Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
My alarm clock went off at 2:30 a.m.
I groaned and rolled out of bed. My hands searching in the dark for the off-switch in that indecent hour to be waking up. After silencing the alarm, I forlornly gave my bed one more glance before getting dressed. My friend who I was sharing a room with, also got up and began dressing.
Shoes were put on, food was grabbed, water bottles filled... We got in her diesel pickup truck and began our four-hour journey at 3 a.m.
Since March, I have been boarding a buck named 'Bob' for my friend who lives close to Seattle, WA. I live four hours south from her, so we agreed that Bob would stay here in Oregon until May 5th. She had entered him in a goat show that was to be held that day, and said she would pick him up then. I was fine with this, and the days slowly fell away until May 4th had arrived. Wishing for a companion to come with her, she invited me to attend the goat show as well. She didn't need to ask twice! It was four hours from Seattle to my farm, and yet another four hours down to Southern Oregon where the event was being hosted. That is a looooong drive for anyone.
As it happened, this particular goat show was not like most. This one is known as the "Megabucks" show, and as you might could guess, it is for bucks only. I was about to spend an entire day in which there were more male goats than humans.
Saturday morning dawned too quickly, and at the decided time of 3 a.m. we loaded up Bob and began the trek! I am pleased to say that I was smiling before 4 a.m... And that's without any caffeine! One hour after the next slipped by as our rumbling truck ate up the miles, and by 7 a.m. we had hit our destination.
The building was a modest, low-slung barn on the county fairgrounds. On the outside it was nothing special, but who knew that the inside could be host to so many lovely animals? As you stepped into the barn you were immediately hit by a wave of, umm -- well, buck smell. Many of these boys were still in rut, and it really does make for an interesting scent when there are so many of them in one spot! But once past the smell, and once your eyes adjusted to the dim, warm lighting, there was pen after pen of goats. I had a date with my camera this day, and I had a host of captive subjects. Hehe.
To my surprise, there was actually a good number of does there alongside the bucks. Apparently there was another show the next day, so these ladies were patiently waiting for their turn in the limelight. In a far back corner, a group of Alpine does stood watching the unfolding scene before them. Their voices a surprisingly deep bassoon. Like whales singing, so they hummed deep chords. I smiled whenever they started a new verse in their low song; none of the bucks could rival their timbre.
Our buck, Bob, was clipped for the ring, and put in a comfy pen. Or at least the pen was the goal. Bob had other ideas as he felled the chain link walls that surrounded him. Baling twine to the rescue! So perhaps Bob didn't have the nicest looking pen after that, but hey, it kept him where he was supposed to be!
Touring the building, I admired the day's contestants. Nigerian Dwarfs, Nubians, Alpines, Saanens, Sables, Toggenburgs, La Manchas... Alas, there were no Oberhaslis, and for that I was disappointed. At the front of the building were tables of nic nacs that were being raffled off, but the jewels of this raffle were four purebred doelings... A Saanen, A Nigerian, A Toggenburg, and a Nubian. All dainty little ladies who were destined for a new home this evening. I admit I really wanted the Toggenburg...
The show officially began at 9 a.m. and the rest of the day was pretty much a blur. This was a 3-ring event, meaning there were three rings of goats being shown at all times. In other words, it's craziness for the contestants trying to get to the right ring, and it's even more hectic for a photographer trying to get pictures of everyone!! Gaah!
During break time, my dear friend (Bob's owner) and I had a fun time guessing bloodlines on the Nubians and then asking the owners to see if we were right. I do believe we got them all right! Whoohoo! I love it that I'm starting to recognize the details that each bloodline gives to a goat!
The show was resumed and the numbers began to thin as the winners from each ring began pitting their looks against each other. Seasoned show folks knew the tricks to getting their goats to pose correctly, but sometimes even the wisest person couldn't convince an especially ornery buck to cooperate. Ring after ring, goat after goat, the numbers dwindled to only the finest buck from each breed. A Nubian, A Nigerian, A Saanen, An Alpine, A Toggenburg, A La Mancha... The cards were played, and each specimen from each breed prepared for the final judging.
Now, to be honest, I have to admit that I didn't take any pictures of the Best In Show winner. Whoops. After snapping pictures for eight solid hours, I decided to be selfish and watch the final ring without having to be constantly checking my ISO and aperture. But the final winner of the day was a lovely Toggenburg buck. Personally, I was rooting for the Iron-Owl Nubian buck, but oh well... Every buck has his moment of glory.
The raffle was the climax to this busy day and people whooped and hollered as they heard their name being called out for each prize. I *almost* put in some raffle tickets for that Toggenburg doeling, but resisted. No.. I must be firm with myself. No new breeds until my Nubian herd has grown to a good, competitive size. To console myself, I put my tickets in for a duo of hilarious looking, pure white Silkie chickens. A hen and a rooster they were, to create a puffy, comical pair. I had no idea what I would do with the birds (except perhaps use the hen to hatch out some eggs since the breed is notorious for going broody), but how can you not like something that looks like a mix between a PEEPS marshmallow and something that got electrocuted? Maybe it's just me... But alas, I didn't win the chickens (which is probably a good thing in the end), so I went home with only pictures and stories...
As exhausted as we were when we got home (at 8 p.m.!), my friend and I stayed up three more hours poring over old goat pedigrees online. I got an overhaul in the information department as I looked at grainy black-and-white photos of goats who died in the 40's and 50's. I learned new names and new bloodlines, and learned the ins and outs of the foundation stock of some of the finest Nubian herds in America. Between the goat show and this nighttime history lesson on the foundations of Nubians, my appreciation for bucks and good breeding just increased.
Many people wonder what the attraction is about a goat show. I say you really just have to go to one and integrate yourself in the event before you can understand. There's just something about the camaraderie that blossoms from folks who don't mind being up since 3 in the morning, spending an entire day with bucks and smelling like one themselves, and getting dirty. We are a rare breed, to be sure, but we're an awesome group. We are doctors, lawyers, farmers, stay-at-home moms, 4-H'ers, College students, and everything else. But we are bound together by the incurable love of showing goats, and being around fellow goat showers. It's awesome. You should try it sometime.