We didn’t expect the goats. Then again, goats are nothing if not unexpected (is that a triple negative or a double?). We had been warned that The Feather was community grazing land and that there were sheep, attack horses and possibly stink-eyed bulls roaming around, but nothing was said about goats. Things were said about food and how not to take any with you. Things were also said about being ready to run fast. Speculations were made as to whether we three could outrun a herd of horses (two said no, one said “climb a tree”). But goats just never came up.
Feathers weren’t even in the original plan for the day. I like to have a plan on these journeys if for no other reason than it gives you something to edit. It also makes me sound like one of those organized mothers and gets me in the mindset necessary for putting together provisions for our forays.
“It’s important for the explorer to be willing to be led astray.”
– Roger Von Oech
We never stick to the plan. Our initial intention was to go to The Grumpy Goat Gallery, swing through Laurie Legrow‘s place and possibly round it out with a visit to Linda Lewis, thus hitting about half of our goaty friends and visiting some neat people. But we gang aft agley, as the good poet would tell us.
Cara had mentioned The Feather in a previous visit and had given us the impression that it was a splediferous and beautiful place. We bookmarked it mentally and promptly forgot about it until we were at their house. Then we casually mentioned that we might take a stroll out. There was a pretty hefty pause at that point. That was when the news about attack horses and stink-eyed bulls came out. I wasn’t too worried about the horses. I am fairly familiar with their body language and figured that we would be able to tell pretty quickly if they were something to worry about. The bulls though….. if there were any of those around at all, I was leaving and fast.
I do not like bulls. I do not like them even one little bit, not even when they are cute and small and harmless. There were once bulls let loose to roam near our summer house on Exploits Islands and I have vivid memories of being chased by them and dreading going to the outhouse (which was never the pinnacle of my day anyway) for fear of encountering one and being trapped in there for hours. I prefer my bulls sliced and on a barbeque, medium rare.
So with some trepidation, but a heady amount of determination, we opted to at least take a look at the place and scope out the lay of the beasts.
We drove to Bryant’s Cove, took the first right turn after the fish plant/beach area and followed it right to the end, at which stood a path that forked, with each tine ending in a gate. We took the right fork, as it seemed to head in the direction in which we wanted to go. After entering and closing the gate securely to prevent a repeat of a certain incident in which sheep were chased up and down a Road in Point Lance*, we sauntered along the path, hoping not to see bulls and preparing to run, if necessary.
*We don’t discuss that episode in Point Lance (near Cape St. Mary’s, for those who are wondering). Let’s just say that lambs are slippery little buggers, mama sheep are tricksy and wicked and mud is slippery and leave it at that. All sheeps were repenned and unharmed in the end. My dignity is still stuck halfway down a slope somewhere on the Southern Shore.
The welcoming committee set us at ease quite quickly.
This herd of goats walked right up to us and investigated us thoroughly.
Some looked tremendously pregnant, so we left them alone completely, although this girl came over to say hello nonetheless.
John had his camera with him and knelt down to take some photos, presenting a unique opportunity. How often do you get to take a picture of your husband with (count ’em) four goat arses?
Or five? I wonder what the most number of goat arses in a photograph with a lawyer might be? Is there such a record?
Of course, when you’re crawling around on the ground, taking pictures of a slightly blurring goat’s behind, someone is bound to ask questions:
There were several different sorts of goats in the herd. I’m no expert, but I think these might be a mixture of Pygmy or Saanen and Boer. In any event, the youngsters were having a great time climbing over the old wrecks. They were also chewing the paint off, which would probably kill any other animal.
And there were sheep. Everywhere. The goats and sheep were delightfully friendly, which is really weird for sheep. Sheep are twitchy, nervous creatures who usually need a darned good reason to come near strangers and fly in the opposite direction when you sneeze slightly. These were not those sorts of sheep. Presumably all of these animals are being fed by the entire community, since they seemed certain that we were there to provide a meal.
We were about to walk further in after communing with the goats when I heard what I thought was a moo. Having bulls on the brain, I jumped a bit and looked frantically around for the source of the noise.
And there he was.
Standing in the middle of the trail.
A truly magnificent billy goat.
A truly magnificent billy goat who had NOT been told that we were there, was late for the party and was obviously quite miffed that he might have missed out on any food going around.
He turned out to be as gentle as the rest of them and was mollified to find that we had not brought any food in with us at all, since not being the only one to not get food made not getting food more palatable. Goats are complex.
So we walked some more. The clouds had rolled in about an hour before, but the sun continued to peek out here and there, casting golden rays across an already dramatic landscape.
We passed old rock walls, obviously thrown up in piles to clear the area for gardens ages ago. Sheep dotted the landscape and munched lazily. It was quite idyllic, really.
I was quite beginning to relax, since not one bull (nor one splatter of bull-processed grass) had we encountered. The sheep and goats were gentle and…. small. Bulls are not small. I was keeping a sharp eye out for bull droppings. I had identified goat, sheep and horse, but saw no sign of bull.
But the horses, they caught us just as we were reaching the final section of the trail. I counted eighteen of them and they came at us en mass. An initial scouting party was deployed to investigate our potential.
I was a little concerned at first, not because of any behaviour on the part of the horses, but because Katherine is small and breakable by comparison with a horse and six horses is a lot of horse, ponies or no. My fears were needless, though. These creatures were mercenaries. They weren’t interested in hostages. They didn’t need women or children. They were after food.
And we, acting on the advice of Pam and Cara, didn’t have a crumb with us.
I use the word “horses”, but many of these were, in fact, ponies. Not one of them was malicious or bad-tempered. They didn’t even have any of those rude habits like nipping, biting, head swinging or leaning, all of which I was watching for. In general, they were some of the nicest and best-socialized horses I’d ever met.
They did give us a good shake-down, though. If we’d had an apple, I’m sure they’d have found it and opened a zipper to get at it. I’m also not sure how their behaviour might have changed if there had been one apple amongst eighteen horses and we happened to be in the middle of it all. So not bringing food was a really good call.
I’m not completely horse-savvy, but this female seemed rounder than the others. I was wondering if she was in foal. She was also the only one who stayed away from the rest of the herd.
There were three our four white or grey horses with brown flecks in their coats. This one wanted to see if John’s camera was made by Apple.
After they figured out that we were nutritionally impoverished, they ditched us and went back to the grass. So we made our way out to the tip and had a look out at Carbonear Island.
Looking back inland was also quite dramatic.
As we headed back to the car, the horses were unfazed by us.
With the exception of one, who seemed more interested in our company than our food. Quite a sociable sort, really, who taught me an important lesson.
When you are using a wide-angle lens with a F2.8 aperture, the focal distance of a shot like this:
…is about one foot. And approaching quickly.
Objects in the camera may be closer than they appear.
And that’s no bull.