Donna led Sam, a huge aging Belgian, out of the barn. Recently, Johnn moved a larger, taller mounting block to the driveway, placing it not far from the manure pile. The mounting block proved to be incredibly useful in getting on the peaceful giant. We mounted our horses and began a memorable afternoon ride; although, the trip started out in the usual uneventful fashion.
Sam walked behind Pepper. He didn’t enjoy walking down the steep hills we needed to traverse to get to the park. On past outings, Cristina had encountered difficulty with Sam at several points on the road. Donna, a more experienced rider, found gentle encouragement with the crop and a few kicks from her heels kept the huge horse on course, although, steering seemed to be a constant activity. We enjoyed a pleasant conversation and the horses enjoyed each other’s company as we rounded the intersection near the pond and proceeded up West Park Road.
The horses passed the baseball field, picnic pavilion overlook and outhouse. The gravel road entered the woods. A combination of early spring weather interspersed with an abundance of rainfall created a dense perfusion of plant life. Bushes sported a multitude of leaves; trees overhung the lane and rabbits popped out onto the trail from their hiding places among tail grasses tipped with seeds.
Although Sam had never entered the park, he walked along at a steady even gait not worried by anything on the road, in the fields or woodlands. Pepper, ever vigilant of bogymen, walked next to the large Belgian without a problem. We stopped for a moment to exchange a few words with a couple walking their dogs and then rode up a long winding hill, passed the open entrance gate and left the park. Once out of the park, we picked up Weaver Road which twisted a short distance through the woods towards the Slocum place, but before we got there Donna experienced a minor mishap.
“Oh no, I dropped my crop,” she said.
We both looked down at the crop laying on the hard packed clay and gravel road. There was no way Donna would ever be able to get back on the huge horse if she got off.
“Maybe we could just drive back and get it?” I said.
“I’ll get it,” she said.
“You better not get off… I’ll get it.”
I jumped off Pepper, picked up the crop and handed it to Donna. Since Pepper was tall and I am short, the only way I could get onto her back without a mounting block was to lengthen my leather, which I did. I stepped into the iron and Pepper eager to continue her journey to the barn began to walk off. I pulled on the reins which didn’t do much good. Pepper kept walking. Quickly, I swung my leg over the horse’s back and sat down in the saddle. I signaled for Pepper to stop, which she did. I readjusted the leather, and then everything was right with the world and we continued our journey.
“I’m sorry,” said Donna.
“That’s ok; sometimes I have to get off if she loses one of her boots. She’s pretty good about that and waits for me to put the boot back on,” I said.
“She must know it protects her feet from the rocks,” replied Donna.
We rode on a bit further and quickly came to the Slocum driveway and pastures. At the top of a rolling hill which overlooked the lower pastures and their barn, I listened for Roxy’s familiar bleating.
“I don’t hear Roxy,” I said.
“I don’t hear her either,” said Donna.
Sam walked on in a steady march happily making his way back to the stables, totally oblivious of the new surroundings. Pepper stepped onto a wide grassy expanse between the road and the pasture’s fence. Halfway past the Slocum’s pasture, we saw a horse and a spotted pony in the field. The pony started to whinny and wouldn’t stop.
“I wonder where the other pony is? They usually hang out together,” I said.
“Probably further down in the pasture,” replied Donna.
In the distance, a group of horses and the other pony became visible as we continued riding parallel to the fence. Suddenly, we hear Roxy’s familiar bleating and saw the goat among the horses. She was pretty far away and by this time we had almost come to the end of her pasture. Suddenly, the goat began to trot towards us.
“I see Roxy and she’s coming,” I said.
“Oh, she can’t possible catch-up with us. She’s too far away,” said Donna.
The horses walked along; unaware that Roxy was headed for them. Sam plodded and Pepper moved at a faster pace. I pulled Pepper to a stop to wait for Sam, turned around in the saddle and spied Roxy making a beeline for the fence.
“Donna, Roxy’s coming!” I shouted.
Donna turned her head, saw Roxy trotting towards us and said, “That little rascal.”
Roxy ducked her head and horns under the fence and ran straight for us.
“Maybe we can out distance her…lets trot,” I said.
Sam and Pepper began to trot but it was no use the goat’s trot turned into a dead run, and then she was upon us.
“Maybe if I walk back towards the pasture she’ll follow Pepper and go home,” I said.
“It’s worth a try,” said Donna.
I turned Pepper around and walked back the way we had come. Roxy followed but when we approached the fence the goat stopped and refused to go back to her pasture.
“I don’t think she’s wants to go home,” I said.
“We’ll just have to bring her back after we put the horses away,” said Donna.
“I guess that’s all we can do,” I said.
