me. By the end of the hike they had relaxed enough to hang back and browse along the trail like goats are supposed to do.

The girls LOVED these rock outcroppings and didn’t want to leave this place! But since Tinny especially was making me nervous with her cliffside explorations, Phil and I hurried them along after snapping a few pictures.

The sure are best friends!

The Showdown

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that there was a video floating around on Facebook of our chariot race in Millington which I was trying to get ahold of.

Lo and behold!

We present your heroes! 

The supreme winners: 

Our champions greet their adoring fans. 

And here are some pictures of kids taking cart rides later that afternoon. I had fun wrapping Sputnik’s horns. Finn’s horns were done up in red and white so some of the kids called him the “Christmas goat”. 

The kids’ favorite thing about riding the goat cart was usually honking the horn. 


“Goat Vacation” Day 10 – We’ve got it all on UHF!

It was foggy when we packed up and left Ponca on Friday morning, but we climbed out of the valley into the sunshine of a gorgeous day–a perfect day for traveling and for…UHFing!

What, you might ask, is “UHFing”?

Let us go back to 1989 when “Weird Al” Yankovic wrote and starred in a go-nowhere film called “UHF” that later became a cult classic and Phil’s all-time favorite movie since childhood. It was filmed in Tulsa, OK, and since we happened to be driving through Tulsa on our way home, and since many of the places in the film are still there, it became a necessary stop.

Our first stop was “Big Edna’s Burger World”. This is what it looked like in the movie:

It has since been painted red and is now the home of the “Knotty Pig” BBQ and burger joint.

We got there just in time for lunch and boy was it ever GOOD! I’ve never seen such a variety of big, crazy burgers on one menu, and the BBQ was delicious. It was very reasonably priced too. Highly recommend!

Loved the welcome sign in the door!

Next stop was the apartment of Raul Hernandez of “Raul’s Wild Kingdom“.

He may not have needed no “stinking badgers,” but I’m sure Raul could have used a couple of goats in his apartment!

Next up was the cemetery from “Plots R Us” mortuary service.

We didn’t bring our goats in of course, but we snapped a quick shot from the street corner.

After visiting the cemetery, we walked back to the downtown area on our way to “City Hall” and stopped at a fountain so the goats could grab a drink (yes, I checked it for chlorine first).

After the goats got a refreshing drink and a rest in the shade, our next stop was the steps of “City Hall” which is actually First Christian Church.

As we were getting photos in front of “City Hall” our attention was grabbed by an uproar across the street. Catty-corner to the church was a Catholic school where the kids were in the playground for recess. They’d spied our goats and were clamoring along the fence to get a closer look. Not wanting to disappoint them, we moseyed over to say hi. The volume was incredible, as was the number of hands poking through the chain link. Every kid was trying to shout his or her question a little louder than their classmates. I’m not sure why Finn and Sputnik put up with it, but they were incredibly good-natured and sidled right up to the fence so the kids could reach them. Phil and I felt shell-shocked afterwards, but I get the feeling those kids will never forget the day the goats visited their school at recess.

Next up was Kuni’s Karate and Weird Al’s apartment.
Some trees and a big truck kept us from getting a good shot, and the building looks a bit different as it’s undergoing some remodeling, but this is the place!

Finally, the pinnacle of our UHF tour (drum roll please!)…

The UHF transmitter tower!

It looks just like it did in the movie except the little shack is long gone.

Even the parking lot is still there!

We loved that the registration number ends in “62”. For those who haven’t seen the movie, it was about TV station U62.

Phil snagged a piece of the parking lot to take home as a precious memento of our wonderful visit to the UHF filming locations in Tulsa, OK.

“Goat Vacation” Day 9 – The Ghosts of Erbie, Arkansas

Our last day in Arkansas was more exciting than planned. We looked at our map and found “Goat Bluff Trail” near the old ghost settlement of Erbie. It sounded like an easy, scenic loop. So far our National Geographic Trails Illustrated map had not let us down (I’d consulted it constantly on Tuesday’s long trek). The map showed an improved dirt road from Compton to Erbie, and at first it looked very nice. But as we continued along, we realized it had not been “improved” in many, many years. That’s when I also realized that our map was made in 1992, and although it was updated in 2007 I don’t know that anyone bothered to look at this particular road. Soon we were crawling along in 4WD low, thankful for high clearance, and hoping we didn’t encounter a huge washout that would require us to retrace our route in reverse, because there weren’t a whole lot of places to turn around! The goats had a very rough ride, and it took us a long time to cover four miles. When we finally arrived at our destination, we saw this sign in our rearview mirror… gee, if only they had thought to put one at the other end!

