Little Miss Kalamity spent her very first day strutting around the yard telling the other goats all about how she wasn’t from here, she was from a far better family, and not only that, she was going to be boss one day. Now my goats do not take kindly to newcomers. And the only thing my little tight-knit clique of does dislikes more than a new arrival is a braggart of any stripe. My gang of girls immediately began what can best be described as a class in attitude adjustment, complete with some particularly enthusiastic head butting and several dramatic ear grabs, culminating in a manic multi lap race around the circumference of the goat yard whereupon Kalamity, rather than accept the idea of putting a little effort into working her way up from the bottom, simply climbed the fence to the sheep yard and chased them around for a while. The sheep rolled their eyes and discussed feeding her to the cow in the adjacent grass paddock. With the goats running clockwise around the goat yard, the sheep running counter-clockwise around theirs, and the little provocateur scaling the fence from one side to the other in an effort to keep both bunches of beasts spinning as fast as possible, all we could do was stand there in jaw-dropping astonishment. And this was only day one.
The most astonishing aspect of this whole show was not that she had two herds of normally docile creatures all riled up and running in circles. No, it wasn’t that at all. The most amazing thing was the way she got over the fence. Kalamity didn’t check for a weak spot and push her way through nor did she take a running jump or even bounce off a wall, she climbed. She stood up with her front hoofs pulling on the uppermost rail then alternated placing her hind legs on each of the lower rails as if she were a person climbing stairs. When she got to the top she turned around and reversed the process. Each time she landed safely on the ground she’d proudly dust herself off, then get back to the business of making the other animals crazy.
The very next morning, in an effort to top her performance of the day before Miss Kalamity got her head stuck in the hay rack. In almost two decades of caring for assorted animal charges we had never, ever, had a creature of any species get its head caught in a hay feeder. It just didn’t happen. But there she was, head jammed through where the rack screwed into the wall, letting out the occasional bleat, more as an invitation to marvel at her creativity than a call for assistance. After a reasonable amount of admiration and a twenty minute battle with an obstinate screw she was off to her next adventure. As it turned out, getting stuck in things was one of her fortes. On an afternoon when the goats were out clearing brush on the southern edge of the garden we got a frantic call from one of the neighbors. Miss Kalamity, it seems, had tired of eating the wild roses, poison ivy and maple saplings on our property and was trying to get to the wild roses, poison ivy and maple saplings on the neighbor’s. In the process she and the goat following behind her had become tangled in the admittedly inadequate stretch of fencing separating the two properties. While Shana, the other goat, usually smart enough to be immune to a really bad idea, was standing wholly unharmed but quivering with fear, Kalamity was beaming. Cut loose Shana clung to me like a frightened toddler. She didn’t eat for three days after that. But plucky little one-year-old Kalamity took a single celebratory leap, then bounded toward the barn and Julia, eager to tell the llama about her latest escapade.
At feeding time she began to half jump, half climb over the Dutch door to the horse and donkey paddock for a little post-prandial exploration. From time to time she’d get her head stuck in the stall gates between feeding area and goat pen. Actually it was a pretty safe bet that any time she was confined and done eating, or a little bored she’d get her head stuck in something. But her favorite trick by far was to wait until we were gone, jump, climb and wiggle through a series of fences and gates in a sequence known only to her resulting in total freedom. The first one up to the barn, utterly flabbergasted, would find Kalamity roaming the garden, cool as you please, and drag her back to the goat enclosure all the while muttering “How’d she do that? How’d she do that?”’
Meanwhile her social skills hadn’t improved much since the first day. She kept trying to ingratiate herself with Gilda. The real herd boss and now a new mother, Gilda was not in the mood for any sucking up. Kalamity tried hanging around with Gilda and little Ella. Gilda ignored her. Even baby Ella ignored her – she knew an interloper when she saw one trying to lope in. She tried to eat with Gilda. Big mistake: Gilda finds the joys of sharing to be vastly overrated, especially where food is concerned. Each time Kalamity got too close, Gilda slammed her into another county. And each time Kalamity got slammed she would dash back past quivering Shana, flighty Zoe, stubborn Emma, curious Nancy and the rest right back to Gilda, the boss who does not share, back with the inexhaustible hope that she would be seen for the truly amazing creature she was—fence climber, escape artist, contortionist, inventive lover of high adventure—and be invited to the inner circle of bossness.
Any time there is commotion in the goat yard Kalamity is right there in the middle. Taking her to be bred (in the hope that a belly full of babies would make it a little harder to jump fences) resulted in an unprecedented demonstration of evasive wriggling. She still pokes her head wherever it will fit and some places it doesn’t. And Gilda still spurns her advances with a haughty eye and a crack of foreheads. But just a few days ago a now sort of teenage Baby Ella started spending more time with her.
We knew we were in for it when we saw the 007 on her ear tag. What we didn’t know was what we were in for was a lesson.