Roxy trotted between the horses. When a car approached, the goat paid no attention letting the vehicle weave around us. Roxy’s behavior left a lot to be desired. She went back and forth between the two horses making trouble. First, she ran in front of Sam, jumped up and hooked her front legs on his leg, and then started nibbling on the horse. When Sam stopped, she jumped in front of him and butted his chest with her horns. Sam paid absolutely no attention to the goat and walked on so Roxy decide to do the same thing to Pepper, this time grabbing hold of Pepper’s back leg. The horse didn’t like this and broke loose, prompting Roxy to try to get in front of Pepper. Meanwhile, Donna and I tapped the goat with our crops every chance we got. Finally, Roxy backed off enough to leave the horses alone. Our little group reached Sutliff Hill Road and turned towards the barn. Roxy hesitated for a moment and looked back up the street. It was as if the goat said to herself, ‘I’m pretty far from home, oh well, I might as well keep going. It’s too far to go back now’.
The sunset turned the clouds pink and a wind blew through the shrubs and tall weeds alongside the road. Suddenly, a deer hidden near a ditch at the road’s edge leapt up the bank and ran away towards a field. Pepper jumped, Sam just kept walking and the goat could have cared less. When we reached the creek near our pasture, I trotted up a short hill attempting to take some spunk out of the goat. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Roxy’s little legs moving in a blur. I couldn’t believe a goat could run that fast, but by the time she reached the hilltop she was visibly tired and walked peacefully down the road towards our barn.
CJ and Shadow grazing in their pasture saw the goat approaching and picked up their heads. They quickly walked up to the fence, stood close together, one a black and white Paint and the other a dabble grey. The horses arched their necks and pointed their ears forward in Roxy’s direction. They looked like two mischievous school boys standing side by side trying to encourage the goat to chase them.
“What if Roxy goes into the pasture?” I asked.
“If she goes in there she’s on her own,” said Donna.
But Roxy didn’t join the pasture horses for a game of chase; instead she walked calmly next to Pepper and Sam. The horses turned the corner into the barn’s driveway and I jumped off Pepper. A stirrup keeper lay on the mounting block where I had left it. Quickly, I grabbed it intent on using the short rope with two clips on either side as a leash. Roxy walked towards me. Before she could start butting and jumping on me, I grabbed her collar, snapped on the improvised leash and led the goat with Pepper into the barn. I pushed open the empty stall door and put Roxy into Ginger’s old stall as Donna had suggested, then quickly locked the door so Roxie couldn’t get out.
Donna and I unsaddled the horses, groomed them and turned the horses out to pasture. Roxy seemed to be happy in her temporary home. Donna looked over the stall gate and down at the goat. Roxy jumped at her, rapidly sticking out her tongue in a vain attempt to attack Donna. Unfazed, Donna took a towel and tied it over Roxy’s eyes hoping to relax the goat, and then she led Roxy out of the barn. By now it was dark outside and the clouds opened up releasing rain in a torrent.
“We can try to lift her into the back of my Forerunner,” I said.
“Are you sure?” said Donna.
“It’ll be ok. My husband just came back from the dump. The black garbage bags he put down to protect the carpet are still there. Roxy should fit. Do you mind riding back there with her?” I asked.
“I can do that,” said Donna.
The rain came down heavier and heavier, but we didn’t notice as our focus was on getting the goat into the back of the SUV. Donna took hold of Roxy’s front half and I grabbed the goat’s rear-end. Not liking the fact that we were picking her up, the goat rocked backwards and forwards. I couldn’t get a good hold around Roxy’s fat belly so she tipped towards Donna.
“Maybe we can move the tall mounting block over. Do you think it will be too heavy?” asked Donna.
“Why don’t we try the smaller one first,” I said.
I ran to the barn, retrieved the small, green mounting block and placed it next to the rear of the SUV. Donna stepped into the back of the vehicle pulling the goat in behind her as I lifted and pushed Roxy’s hindquarters. The goat made it into the car and laid down next to Donna in total contentment. I turned on the ignition, flipped on the headlights and wipers and pulled away from the stables. Darkness filled the night and a heavy rain drummed on the windshield.
“How is she doing?” I asked.
“Fine, she’s very quiet. She must have ridden in a car before,” said Donna.
“That’s good. I was afraid she might give you a hard time,” I said.
I pulled into the Slocum driveway, turned off the car, took the keys out of the ignition and ran around to open the rear door. Roxy easily jumped to the ground and Donna led her to the pasture fence where she released the goat. Roxy quietly walked away and disappeared into darkness.
“That goat is a handful,” I said.
“She sure is,” replied Donna.
We hurried back to the SUV and climbed into the front seats. I reached into my pocket for the keys but they weren’t there. I felt in the cup holder between the seats and the keys weren’t there either.
“I don’t have the keys. Maybe I dropped them when I opened the back,” I said.
I ran around the SUV, opened the back and looked into the vehicle feeling for the keys. No keys, so I looked on the wet ground near the car.
“Pat, here they are. I was sitting on them,” said Donna.
“Oh, I’m glad you found them,” I said.
I sat behind the wheel, turned the key, and heard the engine roar. We pulled out of the driveway headed for our barn. Once we arrived back at the stables, Donna climbed into her car and drove away down Murray Creek Road. I followed Donna’s car watching the red taillights flash against the black night. Rain gushed out of the darkness marking an end to our goat adventure.