by Emily-Jane Hills Orford
“It will keep the grass short,” Father argued. “And it will supply milk for our guests.”
“And who is going to clean up after this goat?” Mother asked, a stern look of disapproval etched across her brow, her arms firmly clasped in front of her as she stood her ground. “Do you know anything about goats? How to milk them?”
Norman sat in the far corner of the family eating area. He was trying very hard to look invisible, something that was difficult to do at the best of times, but when Mother and Father started arguing, they really didn’t appreciate an audience, especially an audience that included a little boy with big, listening ears.
There were frequent discussions much like this one, especially when Father came up with a new scheme. When his parents had purchased this old farmhouse and land on Lake Simcoe a few years ago, they had meant for it to be a family get-away location, to escape the busy life in Toronto. Little did they know that the little town of Oro, complete with its own train station and a daily run from Toronto, would be an oasis for family and friends, anyone remotely acquainted with the Hills family, to make an unannounced visit to the Hills family retreat. Mother quickly tired of feeding so many guests and, after much discussion and another brilliant idea from Father, it was decided to make their retreat into a lodge and charge guests, friends and family included, for meals and an overnight stay. The lodge, known as Oroby Lodge, became a popular resort and Father was overwhelmed with the need to build new cabins and come up with more ingenious ideas to help the lodge prosper. The goat idea was the latest.
Father wasn’t giving up. “Not much different than our chickens. You feed them, clean their living space and collect what they leave behind. As for the milk? Freda can take care of milking the goat. She comes from a goat farm. She will know what to do.”
“Really!” Mother just shook her head in disbelief. “Have you even bothered to ask Freda if she is willing to milk the goat? We didn’t hire her as a milk maid. She works in the kitchen, not the yard.”
Father just shrugged. Without another word, he left the house and headed towards the car. Norman quickly slipped out the back way and made his way to the front. He was supposed to go along to fetch the goat. Father had made up his mind. Mother already knew that, but she had to voice her opinion on the matter.
It wasn’t far to the goat farm. Just down the road, really. Father didn’t speak until they pulled up near the fenced area that contained several goats, bleating and munching grass. He turned to his son and said with a twinkle in his eye. “She will come around. Just you wait.” They climbed out of the car just as Mr. Smith appeared at the door to the barn. He was leading a goat on a long tether, the goat making his objections well known.
“Well, here he is,” Mr. Smith announced as he handed the tether to Norman. Father handed over some money and thanked Mr. Smith. Turning to Norman, he said, “You can walk him home. I will be waiting for you with the stake well planted in the middle of the front yard. We shall tie him up there.” Father climbed back into the car and drove off. Mr. Smith made a quick exit, returning to the barn. Norman was left alone with a disgruntled goat and a dusty road ahead. Father’s ideas were always brilliant, at least in theory. When it came down to the actual implementation of his ideas, there was usually some issues of contention. Like Norman being left alone to lead a cantankerous goat back to the summer lodge.
There was nothing else to do but to start walking. So Norman walked, leading the goat as best he could. When he arrived back at the lodge, Father had the stake firmly planted in the centre of the front yard. He took the goat’s lead from his son and tied it firmly to the stake. “There!” He stood back and observed as the goat immediately started to do what he was expected to do: eat grass. Only, the goat decided that the grass was better at the end of its tether, than it was closer to the stake. It proceeded to eat in a circle around the perimeter, leaving the much desired grass that was beyond his reach and less desired grass that was within his allowed space.
As Mother had predicted, Freda was not too pleased to be allocated the added chore of milking the goat. “I left the family farm to get away from working with animals,” she grumbled as she carried a stool and a milking pail to the front yard. To make matters worse, the goat would have none of Freda’s intentions and managed to give her several well aimed kicks to the shins, even knocking over the pale after she had finally managed to obtain a few drops of its precious milk.
“Enough!” She stormed back into the kitchen and told the head cook that under no circumstances would she be working with animals while she worked at Oroby Lodge. “I came to work in the kitchen. Not the yard.”
The goat didn’t last the week. Father returned him to the farmer down the road, though he never did reveal if he got his money back. Norman was given the task of cleaning up the goat’s mess and to finish cutting the grass around and within the circle that had been eaten away. Meanwhile, Father was already thinking of his next grand scheme.
Emily-Jane Hills Orford has published several books, creative nonfiction stories mostly about her family, including stories about summers spent at the cottage in Port Ryerse. More Port Ryerse stories can be found in Personal Notes (Moose Hide Books 2008), which is her grandmother’s story, and her award-winning book, F-Stop: A Life in Pictures (Baico 2011), which is her mother’s story. F-Stop: A Life in Pictures was named Finalist and received the Silver Medal in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. For more information about the author, check out her webpage at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca