In January I regaled you all with the tale of Wild Bill Hickock, who, at the tender age of two days, left his errant mother and less adventurous sibling, Buffalo Bill, and wandered off into the woods. Thankfully, he was found after just a few days. If you missed the story of his departure and happy reunion with his family, both goat and human, take a minute to read it here. That story had a happy ending. This one, sadly, does not.
(Exit stage left, return with large box of tissues)
After his return, Wild Bill proved to be the sweetest little buckling of the bunch. That is saying a lot, because we had a run of seven bucklings this year, to only one doeling. He was affectionate and playful and generally an all-around good guy. We don’t treat our goats like pets, but we do our best to give them a healthy and happy home for the duration of their stay with us. In our two and a half years of having goats, we had not lost one.
I suspect you know where this is leading, so I will just get on with it and spill it.
One night in April, Mu’aadh came in and said that Wild Bill had cut himself, and had a hole in his side “with something sticking out.” That sounded very ominous, but Mu’aadh does see everything through a super-excited lens. Upon inspection, though, his description was totally on point. The hole was maybe two inches around and something, maybe the intestine, was bulging out.
At this point I tried to think like a homesteader, and decide if it would be worth it to try to get him to the vet, or simply dispatch him and put him out of his pain. It being Wild Bill, he-who-miraculously-survived-his-wilderness-sojourn, I was inclined to take him to the vet no matter what. Not being sure what to do, and not wanting to make an emotional decision, I called our friend Mike. He asked a few questions about the injury, then said what I had been pretty sure he would say before I even picked up the phone.
“I’ll be there in twenty minutes!”
While we waited for him to come, Hudhaifah went out and tried to keep Wild Bill calm. Goats don’t deal well with trauma, and they had some difficulty keeping him from getting up and walking. Nusaybah got gauze and tape to try and cover the wound, but I was afraid it might make it more difficult for the vet to work on. Juwairiyah offered some of her babysitting money for the vet bill, and said that we should give Mike some brownies because, “If he’s going to try to save Wild Bill, then he can have some brownies.”
Mike arrived and drove past me out to where Hudhaifah was cradling Wild Bill in his lap. Hudhaifah climbed into the truck, holding Bill and talking quietly to him. Before I got in the truck, Mike told me it was a lot worse than he had expected, and that Hudhaifah seemed pretty distraught. He may have been, but he was a champ all the way to the vets, talking quietly to Wild Bill and keeping him, for the most part, calm. I didn’t see the wound again until we arrived at the vet’s and it had, indeed, gotten much worse. It was a gaping hole, and it was clear that what was inside was on its way to coming out.
Once inside, Doctor Ann Dye of Mo Cat and Cow (BEST vet in Missouri, and her husband is a REAL cowboy!) and her husband took Bill back. The three of us sat in the waiting room and talked quietly while they worked on him. A colorful bird in a cage commented once in awhile, obviously not impressed with our late night visit to his space.
I’m not sure how long it was before Dr Dye and her husband came out carrying Wild Bill in a colorful blanket slung between them. They put him on the scale. He was awake and calm. His side was stitched up and honestly, when I saw the extent of the stitching, I felt in my heart that he probably wouldn’t make it. The doctor said that there was a lot of debris in the wound from when he got up and tried to move around, and that it was pretty extensive. Her husband said that when something like that happens, it is best to put a Ziploc type baggy over the wound to protect it from contamination. The heavy plastic won’t stick to the wound like gauze would. Our best guess as to how it happened was that he somehow cut or impaled himself on the top of one of the metal posts on the goat pen fence ( we have since covered them all). She said he wasn’t out of the woods yet, and asked if we wanted him to stay overnight. I said yes, thinking he would be more comfortable there in a nice, clean environment.
On the long ride back home I thought a lot about Wild Bill, and the responsibility of raising livestock. You can read fifteen books on the subject (and I’ve read more than that) but you don’t know what you can do until you are in the midst of it, just doing it. Knowing the extent of his wounds and that goats are not great with trauma, I was afraid that he wouldn’t make it. Still, I did allow myself a little bit of hope.
Well, you can guess the rest from the title of this post. The next day Mike called to say that he had talked with the vet, and Wild Bill didn’t make it. She offered to dispose of his body for us, and I agreed, thankful that we would be spared that, at least, for now. The children were sad when I told them, but Maryam said right away, “Well, we know he had a good and happy life.”
So that is Wild Bill’s epithet: “He had a good and happy life” Not bad for a goat that was both sweet and spirited.
Goodbye, Wild Bill. You were a good fellow, and I am thankful that we did all we could to do our best by you.