Our Goats, of Blessed Few Memories

Today I sold five of our goats in one blow, and I’m feeling shook up by the whole thing.

Most of our 6 or so females calved recently, and I’d started milking one who had an excess of milk for her kid. It was getting to be too crowded, in my opinion, what with a few others who were either too small, or male. I photographed one of the females who had given birth to two, and uploaded the picture to Yad2.co.il, for sale. She had small round teats anyway, that I knew would be hard to milk. I gave a semi-educated price of 1,500 shekels for her and her two kids.

Almost immediately I started getting calls. One man, an Arab from the Be’er Sheva area, who claimed he was a doctor at Soroka hospital, immediately began to question me about the other two goats who happened to appear next to the object of sale in that picture (what a fateful position for those goats, it would turn out).

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“Yes, I guess they are available for sale too,” I answered. One was a female born to us about 8 months ago, with delicately curving horns. Though full grown, she never really outgrew adolescent dimensions. I was open to parting with her; she didn’t seem pregnant either. The other was a male probably about 4 months old, who was born to us but loaned by my husband to a neighbour until about a month ago, when he suddenly reappeared in the goat pen; I guess my husband had brought him back. We don’t need so many males I had thought to myself, and I had kind of planned to sell him too.

So I told Ibrahim, the doctor, that I’d consult with my husband, but I think they’re available. Barak wasn’t sure who I was referring to, till I showed him the photo on my phone which I had posted to Yad2. He said it was fine, and left the house again. I called Ibrahim back. I explained that I wouldn’t sell just the female without her kids, or vice versa, because they’re still nursing, but I’d sell them as a package. He wanted an offer for all of them. “I’m not very good at that,” I insisted. “That’s my husband’s department. Talk to him.” “No, you seem very nice,” he replied. “You give me an offer. They’re yours too, aren’t they?” I said I could give him an offer but I’d have to run it by my husband. “2,500 shekels for all five.” We agreed I’d ask Barak, and if it was a go, he’d send someone over that very evening or tomorrow. Barak was not at all pleased with my price but came over to discuss it with Ibrahim in my presence. Good old Ibrahim then pressed us for more of discount. He was coming all the way from Be’er Sheva, the gas, and what if he got a ticket for transporting goats in his car? Barak, having thrown himself on the blue La-Z-boy chair, listed to him on the speaker and seemed to be reluctantly caving. We settled on a 100 shekel discount, 2,400 for all five. Ibrahim would come the next day. We hung up. I said it no longer sounded like a good deal to me, and Barak reminded me that I always post our animals for too cheap. I needed to start our offer high, and only then give discounts. I said I’d call off the deal, as Barak left the house.

I called Ibrahim and apologised, but I had to call off the deal. He wouldn’t take that for a final answer, and asked to speak to Barak. I gave him his number but he soon called back, saying Barak was unavailable. I walked out of the house while still on the line with him, till I saw Barak and told him to talk to pick up. What I honestly had in my mind was that Barak would either insist on a fair price, or just give him that final no. When I didn’t hear back from Ibrahim the rest of the night, I thought that was what had happened.

Later that night Barak told me in semi-amazement, that he had given in. Ibrahim had kept him on the phone for an hour, said his kids had already seen the picture of the goats and were excited. Barak was as weak as I, as it turned out.

The next day, while I was at school, many unfamiliar numbers called, but since Barak’s number was also on the advertisement, I was glad to let him field those calls. Later I found out Barak’s phone was dead (he was out working with his father, through whom I got in contact with him), and I fielded a few calls myself. Several of the callers were definitely Jewish, judging by the accent, and I romanticised them as ethical Yidden, not the kind that would haggle to death. But I told them the goats might have been sold, I’d have more information later in the day when I’d be home. I hoped Ibrahim wouldn’t call, and I said that to Barak, as I drove home from school.

But Ibrahim did, and I had to tell him what time Barak would be home, what time he could make his way over.

In the afternoon I saw Barak as he separated the targeted goats to the chicken coop. He wasn’t confident at first who the mother goat’s kids were, but as he dragged her out, we both noticed which kids took notice and became restless, and he employed me to catch them and take them out of the pen. We put them in the chicken coop, adjacent to the property entrance, so Ibrahim wouldn’t have a reason to venture in farther and see what else we have on the farm.

I became very anxious during the operation. This wasn’t a fair deal, and Ibrahim was already on his way. I should’ve consulted with him about the price before ever posting them, Barak reminded me. They’ve been here for ages. What’s the sudden rush to get rid of them? Does he raise them for free?

