Last Monday Primrose, our LaMancha doe, had twin bucklings. We woke up, and there they were, all healthy and happy, and Rosie was up and eating and drinking and causing trouble, as usual. Mu’aadh, my twelve year old son, named them Buffalo Bill and Wild Bill Hickock. Buffalo Bill was brown, and Wild Bill, gray. Congratulating ourselves for being clever enough to have such a wonderful creature in our herd, we left her to look after them.
Tuesday afternoon the babies were both missing, and Rosie was happily hanging out in the goat house. We mounted a search and found them in the field where the goats go to browse, sleeping. We returned them to their mother, quite sure that it was a fluke.
Thursday afternoon, I was on the phone when I looked out the window and saw that the goats had staged a breakout. They basically have our entire 25 acre property to browse on, with the exception of a small area directly adjacent to our house. The goats, of course, feel that this tiny bit of land must surely hold wonders that are not to be found anywhere else on the property. So they had gone through meadow and forest in order to browse by the storm shelter. I told the children to go and put them back in the field.
A few minutes later Maryam came in with the news that Wild Bill was nowhere to be found. Thinking of what had happened Tuesday – and mad at myself for not exiling Rosie and her babies to the goat pen – I told them to look all along where the goats had to have walked in order to get to the Land of Milk and Honey. After a half an hour or so, they came in and said they had not found him.
The clouds were moving in and there were only a couple of hours until sunset, so I went out and tried to look for him systematically. I walked the forest at the end of the orchard first, since that would have been the path of least resistance for the goats – something they value very highly. No Wild Bill. I then walked the field in a grid pattern, looking more with my peripheral vision than straight on, hoping that what worked for hunting small game would work for searching for small goats. It began to get dark a half an hour in; half an hour later it was full dark and raining, with the wind picking up.
I, of course, was crying for poor Wild Bill, out there without his mother.
So I walked, and cried, and snot poured out my nose as I thought what a whimpy homesteader I was, crying over a lost goat.
Eventually Hudhaifah, my older son, came out with a flashlight and helped me finish walking the field. Wisely, he stayed quiet as we walked and I berated myself for being a bad goatherd, and Rosie for being a bad mother after all. I mean, I had eight children, and to date I have never misplaced any of them. She, on the other hand, had lost two once, and now one again. Eventually the rain and wind became too strong, and we had to go in. Baby Asmaa and I kept bursting into tears over the loss of dear, sweet, Wild Bill.
The next morning Alice, my ever practical goat mentor, told me to suck it up and get out there and look again. The children and I looked in all the places we had looked on Thursday, as well as some places that really, if the goat had been there, we would have had to call him Houdini. No Wild Bill. Four days old, no milk for a day and a half, no protection from the elements; surely, Wild Bill had to no longer be in this world.
Saturday morning was busy, as I prepared to go and get a new computer. My old one had, in an act of solidarity with Wild Bill, completely crashed and burned. I had lost many files from my hard drive, and it was clear that it was the end for that erstwhile machine. I looked out the window and saw that Lily, our herd queen, was plotting an escape out by the fence. Maryam went out to foil her plans. When I looked out again, Maryam was walking back and forth, as though looking for something. She went into the goat pen and came out again, running to the house.
“I heard maaaa maaaaa maaaaa from somewhere. I was afraid it was Buffalo Bill, but he is in with Rosie.”
Could it be?? Could Wild Bill have possibly followed in the tough guy footsteps of his namesake and survived two and a half days away from his mother?
A few minutes later Nusaybah came in with a very thin, shivering, and chastened-looking Wild Bill Hickock in her arms. Apparently he had taken shelter in the upturned root system of a toppled tree, and had decided to remain silent the whole time we were looking for him We wrapped him up in towels and made him a bottle. Nusaybah held him and fed him. He finished it off in minutes. I left them there by the fire and went to look for a new computer.
When I returned, Wild Bill, wearing a diaper, was jumping around the living room like he had spring-loaded feet.
And so the saga of Wild Bill drew to a close. He is currently out in the goat house with his mother and Buffalo Bill, having a grand time. Alice said we should rename him Miracle; I think that Wild Bill suits him just fine.