It’s amazing how a little bit of appreciation can brighten your day.
You’ve heard it said before, but this time I have a story of how even a herd of goats can show their appreciation when someone goes out of their way for them.
And appreciation of any kind—from anyone—just feels good.
Making Friends with the Locals
I spent a few weeks recently with my parents. My step dad went through a hip replacement surgery, and I wanted to be there to help however I could.
My mom raises Boer goats on a 10-acre ranch, which also includes several cats and dogs, two horses, and a solitary chicken. Every day there are chores to do that involve transporting and feeding bales of hay and buckets of grain to the various different pens full of goats (she has nearly 40); feeding and watering seven barn cats, two house cats, and two dogs; watering the two horses out in the pasture, and feeding and watering the chicken.
The whole routine takes only about 30 minutes if one moves right along, but the fact that I could take over the job gave my parents some peace of mind while they focused on getting through the operation and getting my step dad home.
If you’ve never been around goats, trust me—they are very good at worming their way into your heart. Part of the daily chores involves shooing the group of seasoned adult does and one buck out of the barn and into the field, so the way is clear to get feed into the other pens.
And about those pens—there are several, including another group of younger does and a buck, two bucks together, another new buck that my mom just got that’s by himself at the moment, a group of very young does, and a final group of adult does with another buck.
Each of these pens has its own water bucket, grain dish, and group of goats who when they see you in the morning, can’t help but set up a chorus of blatting to make sure you’re well aware of just how hungry they are.
Once all these other pens are fed, grained, and watered, you open the gate and let the seasoned adults and their one buck back in. They get their water in the barn, and they also just like to say “hi.”
These goats like people, and my mom has spent quite a bit of time taming them, so if you sit down for a moment they’ll come around. Some like to be petted. Others are happy just to watch you. They all have their individual personalities.
I’m going to talk about one main goat in this post. His name is “R.C.,” but you could just as easily call him “The Fonz,” he’s that cool.
Bonding with a Goat in the Rain
I’ve always liked R.C. Mom got him as a youngster and I’ve watched him grow. He’s got a unique look about him, a sort of a mysterious face because there’s more dark red in it than many Boer goats have, and eyes that seem to portray a mind that’s busy thinking and evaluating the world and the creatures in it.
During this visit, R.C. and I had a chance to bond. I went up one morning and shortly after I arrived at the barn, it started raining. Hard. Here were all the goats, jammed up under the roof together in the small space available to them, all to escape getting wet.
Goats are like cats—they aren’t fond of getting wet. R.C., especially, dislikes water, and mud even more so. Mom has stories of him refusing to cross the irrigation ditch for fear of getting his feet muddy.
So here they all were, all the goats in the seasoned group jammed up against the fence panel, looking at me with dread in their eyes as I walked in. They knew it was time to be shooed out, but none wanted to go out in that rain.
Seeing all those faces—13 in total—I couldn’t drive them away, so I sat down on the other side of the fence to wait it out.
It wasn’t long before I felt my jacket tugged. Turning around, I saw R.C. looking at me, his face inches from mine. Most bucks aren’t known for being particularly friendly, and it’s good to keep them somewhat at a distance, as they can get a little over confident in some cases and decide they’re in charge.
So I was cautious, but couldn’t help but reach through the panel and rub his shoulder for awhile. By the time the rain stopped about 10 minutes later, we were fast friends.
It’s Fun to Watch Others Enjoy What You Bring Them
Now since I’d been home I’d noticed something. It was hard not to notice, actually. The ragweed grows wild around my parents’ ranch, and because it takes over so quickly, it can be hard to control. Out in the field, where they’re raising peaches and alfalfa, it stays away, but up around the barn, it tends to accumulate and grow—tall.
Because it was so high, the one chicken was basically walking through a jungle to go from her house to the feed trough. And all around the haystack weeds were growing taller than me.
My parents hadn’t had the time, what with work and the surgery and all, to tackle the mess, so I decided to help. And I knew one thing about goats—they love weeds.
It’s why you see news stories all the time about people hiring goatherds to eat down the weeds in the foothills of California and other areas that are at high risk for fires. To a goat, a weed is like candy. Most prefer it to hay and many even to grain. So I had a ready-made customer base for all the supplying I could manage to do.
That day, after R.C. and his ladies were shooed out of the barn and I had finished the chores, I got busy with my new task. It took me about 30 minutes extra each day, but I pulled and tugged and clipped and hauled six-foot high ragweed until the chicken pen was entirely clear, the walkway open, and the barnyard nearly empty of all the excess growth.
All those weeds went to the goats. I put some in each pen, and scattered a bunch around the barnyard last.
The goats grew to anticipate the extra I was feeding them, and would wait by the fences even after having received their hay and grain in anticipation of the real treat.
As for R.C., he was the most eager of all. He stood by the outside fence and bleated at me. Imagine the sound Chewbacca from Star Wars makes and you’ll have an idea of his unique voice. All the does started catching on too.
It got so once I opened the gate, they would all run in like a stampede to find their weeds.
Now this is Colorado, and unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know what kind of “special” weed they sell here. This wasn’t that kind of weed, but it might as well have been, if you could have seen these goats’ reactions.
We’re talking running to get their choice selection, and then gobbling with satisfied crunches and swallows.
R.C. was hilarious to watch, as he picked the tallest weed every time, and then lifted it up repeatedly while biting off the tasty morsels.
They all enjoyed it thoroughly. As for me, I got a kick out of watching them. How often do you get to see someone so appreciate what you’ve done for them?
How I Became the Weed Lady
When my parents finally got the chance to come up to the barn again, they were shocked to see the ragweed mostly obliterated, but even more surprised to see R.C. and his gang eagerly awaiting the opening of the gate. Once I started bringing in the weeds, they got the idea.
Soon I was known as the “weed lady.”
On my last day, I was sitting up on one of the fences when R.C. came over and started nibbling on my pant leg. It was his way of saying “thank you” I’m sure, as it’s not something he normally does.
I bent down to pet him for a bit, and then stopped so he’d go on his way. He didn’t, so I had to pet him a few more times before he was ready to return to whatever weeds were still left.
As I watched him go, I felt sort of sad, knowing I wouldn’t be there to give him his weeds the next day.
Seriously! Me, the writer, who’s usually busy at her pages first thing in the morning, was feeling badly that I wouldn’t be able to pull weeds to deliver to an eagerly awaiting goat.
That’s what appreciation will do for you.
Remembering to Show Appreciation
I think sometimes we forget how important it is to show people we appreciate their efforts. A 2013 survey found that more than half of employees would stay longer at their companies if their bosses showed them more appreciation, and four in five said they were motivated to work harder when their bosses showed appreciation for their work.
It’s such an easy thing to do, but we so often forget. Now I have cool R.C. as a good example of how one should respond when given something good.
I traveled back to Idaho after a little over two weeks. Mom says R.C. still looks for me, waiting at the fence and then coming in and scouring the bare ground with disappointment in those deep eyes of his.
The next time I see him, the barnyard will likely be covered in snow. At the very least, it will be muddy—something R.C. will not be happy about, I’m sure.
Worst of all, the weeds will be gone. I’ll have nothing extra to give him. But you can bet I’ll be looking around for something new, because I’d love to see that happy expression in his eyes again.
Got any good ideas?
Have you had an experience where someone really appreciated what you did? Have you shown someone extra appreciation lately? Please share your story.