I said I’d call Ibrahim right now. I felt confident that I’d convince him to turn around or be prepared to pay more. I called. No answer. Sent two text messages about the repercussions on our domestic bliss this transaction was having, and about the unjustness of being cornered into such a poor price. Ibrahim called back. “It’s not such a great deal, believe me. We’ll sit over coffee and I’ll make you feel better. Maybe I’ll buy a few other things while I’m there.”  I wasn’t sure that with the prices this guy likes to pay it was worth selling him anything else, but I gave him the address to enter into Waze. I hung up bemoaning my own lack of resolve.

About two hours later he arrived. I was with Shmaaya and Shalva, picking wild greens in the dark, and I offered to take them to the chicken coop, where Abba was selling a man some of our goats. I’m not sure why I do things like that. I greeted Ibrahim, who was in the chicken yard, coldly, and he greeted me back, shining his cellphone flash light in my face. We followed him, his escort, and Barak into the chicken coop, and I overhead Ibrahim asking Barak about the price of a rooster. I warned Barak not to sell him anything for cheap. Ibrahim asked me if I was angry at him. I admitted that I was mostly angry at myself. Ibrahim pleaded, pointing to the big fancy jeep they came in: “that’s not a cheap car to drive all the way out here from Be’er Sheva!” “So what?” I replied. “There were callers who would’ve come from Lod!”

Shmaaya and Shalva watched as Abba, Ibrahim and his young escort laid the goats down and tied up their legs. Shmaaya was disturbed. “Why are they doing that?” The goats were clearly disturbed too, but I explained that it was so they wouldn’t run around the car during the drive to Be’er Sheva. Once they got to their new home they would be untied. I started to ask myself whether the goats were really for Ibrahim’s kids, as he had told Barak. For all I knew, they could be his family’s next menu item.

The small female with the horns was bleating passionately. I approached her, kneeled, and made a show for Shmaaya of petting her to calm her down. But she wouldn’t be placated. It’s not like I ever pet her before. At the goat’s vocalizations, even Shalva, who was held tightly in my arms, cried out. Shmaaya’s voice was shakey. I asked him if he’s sad. “It’s ok to be sad when you see one of our animals undergoing something difficult.” “Why is it ok to be sad?” he asked. “Because it means you have a heart, it means you care.” “We won’t have any more little ones!” “We still have some little ones, Shmaaya! The goats always give birth, and we can’t raise ALL of them.” As the men took the goats to the car, Shmaaya noted “but they can’t run.” I promised him they’d be able to run once they got home. Barak urged me not to stay there with the kids and I realized how foolish it was to have come with them.

Later that night, I even called Ibrahim to check up. I had begun to envision the goats tied up, scared, transferred to a new home without the freedom, without the piles of vegetables, the green scenery all around, the scenery upon which they nibbled when we occasionally let them out of their pen. Now, as the phone rang, I hoped just to hear them bleating their normal bleats in the background, to get a new mental image of them in a new and decent home.

Ibrahim didn’t answer. A minute later he called back, though, and said they had just arrived. The goats were in their new “room” (I really wonder what he meant by that), and he asked me what they eat. “Grain?” I said “sure, grain. We also give them a lot of vegetables. Straw.”

I went out to the sheep pen to get some consolation from Barak. I shared with him all my poignant impressions of Shmaaya as he watched his goats being tied up and taken away, and that I guess I was disturbed because I saw in Shmaaya myself, as a little girl. Barak said he was once that way, too. It’s so hard for me to picture that. I asked Barak if he thought our goats were going to be slaughtered. He didn’t think so. He assured me that for those 2,400 shekels, Ibrahim would have himself an entire herd in one year’s time.

shmaaya-watching-shechting-1-small

I puzzled at the fact that Shmaaya seemed shaken up even though he’s witnessed a good number of slaughters before. Maybe that’s because he’d internalized the slaughter of our animals on our property as part of the natural scheme of things: Being born, raised and dying all at home, even if for someone else’s consumption. That’s OK by Shmaaya. In hindsight, I kind of agree with him.

shmaaya-watching-shechting-2

Maybe I really don’t have it in me to sell animals away, to send them to an unknown fate. Maybe I’ll leave it up to Barak, next time.

On the other hand, they multiply at least once a year, and it’s not free to feed all those mouths! Most of them serve us no purpose. Plus, I just recalled that the small male one, the one caught in the photo I posted online, was such a pain in the ass a few weeks ago. He wouldn’t stop butting heads with our small brown female. Just because he’s a male, I guess. What’s up with that?

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