The Goats of Kinzers (Part III)
The questions about the goats kept coming out of me, and other things started to bubble up inside of me. Exactly what were the goats doing there? Did they have names?
The property, owned by the fire company, is probably an abandoned limestone quarry. Since it is filled with water, it supplies the fire trucks, as evidenced by a sturdy pipeline coming up out of one side.
The purpose of the goats, who have been roaming the quarry for decades is rather simple: To keep the vegetation down. Goats, as I was reminded by many at the fire company, will eat anything. Of course, the first man I spoke to ( a man named John ) mentioned tin cans as a joke, but he said that they will even eat poison ivy. So they don't need to be fed during the temperate months. Dwight Groff farms hay, and he supplements their diet in the winter months.
Before my phone call to Fire Chief Doug Brubaker, who also supplies the goats, was over, he confided in me that "I love my goats. They just have such great personalities."
As for individual goats having names, the first answer I got from most people was "not that I remember." And it appeared to me that the goats in these parts were probably all named "Goat."
It was nothing like our dear family friend's goat down in the mountains of Virginia. Oh, she sure had a name. It was "Nanny Baby," and she was not only their babysitter, but she would watch TV with her favorite human, Ronnie, in the living room of his boyhood home.
Upon further reflection, I heard from Doug, the chief, that the goat whose photograph I took, framed by the links of the fence - from the description I gave him (which was this huge, rather fierce looking critter who really could care less if this human was there taking pictures) is Mabel..."Oh yeah, that must be Mabel" ( or something to that effect ). Further along in my talk with Dwight, who supplies the hay, he said "I did have a goat once." I asked that critter's name, and he responded with a wide grin, "Chopper! She was nice, but she wasn't a very good mother:"
For some reason, I had this brief vision of this nanny goat pulling up to a saloon & leaving the kids in the car while she went in to carry on late into the night.
But back in the real world, it dawned on me that I had once been acquainted with a large herd of goats living near a Canadian fishing village. Every time, for years, when we would make our way down to the lake on a dirt road carved through a farmer's field, surrounded by the bleak, scraggly Ontario landscape, strewn with boulders and abandoned rusting farm machinery, there were always these goats who would happily come up to greet us at the fence if we would only stop for a moment. They would climb all over each other to get up closer to see these humans who were just there to visit them.
Then, one year, the goats had disappeared. It turned out that this entire herd - of probably 100 or so - had perished in a late night barn fire, sparked by a heat lamp which was there to keep the younger goats (kids) warm. The spectre of this tragedy still haunts me today - but no doubt far less than the farmer - a man named Noble, who keeps no more goats.
So, here I am, once again thinking about goats owned by a fire company, no less. The irony of this isn't lost on me.
I remember telling my aging mother, who still lives in York, PA, on the other side of Kinzers from my home, that the most significant aspect of the Goats of Kinzers isn't their acrobatic patrolling of the cliffs of the quarry, but rather their reliability. I can count on passing by this odd scene year after year, no matter how the landscape of the Lincoln Highway would change. And every time I stop to gaze at the Goats, I'm headed home. Whether Eastbound or Westbound, I'm going home, past the Goats of Kinzers. And it's always a warm, nostalgic feeling. And now, after paying my respect to them, it's even warmer and even more nostalgic. The End