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June 25, 2009

Clustercluck!

This is a charming, funny story from a friend-of-a-friend in Mass., about the seemingly coordinated effort on the part of his farm animals to make a break for it. Enjoy!

Goat Breakout in Cellblock 7

Sometimes events have a confluential way of coming to pass. That is, several events must transpire for the unlikely to occur. But out in the barnyard, that confluence can happen with curious regularity when your animals are so singleminded about doing what they're not supposed to do. So, it shouldn't have been a big surprise to come around the barn corner in the farm truck last week to see such a gaggle of strangeness and freedom.

Mr. Piggie had rooted his way under the fence, dragging the staples out of the posts that secured the wire. He must have been secretly working on it for days - like a prisoner with a file in a cell - I hadn't seen it coming.

So, smelling freedom and my wife's peach trees, the old porker made his break. Naturally, he only ventured twenty feet off the corral but that was enough for the goats, roosters and hens to follow. "Free!" But then, "what do we do now? The trees !!!" 

But in the meantime, the 2 donkeys out in their fenced grazing pasture realized that their new pen back door hadn't been latched and nosed it open. They, too, headed straight for those luscious fruit smells. Three wild turkeys happened to be passing by and joined the emerging throng. This was the moment I happened upon this braying, oinking, gobbling clustercluck in my innocence. There they were - all 11 of them - standing together, blinking, not quite believing their good fortune, basically just congregating away, like an old mah jong club. It looked like a pretty jolly party and I had to laugh. Until I remembered that goats, pigs and donkeys weren't supposed to mix and could cause each other harm. One by one, I rounded up the "capital" beasts, starting with the donks and working my way down. Mr. Piggie wears no halter or collar, so he wasn't too easy to attach, but he can be tricked back inside with tasty tidbits and crooning Beatle songs (he hates The Stones). When it was all over, the wild turkeys still lurked in freedom but seemed envious of the caged beasts' collegiality.

 That's the way it is down on the farm. One animal always wants what the other animal has - even if he doesn't like that kind of food. The goats will pummel the pig to get at his goodies, only to turn away with distaste at the fare. He gets his certain revenge, however, when I bring out leafy, veggie kind of treats that goats love, they will ascend the rock that centers their pen to literally butt heads & lock horns over who has the right to take the first bite. Meanwhile Mr. Piggie races to scarf up just about everything off the ground. The winning goat gets the right to check that it's all been eaten but that doesn't matter, he has retained his spot atop the pecking order. 

A few days after the big breakout, the goats slipped out of the gate when the carpenter was fixing a hinge and where did they spend their brief minutes of Freedom Part II? The goats sped straight into the donkeys' regular night paddock where they sleep. Why? Because they are never allowed in there. There was nothing to eat or do in there, they just wanted to go where they can't. Like lobsters, they rushed in but they couldn't figure out just how to get back out. Not brilliant.

 The pecking order is just that, as we were recently reminded when two of the cutest little fluffball chicks you ever saw were hatched in the barnyard. When the food arrives in the morning, the roosters eat first, the hens second and the chicks last when left alone. I feed 'em in separate locations so the little guys can get their share. The mom seems grateful but all business. At night, she sleeps tightly wedged in a corner with the chicks snuggled under her. The rooster doesn't want to know about chicks, Just keep them outta my way . . .

Our minds were blown yesterday, when a mother wild turkey emerged from the big Bittersweet hedge behind our house with 9 brand new turk chicks in tow, When she sensed we were watching, she gave them a low gutteral cluck and they all 9 scampered into a nearby bush and froze. With their coloring, their motionlessness made them completely invisible to us even though we knew them to be there. After we withdrew to another window, she gave another command and all 9 moved as one back under her. Back in the barnyard, we noticed the Mommy chicken doing the same thing, giving commands and teaching them how to scratch for food. The cuteness was almost terminal. Even the pig was grinning.

 So that's the report from ground zero at the Big Breakout. Summer might finally be arriving, although with all this rain, who could possibly tell? Soon, we humans might also be able to break out. Oink, everyone, from down on the farm.

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