The rescuing of goats

Something fundamental happens when friends and family gather together. Food is shared, wine is poured, and the stories begin to flow.  

I experienced this a week ago, staying in France to celebrate my mother's 70th birthday. We sat around the table outside, long in to the night - my aunt and uncle over from Johannesburg, friends and family from England and France, the farmer from across the road. We'd been brought together across the miles and languages to offer each other fragments of ourselves, of what it means to be us.

Familiarities were reaffirmed, experiences swapped, and stories (some more wonderfully taller than the next) were shared. We soaked up the words and the images conjured, each of us with our very own particular story to tell, different yet similar, surprising but familiar.

Such expansion and affirmation of our own place in the world, and what it means to be in it – these are, of course, the very foundations of story. And then there is the present moment, rapidly creating its own chapter within the whole story of life itself. A week together grew many a shared experience and story.

My most memorable story of the week was the one of the Goat Rescue

This happened not once, but twice. The first time went like this: I was pushing my bike up the last hill home, admiring the chickens and goats wandering free amongst the farmer's field. On the far side there appeared to be a small goat kneeling by the fence, its tail wagging frantically every now and again, and a bigger goat sitting near by, as if on guard. As I continued up the hill, the small goat stayed in exactly the same place, and the bigger goat got up and wandered around, appearing somewhat lost. This, I thought, wasn't right.

With no sign of the farmer, I dumped my bike and ran for help. Equipped with a pair of pink pliers, my partner and I were directed by my mother through a field of stingers next to the goat field. We approached the small goat, its head and one front leg well and truly caught in the fence. While I stroked and talked to it, and we tried to see how best to cut it free without causing too much distress, the bigger goat (clearly the mother) bleated and ran repeatedly towards us. With two firm cuts in the fence, the kid wriggled free and ran crying to its mother, butting her in the udder, and they both retreated to the cool of their wooden shack.

When the farmer reappeared, we told him of our rescue, and hoped that it had been the right thing to do. 'Yes, yes,' he said. And he pointed out a loose tile on our roof, in way of helpful exchange.

The second goat rescue went like this:

I sat in the garden, foot up on the table due to a swollen ankle, either from a bite or from an earlier leap off a sinking pontoon (that's another story). 'Listen, listen!' I said to my partner. 'Can you hear that?' The frantic bleating of goats floated up over the hedge. Unable to run myself, I sent my partner off to investigate. Within a couple of minutes he charged back up, straight to the farmer, who happened to be having a drink with my mother. Back down the hill my partner and the farmer went.

'So what happened?' I asked. The kid had been stuck again. This time, both parents had been crying out for help. The farmer had straddled the sorry creature, and wrenched it unceremoniously out from the fence. No soothing words, nor surgical cutting. 'Does this always happen?' My partner asked the farmer. Never before. He replied.

Now we are back home, the story of the curious goat continues, no doubt. Hopefully without a sorry end...

Don't forget to check out last week on Words & Pictures:

Monday's Ask a Picture Book Editor, takes you through the hoops of what happens once your story's been accepted
Tuesday's Ten Minute Blog Break, introduces a wonderful new logo by Melany Pietersen - and a handful of good reads
Wednesday introduces a fab new regular writing feature: Writers' Minds - first off, Jon Mayhew
Thursday's Events News brings a report of the Trailblazer SCBWI Panel Event, with Julia Churchill, and Network News brings South-East Coordinator, Jane Haryott's report on the SCBWI groups within the South East
Friday features another smile-inducing comic strip with Mudpie Mo, by Anna Violet
Saturday's Small Big Celebrations brings news of K M Lockwood's mentoring by Golden Egg

Nancy Saunders is the Editor of W&P. You can find some of her short stories here, and on Twitter @nancyesaunders

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