Lone Star Hoofenanny April 5-7
Saturday morning was warm but the air was humid and heavy with rain. The USFS rangers had spread flyers around the campground inviting people to our packgoat "meet 'n' greet" at 9:00, but most of the campground had already cleared out ahead of the approaching storms. However, one couple and one family showed up and they were a good audience. None of them had ever heard of a packgoat before and Finn and Sputnik were good representatives.  

We had our class under the pavilion where we could stay dry. 

Sputnik showed off a basic crossbuck saddle. He was a funny boy. When I was done using him for demonstrations, I tied him up out of the way where I thought he would be no trouble. WRONG! He's a goat, isn't he? Sputnik kept reaching over and pulling down the equipment I had draped over the rail. I scooted them further and further from his reach, but he simply reached further each time. When I finally managed to get everything out of his way, he started hunching his back and attempting to spray like a buck (unsuccessfully, thank goodness, but these displays are always rather embarrassing!). I slapped his rump a couple of times to make him stop, so he got up on his hind legs and began gnawing on the beams of the pavilion and then clacking horns with Finn. He was really quite full of himself and was determined to remain the center of attention. I did eventually bring him back onstage so he could show off his tricks and he was immensely pleased to be once more in the limelight. What a ham!  

The spectator crowd left after the demonstration, so there was plenty of time for the rest of us to enjoy riding the cart before lunch! There was a nice, big paved loop around the pavilion and playground which was perfect for carting. Sputnik was eager to get going but not so eager to go without Finn. He was a bit torn on what he wanted to do, but he was mostly obedient when we asked him to leave his buddy. He only needed a couple of minor corrections to keep him from cutting across the grass. Connie took the first turn and you can tell from her face how much fun she had!  

Connie's husband Robert took the next turn. He used to drive trotting horses at Belmont racetrack in New York as a teenager! 

Next up was Kim Fox. Kim joined us early Saturday morning after an adventure trying to find the campground on Friday night. We were so glad she was able to make it!  
Lunchtime came, and with it came the rain! It drummed down while we ate lunch under the roof and our goats stayed dry in their trailers. Kim brought honey mead to share. I'm not a drinker myself, but I'm sure it helped keep the others warm! 

The rain stopped again after lunch and we brought all the goats to the pavilion for hoof trims. All of Connie and Robert's goats needed some work on their hooves and I was happy to show them a few things. Kim's Toggenburg goat, Lucas, had never had his feet trimmed but they were beautiful! He's one of those remarkably low maintenance goats whose feet keep themselves in order. I only took off a little here and there where the hooves were about to break off on their own anyhow.  

We also tried some different saddles on some different goats to see where they did and didn't fit, and we compared designs and discussed the pros and cons of each. I got to try out a Butt-Head saddle for the first time since Kim had just bought it for her goat. 

After saddle fitting was over, Phil broke out his fiddle and played for everyone. Sputnik and Lucas were both alarmed and intrigued.  

Lucas liked the fiddle more than Sputnik and stayed glued in front of Phil the whole time while Sputnik kind of backed away. 

Finn got exiled to an outside picnic table about halfway through the afternoon after he disgraced himself by butting heads with another goat while Connie was in the way. He grazed her with his horn in passing and while he didn't hit her hard enough to hurt, it startled her and made me angry. I gave him a thorough dressing-down and dragged him outside to stand by himself at the picnic table for the rest of the afternoon. He was quite upset at being left out, but he must understand that he cannot spar with other goats if there is a person in the middle!   

Dark settled and the rain that had threatened us all day finally made its debut with a great fanfare of thunder and lightning. It was a rowdy night, and there were a few times when the lightning got a little close for comfort. There were some tornado warnings in the area, and Linda, the park ranger who we worked with most, had unlocked an extra bathroom in case the weather got too intense and all of us needed to take shelter in the cinder block building with our goats. Thankfully the weather never got nearly that bad, but we greatly appreciated the gesture. 

The rain stayed with us through Sunday morning. Phil took some last-minute photos of a few of the goats. This is Robert and Connie's little Frankie, a yearling Kiko wether with a very sweet personality. 

Robert and Connie tethered their goats to some benches that were solidly cemented into the ground. The ground was so soggy their screw-in stakes weren't holding very well. This is Sprite, Blackie, and Butterscotch. Sprite is a wonderful and beautiful Nubian but is terrified of people at the moment because of too many vet things that had to be done to him in a short span of time. I wish I'd been able to spend more time with him because I felt we were already starting to make friends by the last day. Blackie is a sweet, personable, and uncomplicated little Nubian. I started teaching him to shake hands and I think he will be a quick learner once he realizes he can earn treats for tricks! Butterscotch is a Kiko with an attitude right now and has been challenging Connie. He challenged me when I first went to pet him and I had to lay down the law with him a bit. Hopefully he'll turn a corner soon with a bit of work.  

Kim brought her 3-year-old Toggenburg wether, Lucas and his little Tog/Nigerian dwarf side-kick named Rosalyn. Lucas was shy and skittish but started warming up to me by the last day. He needs to get out more so he can learn that new people and new things won't hurt him. He also needs to learn to be careful of his horns! Rosalyn is just a sweet, curious little baby right now and I think she mostly came along to keep Lucas company, but it was fun to get to know her a little bit. 

Me and my boys. Sputnik really didn't want to take pictures. He wanted to get to work on that grass! 

Phil and I took a final walk to the end of the earth dam next to our campsite to let the boys do some last-minute grazing before we packed up and headed back to Colorado. 
Ok, now it's time for a little show-off session. Or maybe I'll rework it as a "training clinic" so I can pretend that it's not about boasting. Wink  Finn gave us a textbook-perfect example of how a well-trained goat should cross water and I can't help but post the whole thing.  