I believe I mentioned that there are a lot of spiders in Arkansas. One of them liked Sputnik’s view and decided to build on the unclaimed real estate between his horns. She started before we left our cabin and was still working away an hour and a half later when we arrived at the trailhead.

Our destination:

Goat Bluff Trail was pleasant and wooded and ran along an old farmstead fence. If it weren’t for his orange packs, Sputnik might have been lost among the speckled rocks and dappled shadows.

Goat Bluff: Naturally, Finn has to lean over the edge and take a look around.

Sputnik prefers a more cautious approach.

If it weren’t for the purple halter and orange pack you’d never see him.

After Goat Bluff Trail, we hiked down into the river bottoms where we encountered “Farmer’s Farmstead”. I thought it was a funny name and wondered whether this was the owners’ last name or whether it was given a generic label because no one knew their name. First we explored the spacious old barn. It looked in better shape than some of the barns I’ve used over the years!

Not far away, although difficult to see through the dense brush, was the farmhouse.

The cellar door was broken and I found many empty glass jars still on the shelves.

And there was ample evidence of wild pigs! I thought they were deer hoof prints at first, but deer don’t live in dark, underground places. I’ve never hiked in wild pig territory before.

I found this little medicine vial on the porch. I wonder what it once contained?

The interior of the house was in tatters and looked like it had last been occupied in the 1960’s or 70’s. There were pieces of glittering formica backsplash in the kitchen, peeling floral wallpaper, and cracked linoleum tiles on the floor. The sole inhabitant (other than the transient wild pigs in the cellar) was a bat hanging from the living room ceiling. I took many photos because abandoned houses fascinate me in a sad sort of way, but this picture stuck with me because of the leaf pattern stenciling on the door. It’s the personal touches that made this house a home to the people who once lived in it, and it’s sad to think that a house once full of warmth, happiness, and family has sat cold and abandoned through the years. So many events occupied these people’s minds–things that at the time were so important but are no longer remembered–a sick calf, a church picnic, an early frost, a dance, a washout in the road, a new foal. Everyday things put color into our lives but are forgotten with Time, and those who come after can only imagine them.

Right next to the main “Farmer” residence was a completely collapsed house that Phil called the “man cave” because of the large easy chair still standing among the rubble.

And then there is the necessary house. This one looks ready for action and is double-seated for maximum efficiency.

I’m not sure what this shed was for. It was leaning at such a crazy angle that I wasn’t about to step closer and investigate. Sputnik was foolhardy enough to take a peek despite my protests, but he wouldn’t tell me what he spied through that door.

After Farmer’s Farmstead, we hiked up the hill to Cherry Grove Cemetery. It was shady and quiet and the perfect spot for a rest and a picnic lunch. The last person was buried here in 1971.

Here we found the answer to our question about the “Farmer” farmstead. It was a last name after all. Here lies James W. and Sarah E. Farmer.

Next to them are buried two of their children who died in infancy.

If yesterday’s river tromping adventure was Finn’s day for photos, this one was Sputnik’s.

I love how solemn he looks.

Finn and Sputnik made themselves very cozy between a couple of Buchanans.

We ended up spending a lot more time in this graveyard than originally planned because reading the headstones was so entertaining. While it’s easy for us to take our education for granted in this day and age, I’m sure it was difficult to get formal learning in these remote areas back in the 1800’s. Unfortunately, the grave carver chiseled his lack of education (and sometimes perhaps his inebriation) in stone. In case they are hard to read on your computer screen, I have added translations above each picture.

I don’t know why there is a period behind every word, but it seems to be a common (though not consistent) theme with this particular headstone carver. The spacing is rather interesting as well. Didn’t this guy ever think of penciling in the letters before he started carving? If he did it all freehand, I’m impressed with his skill, but not with his forethought.

“Wele. cross. the. river. of. Jordan. hapy. in. the. lord.”

“gods. childorn. are. gethering. home. to.die. no. mo re.”

“blesed. ar. the. ded. who di. in the lord”

This was our favorite:

joseph M. Buch.
anan .was Born.
a prile. the. 9.18 27.
was killed BY
Mrach. the. 5 1864
whilst. in. the.
service of the
natianal armey
as a Recruiting

I can forgive misspellings, but how does one make a typo while carving in stone? “Mrach”?? And if you’re going to misspell in stone, why ADD letters (“aprile”, “armey”)? I can’t help but think that this man might have had a little help from the jug down cellar while chiseling out his masterpiece. I love how the “r” in “Recruiting” was squeezed in afterwards.

