Our farm was a real farm. Almost a hundred acres with pasturelands, fields and a hemlock grove with a brook. It was at the end of a dirt road with a big red barn and a white clapboard three-story house with a couple of porches entrances over on the right. The mailman would come once a day in his car to deliver, but also to pickup any outgoing mail for which we left the postage money in the mailbox. My sister and I were always particularly happy when the Sears Roebuck or Montgomery Wards catalogues came – big and thick which we would peruse for hours, virtual dream shopping, from toys to evening gowns, which we never did get for where would we have worn them? EB White would have felt at home here.
The fields behind the house gradually sloped down to the Merrimack River, on the other side of which lay the town of Haverhill with its shoe and textile factories.
We had to walk almost a mile to the main road, past a few houses and people we never knew, to catch the bus for school. If the weather was too stormy or too rainy, the factory whistle across the river would sound three times – hurray, no school! Once a real snowstorm had brought down telephone and electric wires, but that didn’t keep us from bundling up and going out to play in the snow.
Up to the outbreak of WWII we had help in the form of Maxi, a young Bavarian my father had brought over from Germany. Don’t remember now whether we spoke in German or English with him, but I do remember his handsome sun-tanned torso. Roland or Maxi was his name. We occasionally went to a Chinese restaurant in a nearby city – about the only times we went out – and took him along. He didn’t know what to make of the Chinese food and asked for milk and sugar for his rice.
With the onset of the war, help had to go and my sister and I were considered old enough to do our share of the work. Actually, we always had to do things like weeding. Our quota was 2 hours a day for our upkeep and after that, we got paid 25 cents per hour. We also had chickens, but that is another story. I remember lugging 100-pound bags of feed up to the top floor for the pigeons. (That’s probably why I have problems with my back now!)
When my father bought the farm, cows had been included. My father, however, preferred goats, and since he was a scientist, they had to be blue bloods. It was my job to milk these pedigreed animals from the poet, Carl Sandberg’s farm. They were brown with regular white markings. I don’t remember all their names now, except for Cinnamon, Allspice and Nutmeg. I would time milking so I could listen to the Lone Ranger, to the notes of the William Tell Overture, and his “fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty “Hi Ho Silver” with his faithful Indian companion Tonto” on the radio.
I don’t remember where my father got Romeo, the billy goat. Quite necessary, of course, if you wanted to raise more goats and I presume Romeo also had a pedigree. He was handsome but boy, did he smell. The way billy goats were supposed to smell, but everything that came in contact with him smelled of billy goat, including the chain to which he was tethered. One supposes that this was what attracted the nanny goats. Wonder if some women find the sweat of certain men alluring, body odor aside. Once Romeo got loose and I had to put the chain back on – quite a task for Romeo had no intention of letting me near him. I struggled while my grandfather stood by and watched, laughing. Don’t know why he didn’t help me.
By the time I finished junior college and went to Mexico to an art school, the goats had been sold and when I returned, the farm itself had been sold. The end of a chapter in my life for soon, thereafter, I went to New York, to NYU and Columbia.
2 thoughts on “Goats”
I didn’t know you grew up on that big a farm. With goats! I like the EB White reference. I agree, he would have liked it.
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You captured the farm life so fresh and photographically—a step back in time!
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