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Johnny

April 25, 2011

During Easter vacation we customarily would spend the week off of school up in Frasnedo (our village in the Alps — 1300m) and this was usually when the newborn goats arrived. If the mamas hadn’t been put in the stable preemptively, they would go into hiding and deliver in nature, in a hole somewhere. It was then up to us to find them and bring everybody home. This operation was often tragic, ending in the mama crushing the newborns, or dying of an infection because we weren’t there to get the placenta out properly, or everyone freezing to death from a late snowstorm.

Goat kids are very rambunctious and playful. After naming them we would slowly get to know them and them us. Over the summer we would grow even closer, up in the pastures (2000/3000m). The daily routine of rising early, and hiking up the slopes, then bringing the whole flock down to our cabin, milking, handing out salt, dried chestnuts and dry bread, involved a lot of calling and talking and cussing. One summer I particularly grew friendly with one young buck called Johnny. This one was very exuberant and never quite lost the early playfulness. Johnny and I often would play-fight, head-butting, he with his head and I with my knuckles. He’d follow me like a puppy and partake in every one of my chores.

Growing up in the Alps I often had to help in the slaying of various animals, mostly goats. By mid August, most of all the male goat kids born on Easter would have to be killed. And so it came the time when Johnny had to go. It is a strange relationship that the farmer has with his/her domesticated animals. We used to say that our grandma Ida loved her cow Biunda more than most every other human being. On one hand, we ended up eating our Johnny, on the other hand, he would never have been born otherwise. By any objective standard, Johnny had a wonderful, albeit short, life. Full of adventure, friendship, sunshine, and healthy Alpine water and grass.

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