My favorite part is that it is carved into a headstone with books adorning the top–a shrine to education. This headstone is indeed a masterpiece. I only hope mine will be this memorable.

This headstone was unique in that I’ve never seen so much age detail given on an adult’s headstone.
Margret. Farmer was
born oct the 9day18  58
an died nov the 24 1882
age 24yers 1month an
15 days Born in Newton

Lest we laugh too immoderately over the dead, I bring us back down to sobering reality with this infant’s gravestone. Many youngsters were buried here. It appeared that one couple lost at least five or six babies and children. Quite a few women died in their 20’s and 40’s as well. I wondered if many of them died in childbirth. I’m sure doctors were scarce here back in the 1800’s and their medical resources limited. It was not an easy life, and I admire the brave folks who, despite incredible hardship, carved out a place for themselves in these steep, rocky valleys.

After we left the cemetery we came to a rather difficult river crossing. It was wide and almost waist deep. Going around was not an option at this point–we’d come way too far. So we took off our shoes, held them over our heads, and waded in. Sputnik’s panniers floated for a few seconds and then filled with water. Good thing we’d already eaten most of the food! I kept the camera over my head and hoped I wouldn’t slip and fall on the uneven bottom. I had some close calls, but since Sputnik was on a leash next to me I was able to grab onto him for balance a couple of times. When we got to shore and replaced our socks and shoes, Phil noticed that his ankles were once more covered in seed ticks. Yuck!

We soon came to a newly mown hay field and another old barn. This one was big and beautiful with a long grain storage area down the center, many box stalls for horses, areas on the side to keep equipment, and a huge hay mow up top. Sputnik is standing in front of the grain storage. I liked the slanted boards.

Around the corner was a beautiful farmhouse that went with the big barn. We couldn’t peek inside because it was all boarded up, but the outside looked as nice as if it were ready to welcome new occupants.

The Erbie historic church was a little further on, and there we encountered a bevy of park rangers because the church was undergoing restoration. I was a little nervous that they might say something about our goats. After all, the locals had warned us that they might not be welcome in the National Park. But while the rangers were surprised, they were not hostile. They were mostly intrigued, and I told them they ought to look into using packgoats to help with trail maintenance in the non-horse areas of the park.

When we arrived at our truck we considered going the long way home on the well-maintained 2WD roads that the park service had used to access the church. But since we’d already conquered the rough road coming down, we decided it would be just as well to take the same way back. It wasn’t so bad now that we knew what to expect. We had just enough daylight left to take a quick jump in the river at Ponca before heading back to our cabin for one last soak in the hot tub and packing up. It was a grand four days in Arkansas, and our only regret was that we got so many seed ticks. My ankles are still itching two weeks later (although they’re finally starting to get better). Next time we’re using the waterproof bug repellent and we’ll be spraying under our socks as well as above them!

“Goat Vacation” Day 8 – Magical Rivers and Unicorn Forests

Tuesday’s long hike had us all tired and footsore. Phil and I slept  late the next morning and so did Finn and Sputnik. When I opened the trailer door at around 10:00 Wednesday morning, both of them were curled up in nests of straw and didn’t look as though they had moved all night. They reluctantly got up when I came in and both of them moved  stiffly. They looked like old goats as they slowly limped out of the trailer, but within a few minutes they had stretched and shaken the soreness out and were happy to browse around the cabin. I’m pretty sure it was the sand that made them tired and sore. It was some hard slogging in those river bottoms.

After our late rise, Phil and I opted to stick close to Ponca and not hike any trails. The day was deliciously sunny and warm, so we put on our swimsuits and headed to the Buffalo River. Sputnik would have been happy to stay in this flower patch all day.

But instead we went river-tromping and the goats had to come with us so we would have something we could photograph gratuitously. We took something like 250 pictures that day!

I love the water reflection on the stone behind the goats.

Sputnik and I found a really cool tree to climb.

Phil spent a lot of time skipping stones. This place reminded us a little bit of Darien Lake State Park out in western New York state where we spent our third anniversary. We spent that whole day wading in a dappled, lazy river skipping flat stones, and later that weekend we found Cuzco at a farm nearby. Anything that reminds us of that wonderful third anniversary is like experiencing a little piece of heaven.

There were huge slabs of rock in some places that made it feel more like walking in a swimming pool than in a river. Swimming pools, however, do not usually contain water moccasins. We saw one dart out from under a ledge and wriggle its way across the river and under the riverbank right around this spot. It was more terrified of us than we were of it.

Bear with me while I indulge in posting an unreasonable number of “Finn” photos. He’s so photogenic I just can’t stop clicking the camera!

Finn knows he’s gorgeous too.