During our final walk, there was a small corner of the lake that I wanted the boys to wade through. Finn and Sputnik must have decided to trade personalities, or else Finn was trying to make up for his disgrace the previous day because Finn is usually sticky about crossing water and Sputnik generally plunges right in. This time they were the opposite. I grabbed Finn first and he demonstrated the kind of water crossing I didn't know was achievable with goats!   

Finn approaches the water with interest, and while he's slightly hesitant, he's not resisting. There is slack in the lead. I am neither dragging nor coaxing him toward the water. 

I have now put a little gentle tension on the lead--enough to show Finn that I DO want him to follow me into the water and not avoid it by leaping over the narrow spot to the left--and he is responding beautifully. He's stepping down the bank cautiously but without balking.  

And here he is, walking nicely across. The lead is short but I have very little tension on it. The bottom is very uneven and I'm not sure whether it might be slippery in spots, so I keep Finn close so I can grab onto him if I lose my footing.  

And we have achieved the crossing! "Good boy, Finn!" He gets a cookie.  

Now for the hard part... There is a deep spot right under the wall and I'm not sure if Finn will step down into it, especially now that the water is murky and we can no longer see the bottom. 

"Bravo, Finn!!" He steps right down into the water without hesitation, and he is not startled by the initial depth, nor by the steep, unseen climb to shallower water. 

Now it's Sputnik's turn! Sputnik is usually not too concerned about water. When we go hiking and there's a creek crossing, Finn always takes the log bridge or finds a spot narrow enough to jump while Sputnik plows right through the water. But Sputnik isn't too keen on this pond for some reason. You can see the tension on the lead and Sputnik's body straining against the pull. 

Luckily, Sputnik is very motivated by food. A treat from my pocket persuades him to plunk those first two feet in, but his braced posture tells us he's not happy about it. 

After that he crosses pretty easily, but not with Finn's nonchalance. Once again, I'm holding my goat close so we can support each other on the uneven, invisible bottom. I love the way Finn is looking down from above. I think he feels superior. "I did it better, Sputnik!" And I admit--Finn DID do it better. On the way back, Sputnik balked before suddenly jumping down into the deep spot. He made a big splash and soaked the back of my pants, so I got to be wet for the rest of the morning. Unfortunately, Phil did not manage to get a picture.    

It was not a good place to introduce inexperienced goats to water--the banks were steep, the footing was muddy and uneven, and there was an obvious narrow spot where they could easily evade the water--but it was perfect for advancing the training of experienced water-crossers. I love to take every opportunity to expose our boys to new things and reinforce and strengthen old lessons. I was pleased that although there was an easy spot right next to us where the boys jump across, neither one even thought about shimmying over and "cheating." This makes me feel good about the training foundation we've built with these boys. Had they been loose they would certainly have jumped the narrow place and avoided dampening their hooves, but with the leashes on they knew we wanted them to follow us into the water and they did not try to debate the point. It's wonderful when your goat has reached that level of training where he doesn't waste time arguing with you. When they're younger and just starting to learn, it feels like they'll never be compliant or easy to manage. I remember disappointedly comparing Finn and Sputnik to old Cuzco a few years back, and I despaired that I would ever have another goat as good as Cuzco on the trail. But as I look back, I think Finn and Sputnik are now as good or better than Cuzco was, and they continue to improve all the time. Training isn't something that happens all in one day or even in one year. It's a slow process, but as we continue to work with our goats a little at a time, we look back and realize we've come a very long way.
Now that I'm done bragging about my goats, I'm going to take a moment to brag about the wonderful folks at Davy Crockett NF, and in particular I want to give a shout-out to Linda Reynolds who worked with us. Not only did she make it possible for us to use the campground with the pavilion and running water bathrooms, but she actually posted "reserved" signs around the entire circle of campsites that we had not paid for so we wouldn't get other campers in our spot. Granted, the weather meant that overcrowding never became an issue that weekend, but it was wonderful of her to be so thoughtful.

Linda gave me her card and said that if folks want to have more packgoat events in Texas and need to work with rangers in other parks, they can call her and she'll give us a good report. She also said she would be willing to talk to the state park people if we want to pursue having the Texas state parks open their regulations to packgoats. I'm very excited to have her on our side!

The coolest thing about Linda is her goat story. She has deep roots in that part of Texas. When I first met her, she said she knew a lot about packgoats and I was immediately intrigued and asked how. Her grandfather, she said, cut cedar trees to make fenceposts for the area, some of which are still standing in various parts of what is now Davy Crocket NF. Her grandfather did not use horses or mules for the work of hauling out logs. He used goats! He had a string of nine big goats that pulled the logs on travois. The man would cut the cedars, tie them in bundles, then load them on the goats to drag out of the woods. Linda's grandfather didn't like working with mules or horses for that kind of work (he kept one mule for plowing the garden, but that's all it did). No, he preferred to use his faithful, hardworking goats!
Thanks Nan. What a great adventure story. Bummer about the weather. We had fun camping next to Connie and Robert last year at the Rendy. Hope to see them again this year.
Thanks, Irene. Trip to WY was looking pretty "iffy" for us but looking more doable now. Hope to see you all again.
Oops! I mean Nancy...."Oldtimers" disease again!
Good, I hope you can make the long hall. We travel to Buffalo every few years to visit our friends there. It is an 11 hour drive so we do it over 2 days when we have the goats.
Nan, we were so taken by Sputnik and.the ride he gave us, we made 8x10 prints of.the pictures above.to frame.and hang today. We don't even have pics of our own babies hanging anywhere.

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