At 75 miles per hour in one of those places where I-70 belts Ohio farmland, I got this horrible feeling of being watched. It was that kind of feeling that compels you t sit up straight, be more honest (and slow back down to the speed limit). I flashed through the mirrors for a patrol car. Nothing. Then a weird smell came into the car through the air conditioning vents. I went back to that semi-truck in the net lane over. These were the laughing faces behind that evil smell.
It was a semi-truck with a trailer full of goats! The truck had a banner sign saying all kinds of wonderful things about Dalmatia – not that place in troubled Croatia, but the happy little Ville of Dalmatia, PA. These were those naughty full-sized milking goats, not those cute little Nigerian Pigmies that they bring to the petting place at the county fair. With a population of just over 1500, who would have ever thought that someone there would need a whole truckload of horned, wicked goats? Seriously now, as good as it is, how much Sainte-Maure Goat Cheese Feuilleté can someone eat anyway?
When the truck arrives in ever lovely and always sunny Dalmatia, PA, how would someone receive that much evil?
My own experience with receiving a large number of mean-spirited animals in the back of truck isn't very good. My stepfather decided one day that the farm would be a much more productive business if Little Doublewide on the Prairie had 30 old sows for neighbors. These old pigs would live in the gleaming, corrugated-tin sheathed pole barn that he had spent weeks building just for such a purpose.
The sows arrived in the late afternoon. It was getting cold and we hurried to offload all the pigs, give inoculations and medication, feed and water them, and get them into pens of their own. That's when the truck driver said that the other truck would be coming in about an hour or so.
"What truck?" I asked.
"You know, the one with all the piglets." The horrible, fuzz-faced delivery man said.
"Hundreds of them."
"How do you which piglets go to which sow?"
"As soon they're off the truck," he said setting another cigarette on fire, "I don't care."
Those piglets turned out to be little squealers that fit perfectly into your hands. So I took one of them out of the truck and showed it to the first sow. She snarled at it and tried to bite the whelping little white Hampshire in my hand. Like humans, pigs come in every size and shape and color. Simple pattern matching would not reunite the piglets with their mothers. Something else was required.
My step dad eventually decided that piglets would be just smart enough to find their own mothers, so he took wire cutters and cut little pet doors in each of the sow's pens. The he released the entire lot of piglets at once. There was squealing. There was oinking. There were even piglets bucking like broncos at the rodeo. It took about fifteen minutes, but all the piglets found their own mothers. It took a little longer for those piglets who tried to trade UP and get a better mother, but in the end peace and harmony reigned as each piglet found his or her own teat and settled in for a meal.
There was an unintended consequence of having those perky pet doors in the sow's pens. The exercise yard my stepfather built for the pigs had food, water and even a couple of things for them to play with in case they were bored with the placid agrarian routine of eat, poop, and reproduce. Unfortunately, the floor was made of dirt and pigs have snouts honed by years of evolution to dig really well. And dig they did, but The Great Pork Jailbreak is a matter for another post.