I’ve written before about my hatred for goats, but somehow this year, it seems appropriate to revisit that dislike.
No Thank You
I hated goats. Dorothy hated being milked.
She was an ugly brown thing, clumsy and dumb, the recipient of my deepest scorn.
It was still pitch dark and the ground was frozen. Life is a series of progressions from childhood to maturity, much like our spiritual growth.
To a thirteen-year-old coming home on the school bus, a goat standing on the top of the car eating its interior wasn’t cool. I begged my dad to get rid of Dorthy to no avail.
When both my parents caught a flu bug, chores fell on me. I had to feed and milk Dorthy. I was mortified to be keeper of the goats.
Have I mentioned I hate goats?
Temperatures plummeted below zero. In the black of early morning, I pulled a woolen scarf close to my neck, a tin bucket swung from my gloved hand and the icy breath of winter chased me to the barn. I fumbled for the light. It flooded the shed. With that hair prickling feeling, I looked back at the house. It seemed far away.
Through the dark piece of pasture I chased Dorthy back and forth. When I finally battled her to the stall and sat down to milk, she went down like air out of a balloon. I pulled at her collar and up she labored. I reached for her udder and down she went.
“Stupid goat,” I muttered.
I shoved, begged and cajoled.
“Oh, no you don’t,” I yanked her collar. Up she came.
Squirts of goat milk landed in the pail, freezing almost at once. Down she went again.
Frozen to the bone and mad to a frenzy I kicked that old goat’s flank and milked what I could while she posed nonchalant against the frozen ground.
Light made the sky gray as I tramped back with frozen milk and hurt pride. Under a hot shower, tears and shivers washed away. I thought about the injustices I had to face, all so unfair. Angry at the goats, the winter and at my mom, my week unfolded.
Thankfulness has little to do with liking things.
“…give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (ESV).
My mom was like Proverbs 31 on legs. She never complained. She rose when it was dark and milked goats. She didn’t even like milk.
About the third day, I began to feel guilty. Mom, even in her sickness was getting the brunt of my unhappiness and my attitude stunk even after my shower.
I got a hammer and some nails and pounded a hook to fasten Dorothy’s collar. If she attempted to lie down, she would choke. I smiled at the thought.
Letting go slightly to my embarrassing secret, I recounted my woes to my best friend. Seeing it through her eyes, we laughed until our stomachs ached. Something inside softened.
Each day before school, the hot steamy shower washed away the cold, the smell, and a little bit of bitterness. I no longer returned from each milking session with tears.
Dorothy and I understood one another. She hated being milked, I hated milking.
About halfway through my week of the goats, I opened my mouth to the streaming hot shower, lifted my face and let the water run in and out my mouth.
“I can’t wait till Mom is better so she can do the morning milking again.” I said out loud.
In the pages of every childhood some hold distinction. Once turned they can’t be retraced. This was my page.
I leaned my forehead against the tiled shower wall and my eyes suddenly opened to all the cold dark mornings my mother faced without complaint or acknowledgment. It had never really occurred to me that what I was doing for one week, she had been doing all along.
I never once questioned if she liked goats.
I stood stark still and listened to the voice of my own words. Years of unsung mothering flashed before me. She nursed me when I was sick. She woke early to fix breakfast. She washed, ironed, cleaned, and milked those stupid barnyard animals.
My conscious spoke into the sound of my own words with new and strange maturity.
“I will finish out my week without complaining. I will be helpful around the house so mom can get better. And I will thank her for all the times she has gotten up in the dark and milked.”
God uses the mundane, even distasteful things of life to mature us to deeper truth.
Today as I look back on the “Week of the Goat” tenderness fills my heart.
Honestly, I’m not sure I will look back at this year with the same tenderness, and I know I’m not alone in seeing it as a whole-long-difficult-want-it-to-end year.
It’s time to lift our faces, open our eyes and see what God has done. It’s time to count our blessings and name them one by one.
It’s time to be thankful, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Thanks for the timely reminder that our circumstances should not impact our attitude/gratitude. Yesterday I prayed that I could go grocery shopping without getting angry inside and come home with a bad attitude. God honored that prayer and thankfully my husband met me at the door to help carry in groceries and put them away. This year sometimes grocery-shopping, which I never enjoy has seemed overwhelming. Thankful too that groceries are available and God meets our needs!
Thanks Lana. It’s so true. Those little things like grocery shopping have become real tests. I hope this year’s Thanksgiving, even if it doesn’t meet traditional expectations becomes a true sacrifice of praise! May it be so in my life and yours. Happy Thanksgiving Lana and thank you so much for reading and commenting.
You put it so well, Sylvia. How I need to be thankful for what God has DONE this year! Thanks for the good reminder.
Thanks so much Dwight. It’s a learning curve for sure for most of us! I appreciate you took the time to read and comment! Happy Thanksgiving.
While there may never be another opportunity to milk Dorothy, placing your hand on their chest (between their front legs) and pressing should get them to stand up again, and warming your hands before milking will make a much nicer milkee. 🙂 Just a couple of things cows taught me. Have had goat’s milk, but never milked one. I was like your mom; I didn’t like it either. Thank you for this wonderful blessing ma’am.
J.D. You would have been my guest to have-at Dorothy! We had cows too, but seriously not one of them ever got on top of the car. Our goats learned how to open gates. They worked together like a team. Let’s just change the subject. As always, thank you so much J.D. I love your comments and am honored you read the posts!!
But baby goats, jumping and running around, make me laugh !
Gotta admit, baby goats are the cutest and happiest little things. But, they do grow up, you know. Thanks!
Thank you Sylvia,. Your words always renew my focus in the right places. This time thankfulness through a goat.
Thank you Marilyn! I appreciate your encouragement!
Sylvia, your post is as meaningful as it is humorous. Thank you for a delightfully written story with a punch of truth: “Thankfulness has little to do with liking things.” What an important lesson you learned although you and Dorothy were not best friends.
Jeannie I would have been happy to introduce you to Dorthy! Thanks so much.
Oh My how the memories come flooding back! We too had a goat, much like your experience. 🙂 We even took a cd player out to play melodious music to calm us & the goat so we could milk. Needless to say since it was our idea for the goat she didn’t last long with us. What wonderful lessons we learn from these exasperating experiences! “Grace be unto you, & peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Happy Thanksgiving!!
Happy Thanksgiving. I never tried music, but I can see you out there with Dorthy! Thankful for you!
I’m reading again Ann Voskamp 1000 Gifts. Your post is timely for me. Thank you!
That is a great book to read about now! Thank you!
I enjoyed this so much, Sylvia!
Thank you Susan. Glad you enjoyed it!
Thank you, Sylvia. Lessons from life are always right in front of us. You are an astute observer … and writer.
Not baaaaaaaaad for a goat story!
You had to do that didn’t you? Thanks Don. Happy you found it not Baaaaaaaad!
I love goats!!
But of course, I am a kid of the suburbs and have never owned one!!
Actually I have softened through the years. I love the babies. But as we know they grow up…Thanks Nancy!!