Goat-O-Rama's TEXAS Goat Vacation
Phil and I usually take a spring vacation, but never before has it involved goats! Goat vacations are usually reserved for summer (Rendy) and fall. But this happened to be a good year to include goats on our spring trip. Most of my grandparents are in their 90's now and can't travel any more, so if I want to see them, and if they want to see my goats, me and the goats have to do the traveling. I've been afraid that if I didn't get down there soon, I might not see them until there's a funeral. All of my grandparents are fascinated by our goats and ask about them any time we talk. Some of them even rode Cuzco's cart many years ago when we lived in Lake City. When I said I'd go down for a visit, all of them asked if I'd be bringing goats, so I said yes! And since I was headed to Texas with goats, it only seemed natural to also call up some NAPgA members and organize a small packgoat get-together while we were there! 

The fun times started on the last day of March when I visited my mother's mother, who we call Bitty. Bitty is around 92 or 93 years old and she lost "Poppy" almost 15 years ago. She lives in her own house in the suburban McKinney sprawl and my aunt Laura lives with her and takes care of her. Bitty was thrilled when I told her we were bringing goats. She wanted us to put them in her little back yard so we could watch them through the window while we visited.     

Bitty spent a little time petting Finn through the back door, but she couldn't manage anything more because it was very cold that day. We had been hoping to get her out for a goat cart ride, and if the weather had been nice I'm sure she would have loved to take a spin through the neighborhood! But elderly people and cold, windy weather don't mix very well, and since Bitty broke her hip last summer she has to take it easy. 

Finn was gentle and affectionate, which was a good thing because he's taller than Bitty! 

My aunt Marva and my cousin Erin live a few miles from Bitty in an almost identical-looking suburban neighborhood. I'd go crazy living in one of these places. Miles and miles of countryside north of Dallas have been carpeted by McMansions laid out in over-planned neighborhoods with mazes of streets and houses that all look alike. Goats look very out-of-place in these settings, but that actually makes it fun to take them there and see the looks on people's faces! 

My cousin Erin has four kids and all of them were eager to see the goats! We started off with a little goat show, and Sputnik even shook hands with the older two girls, Kinsey and Hadley. Then I hitched Sputnik to the cart and we gave them a ride. "WEEEEE!" It's a good thing I always hook the reins to the harness instead of the halter because kids sure love to haul away!      

Erin rode with her daughter Findlay. Findlay was very upset when the ride was over and didn't want to let anyone else take a turn. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth when Erin made her get off and share.

My aunt Marva rode with the youngest, Becket. He didn't seem overly impressed by the goats or the cart and he did not volunteer for a second ride, but Marva sure had a lot of fun!

Next day Phil and I visited Dan and Billie who live in downtown Dallas. My grandfather, Dan, is the one I was most eager to see because I have a feeling he is not long for this world. He's broken several bones in the last couple of years and he's been wheelchair-bound for the last year or so. He finally had to move into a nursing home full time last fall. He was a tall, articulate man with a deep, booming voice and a commanding presence who ran many big companies and important projects in his day. He is technically my step-grandfather, but he's always been much closer to all of his step-grandchildren than our biological grandfather. He and Billie were always so active, and it's hard to see them now in this stage of life. Dan can hardly communicate any more, so it's difficult to know what he's thinking, but I know he recognized Phil and I and he probably would have loved to engage us in conversation if he could have. We ate lunch together and Phil played his fiddle for a long time. Dan loved the music, but a feeble tapping of his hands was all he could manage. 