The light and shadows and reflections on the water made us feel like we were in a fantasy tale.

As if the river didn’t feel magical enough, we saw a dry riverbed open to our left. The entrance was covered in blue butterflies, most of whom fluttered away at our approach. But a few lingered behind to be caught in Phil’s lens.

We stepped into a world of enchantment. It felt solemn and mysterious. These were unicorn woods I could tell. We didn’t see the unicorn, but I’m quite sure she saw us.

Finn is not only incredibly photogenic, he’s also incredibly huggable.

We all became drowsy as the shadows lengthened.

Sputnik could almost be a unicorn on this rock.

As colorful as he is, it’s amazing how much Sputnik blends in with his surroundings.

The last light before eventide.

“Goat Vacation” Day 7 Continued: Adventures along the Old River Trail

And the fun didn’t stop!

Goat Trail was only a there-and-back detour from the Centerpoint Trail, which we continued down for a couple more miles to Granny Henderson’s homestead, reluctantly abandoned when the Buffalo National River was established. Poor Granny. She was kicked out by the National Park Service even though she and her husband had built this home together in 1912. She was told she could stay but only if she gave up her livestock. She felt the same way about her critters as we feel about ours and decided it wouldn’t be home without them. She packed up and left in 1978 but died shortly afterward from the stress of leaving her home and animals. I think she would have loved Finn and Sputnik.

From there we hiked on to Hemmed-in Hollow, which at 250 feet is the tallest waterfall between the Appalachians and the Rockies–when it’s flowing. We caught it during a dry spell, but I can imagine it would be spectacular when it’s running. We had a nice lunch break here and unsaddled the goats for a while so they could take a break.

After lunch we decided to take the “long loop” back on the Old River Trail. I’m not sure if that was a very good idea, but at low altitude we felt like warriors and decided it would be somewhat feeble to retrace our steps.

I loved the root system of this tree.

The Old River Trail turned out to have something like eight or ten river crossings (I eventually lost count).

Since Phil and I did not bring water shoes, we spent a lot of time taking our boots off and then finding some dry place to put them back on again.

The goats were not particularly cooperative at the first crossing and made me go back over and fetch them. Normally our goats don’t have a problem with water, but I think they had to get us back for making them swim the day before. After that we cut to the chase and put leashes on them before each crossing just to make sure there was no funny business. We didn’t have time for shenanigans–we had something like eight miles to cover before dark and it was already late afternoon.

But I did take a moment to snap a photo of this cute little fellow hiding among the river rocks.

Phil loved this gnarled old tree, but the lighting was so bad I had a hard time photographing it. The hike along the river bottom was interesting. There were many old homesteads and even a school here in the early 1900’s, but they slowly faded away in the 1950’s and 60’s as post offices in these remote areas were closed and school districts were consolidated. Then the Buffalo National River was established and the last few homesteaders were pushed out and their farms turned back into wilderness. It’s hard to imagine all this forest as farmland.

From here we could see Goat Trail from the bottom.

You can even see the ledge where we walked across the bluff.

There weren’t a lot of flowers, but I thought these were spectacular and they matched Finn and Sputnik’s halters.

The goats were getting pretty tired at this point. There was a lot of sand in the river bottom which made hiking difficult for them, especially since Phil and I were keeping up a pretty quick pace.

“Are we there yet?”

“Is this the last crossing?”

No, it wasn’t the last crossing, but there weren’t many more. We eventually made it to Steel Creek, which was a massive and perfectly groomed camping and staging area with real flush toilet restrooms which we happily made use of. I wish I’d gotten some pictures of the area because it was quite beautiful with its well-kempt lawns, and it felt eerie because no one was there except two Forest Service horses snorting suspiciously at our goats. The stabling area was massive with spacious pastures and corrals. I wondered if the campground were ever filled because it looked like it could accommodate hundreds of people and dozens of horses. It reminded me of the magician Coriakin’s island in the book Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

After that we had a steep hike up Chimney Rock Trail. I’m not sure why it was so named except that there were a lot of rocks of the sort you might use to build a chimney. It was nearly dark by the time we arrived at our truck and all of us were very tired. It had been a wonderful hike and although it remained completely cloudy all day, we only got the tiniest bit of drizzle on us as evening approached. Phil, however, was covered in spiderwebs and also, it turned out, with seed ticks. They were all over his ankles. It took us a long time that evening to get them off. I had a couple dozen as well, but Phil bore the brunt of them. When all was said and done, it was very nice to get back to our cabin for a long soak in the hot tub. Finn and Sputnik put themselves to bed immediately and didn’t make a peep all night