When I was a youngster, I had a black-and-white cat named Manny. He was an easy cat to love with a jovial disposition until we moved into a house that had once been home to an incontinent dog.
My parents pulled up the carpet and laid down beautiful wood floors, and to our human noses that solved the problem. Unfortunately, Manny’s olfactory abilities surpassed ours, and as a means of ensuring the offending dog did not return, began marking the same spots around the house the dog had used. Soon after, Manny was sent to live on a farm.
I was devastated but understood my parents’ position on the matter. Anyway, I agreed with their assessment that he would probably be happier on a farm. What cat wouldn’t be? Years passed, and though I thought fondly of Manny, he wasn’t a topic of general discussion.
Then one day during my freshman year in college, a few of the kids from my dorm started discussing taking pets to “the farm” as a euphemism for having them put down or dropped off at the humane society. I laughed along with their tongue-in-cheek tales of woe about parental deception, but couldn’t help adding, “Well, I actually had a cat that my parents took to a farm when he started peeing in the house.”
The circle of kids stopped laughing for a moment, glanced around at one another, and then started laughing again twice as hard. And that’s when it suddenly occurred to me that my parents did not then, nor had they ever, known a farmer.
A few weeks ago we were getting lambs ready to send to the sale barn. Beatrix, one of our teenage goats, got mixed in by accident. We’d intended to sort her off before we put the lambs on the trailer, but between a naughty dog, a toddler meltdown, and the general mayhem that is sorting sheep, she ended up on the trailer after all.
“Do you want me to get her out?” The man of the ranch asked, a look of sad desperation in his eyes. We both knew that would mean unloading and reloading all the lambs again.
“Yes! Yes!” shouted the kids.
“Oh that’s ok, just bring her home at the end of the day.” I said, and then, because my husband works for the sale barn, jokingly added, “Do you need a goat for work?”
“We actually do,” he said. “She can help lead the sheep.”
“Perfect! She can work for a few weeks and then you can bring her back.” I said.
He left and the kids and I went about our day.
The following week, I asked after Beatrix. “How’s she doing?”
“Fine,” he replied.
The week after I asked again. “Does she miss us?” I said.
He gave me a funny look before replying, “I think she’s ok.”
I thought the funny look was in reference to her missing us, but when I asked him about her again a few days ago, this time not in the presence of the kids, my husband shook his head.
‘Honey, she’s sold. I thought when you told me to take her to work it was a wink, wink, nod, nod situation.”
“What?” I said, the horror plain in my voice. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”
“Well, the kids were around, and I thought we were still playing along…Although last time you asked I was starting to get the idea we weren’t.”
So there you go folks. It’s been almost three decades since my parents took my cat to the “farm” and not much has changed except now it’s my husband taking my goat to “work.”
This just goes to show, that growing older doesn’t always mean growing wiser.
Eliza Blue lives on a ranch in northwest South Dakota. She’s a musician, mom, author, and shepherd. She writes a column for newspapers in her region and produces audio commentary for South Dakota Public Radio. You can learn more about Eliza on her website.