We were originally planning to wheel Dan across the street to the park and give him a goat cart ride, but the weather remained too cold and windy for Dan to go outdoors, so we left the goats behind for this visit. Dan and Billie thoroughly enjoyed the article I wrote about Cuzco in Goat Tracks magazine last year. They both loved Cuzco and took cart rides when we lived in Lake City. They have always been great animal lovers, so it's a shame we weren't able to share Finn and Sputnik with them on our visit. I fear there may not be a "next time" for Dan.     
During our time in the Dallas area, Phil and I stayed with my aunt Jana and uncle Peyton who live in Argyle. It used to be a small farming community near Denton, but it too is falling to the endless, creeping suburban beast. When I was a teenager I would visit during the summer and ride horses with my cousin Christy. There were many little farms and horse properties around the area, but now most of them appear to be gone or going. Jana and Peyton still have horses on their property, and it was a perfect place to keep Finn and Sputnik for a few days. The fencing was goat-proof and the pasture was full of clover so the goats were quite happy. 

Hilariously, the goats spent a large part of their time hanging out near the dog pen because they liked teasing the dog. They would rear up with their front hooves on the dog fence and eat the oak leaf buds hanging above it--not because oak leaf buds are so incredibly delicious, but because it drove the dog mad and he would run back and forth, barking and barking to try to make them get down.

Jana and Peyton invited all their kids (my cousins) with their families and a few friends over one evening for dinner. Most were able to attend and we kicked off the festivities with a little goat show in the horse pasture. Sputnik was a real ham. I'm amazed that he can still jump through this tiny hoop. I just wish the photo were from a decent angle!

Well, Phil caught the angle this time, but the goat decided to turn his circus act into a comedy routine. He ran off with the hoop around his neck, leaving the audience in stitches.  

Finn, his horns duded up, pulled the cart for everyone. My uncle Peyton was the first volunteer. He looks very proud perched on that seat!

The kids all had a great time. 

My cousin Travis was a wild man. He waved one arm like he was riding a bull and got Finn excited enough to trot! They were all a bit more sedate by the time I snapped this picture, but the beginning of that ride was something to see! (Not many people can convince Finn to run away from his friend Sputnik and his crowd of admirers!) 

Hold the reins tighter Ashley--he might run away with you!
After we left Jana and Peyton's, we traveled down to Granbury where we visited my grandfather Charles and his wife Dominique. They recently installed a small elevator in their house and we got to ride in it. I was told I needed to get a goat to ride in it too, but I don't think either one of our goats would have fit!

Sputnik took Dominique for a spin around her big, beautiful yard. 

Dominique looks so dignified. I think she was born to ride a goat cart!

Charles was less dignified, probably because we had to bribe, threaten, and coax him to give it a try. We finally convinced him to take a short spin. 

Not only were the goats supposed to ride the elevator, I was also told that we must have one of them pose on top of this big tortoise. Charles objected, however, on the grounds that the goats' hooves might damage the paint or dent the metal. So the goats stayed off the tortoise and Phil faked a shot of miniature Finn standing on giant shell.

Then I rode the tortoise! 

After that we went for a walk around the property. In addition to the huge, beautiful lawn and gardens up top, Charles has a series of stone walkways going down to the lake. Finn and Sputnik love stone stairs, and Charles had no end of amusement watching them climb up and down, nibbling the variety of tasty overgrowth as they went. 

Charles has placed several nice benches at strategic points along the pathway for both taking a rest and taking the view.

This overgrown patch of vetch was a particular favorite for the goats, and Charles loved watching them devour it.
We continued on to the boathouse where Finn made a thorough exploration of the dock. 

Sputnik wasn't so sure about getting too close to the edge near all that water. 

Back up to the top!

I have always loved Finn's intelligent, adoring eyes. He loves all things "people" and he looks for ways to engage. 

Sputnik, on the other hand, just wants to find more delicious things to eat! 

And here comes Charles!

We spent the rest of the afternoon lazing around in the sunshine on the grass, drinking in the sights and smells and sounds of Charles' peaceful yard. It was a beautiful afternoon, and I just love Texas in the springtime.

Our stately goats look very content on this stately lawn, don't they. I expected them to look out-of-place, but on the contrary they appear to fit right in.
Phil and I had really a special day with our goats after we left Charles and Dominique's house. My Aunt Jana asked if we would be able to visit her mother at an assisted living home only half an hour from Granbury. Our schedule was open, so Jana and her sister organized our visit with the nursing home's activities coordinator, and despite the chilly weather, every resident came out to meet Finn and Sputnik and take a ride in the goat cart! Unfortunately, all of our names got lost in translation and the advertisement printed up by the activities coordinator came out rather hilarious. 

This is my aunt Jana with her mother, Peggy. Peggy had goats her whole life growing up and adored them, which was what inspired Jana to ask if we could bring Finn and Sputnik to visit her. 

This wonderful gentleman (I think his name was Jerry) may have had the most fun of anybody. He was the first to volunteer for a ride, and he honked the horn all the way around the circle. He had a hard time talking, but he had absolutely no difficulty smiling! 

Mary was a little bit sneaky. She was one of the first to ride after Jerry, but after a few more people went, she got back in line and pretended she hadn't already ridden. Someone made the excuse that her memory was starting to fail, but I saw the crafty gleam in her eye. She knew exactly what she was doing and no one was going to tell her she'd already taken a turn! We weren't going to argue with her. [Image: wink.gif]   

Peggy finally got her ride. She'd raised Spanish and Cashmere goats, so she had never seen any as big as Finn and Sputnik. She was thrilled to have her first ride in a goat cart! 

Aileen (in the blue bath robe sitting down) spent a good bit of time holding onto Finn while Phil played his fiddle. Finn was a very good boy and let everyone pet and admire him. What a wonderful day! I would do this again any time. It brought so much joy to these wonderful folks who are now mostly housebound and no longer get to be around animals. 

I love how Finn towers over all these people, yet he's got such a calm, gentle presence 

Jana had never really stared into a goat's eyes before, let alone had one who stared back. Finn loves to gaze into people's eyes. 

The "Christian Hymns" advertised on the flyer turned out to be "Be Thou My Vision" (which is the one hymn Phil had music for) and a lot of traditional Scottish and Irish fiddle tunes. Everyone loved the music as much as they loved visiting the goats.   

Sputnik and Finn were both such good boys through all of this! Finn was patient, calm, and kind around all those frail old people with their scary walkers, canes, and wheelchairs. It was the first time our boys had experienced something like this and they were very well-behaved. Sputnik enjoyed pulling his cart. Every resident took a ride. One woman name Sue could not speak or walk at all, but she nodded when they asked if she wanted a ride. Three nurses had to lift her from her wheelchair and into the cart. Sputnik was nervous at having so many people crowding around his cart all at once, and he wasn't sure if he should stand still when the cart bumped and rolled as Sue got situated. He jumped when the nurses hastily flung a blanket over Sue, but I calmed him with cookies, and once we got underway he was fine again. 
After our visit to the nursing home, Jana took Phil and I out with her mother Peggy to a local BBQ joint called "The Purple Goat". The food was amazing! 

And they had a life-sized purple goat out front. 

The eyes and the little goat smile are perfect! 

After lunch we said our farewells and struck out for Crockett, TX to embark on our "Lone Star Hoofenanny" adventures. We stayed that night at the Warfield Bed & Breakfast which was located right next-door to a funeral home. Since no one was having a funeral that night, there was plenty of room to park our trailer. 

We took the goats for a walk around the back streets of Crockett and came across this army tank sitting near a park!
Phil really likes to pose with army tanks. 

Finn does too apparently. 
Ok, so something majorly messed up this evening and this thread somehow got deleted when I moved the nursing home photos over here from another thread. I was able to copy everything of mine over from another page where I still had the original thread opened, but I wasn't able to copy anyone's replies. So weird! Computers... sometimes they're just UGH!
Jana just sent me this sweet picture of me and Sputnik kissing after his performance as the nursing home. He was such a good goat that day. He deserved lots of kisses!  

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