The Hat of Shame
by Priscilla Ireys of Paw Paw, WV
As I got the coffee going in the kitchen, I glanced out the window. “Oh shoot!” I said out loud. One of my young Spanish does dances in place with her head stuck in the fence. And, wouldn’t you know, it was the line of fence that backed up to Dastardly Darlene’s house. I was certain she’d been watching the goat event from her mudroom windows.
Sure enough, eight o’clock on the dot the phone rang. I knew who it was. I picked up the phone, and before I could get it to my ear, Darlene screeched in that high-pitched, exaggerated Southern drawl she loved to use on me. “I’m callin’ the sheriff this time, Pris. I’ve had it with your neglect of these animals. One of your poor goats had her head stuck in the fence probably the whole night. She’s been yelling since early morning when I let my Bear out.” Bear is Darlene’s annoying little dog. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she can’t breathe – or maybe she’s dead!”
Darlene always amazed me, the way she could raise the last word of her tirade at least an octave to punctuate her southernness and to emphasize her disapproval of my farming practices.
“I’ll get to it, Darlene,” I said in my most diplomatic way as I tried to hang up the phone, still hearing her voice.
“I’m not kidding, Pris!” she screeched into the phone one more time.
“I hear you. Darlene.” I hung up the phone gently.
I took my time finishing my coffee, then pulled on my boots, grabbed my leather gloves, sprayed my hat with bug repellent, and shuffled out the door.
In the truck I knew I’d better check for duct tape and short, thick sticks—a goat farmer’s go-to tools for keeping goat heads out of wire fences. I got in the truck, drove to the field, and pulled up to the gate.
There was Dove in all her glory. Her head was caught in the fence, and she was having a fit.
Arnost, the guardian dog, seemed in a nasty mood. He hovered beside the distressed goat barking and growling.
Dove swung her head up and down and back and forth, bawling as loud as she could.
Something on the other side of the fence was antagonizing Dove, but I was too far away to tell who or what it was. I grabbed my stick and tape and started across the pasture.
As I grew closer, I saw the problem: Darlene’s annoying little dog Bear was jumping with glee, yelping, and licking Dove’s face. He was having the time of his life torturing my goat.
Dove pulled back and lunged sideways away from Bear, straining this way and that, using extraordinary, never-before-seen movements. But she could not free herself from this face-licking maniac.
Bear continued to jump and lick, jump and lick. A strange, high-pitched whine came out of him as his dance became more frenzied. He was in ecstasy, enjoying his freedom to be hateful and mean.
Oh, boy. This was not going to be pleasant. A crazed goat, my guardian dog in a bad mood, and one demented, creepy little dog driving my goat into a frothy mess. I was sure Darlene would show up soon to top off the circus.
Dove screamed with renewed agony. A quick glance at Arnost and I could tell he was hatching a plan to take out this crazed little dog.
I had to work quickly. Getting Arnost to back off the fence was my first job, but that would not be possible until that whirling, out-of-control Bear was out of the picture.
As if on cue, Darlene exploded through her mudroom door. I was not surprised, because she’d been watching everything, calculating when, exactly, to make her grand entrance.
“Thank heavens I have a sweet little dog and not one of those vicious breeds like yours.” She swung her hips as she strode toward us. She even got in some painful hops walking on bare feet. “Mama’s comin’, my darlin’,” she yelled to her pooch.
She continued to chatter nothingness nonsense as she hopped across the yard in a knee-length pink nightgown highlighted with red roses, squealing when she stepped on acorns and sticks. With her hair sprayed into the same hairdo she’d worn since high school and full makeup on, she looked like she was ready for action. It was all I could do to keep from snickering as I watched her make her way to the scene of the calamity.
She finally reached the fence and pulled her dog off my goat’s head. Bear wiggled in Darlene’s arms, but she quieted him with a treat. Then she slowly rolled her eyes towards me. “I can’t believe it took you this long to get out here and help this poor animal,” she drawled. “I’ve spent most of my morning worrying about this whole mess.”
“I never meant to inconvenience you,” I said in as civil a tone as I could muster.
I suffered through Darlene’s constant blabbering as I worked to pull Dove’s head out of the fence. Snipping two wires, I was able to get her horns free.
“Hmmm,” I said in response to Darlene’s continued chatter as I swung my leg over Dove’s neck to make sure she didn’t run off.
Bear wiggled again and barked, outraged that his victim was being released from the trap.
“Hush, darlin’,” Darlene cooed to Bear as she cuddled the idiotic dog in her arms. “You’re safe now. Mama’s got you.”
Arnost was watching. His low growl grew louder. He seemed concerned about his goat, but confused about the whole situation. Did he want to kill that crazy dog? Or did he need to save his goat? Whining took over the growling. But he kept his cool.
With Dove out of the fence, I held her head and straddled her neck. When I felt I had a good grip, I picked up the duct tape and stick. Now, I just needed to create The Hat of Shame – my magic weapon to keep goat heads out of wire fencing.
I held the stick across her horns and wrapped the duct tape around them and the stick, crisscrossing back and forth, securing the stick to the horns. The hard part was doing it with a goat that was just a little wigged out under me. Rip, twist, press down. Rip, twist, press down. I wrapped until I could not move my creation off Dove’s head and the stick was too wide to go through the wire fence.
It would take enormous effort to get that contraption off her head. My masterpiece, her Hat of Shame, was done!
Arnost stood there looking at me, then looking at Dove, then looking back at me. He was confused. Dove was wearing a strange, goofy-looking hat. How did his goat come out of this trauma with a new head?
Dove stared back at him wondering what he was looking at. Why did Arnost, her protector, back away from her with a worried look? They had just gotten out of a tough jam. They should walk back to the herd proud to have escaped.
The new weight on her head caused Dove to sway like a drunken sailor. The wobbly goat with the big thing on her head convinced Arnost that this animal was not Dove, but rather some kind of replacement pretending to be Dove. Being the sensible dog he was, Arnost ran away.
Dove ran after him, bleating what must’ve been goat for, “What’s your issue? Wait for me!”
By this time, Dastardly Darlene decided to leave the show and carry her dog back to the house. She complained in her exaggerated syrupy accent about my lousy farming habits as she hopped across the yard in her bare feet. When she reached her house, she turned and faced me, her flowered gown blowing in the wind. “You better make sure that fence is fixed on my side. I still might call the sheriff, Pris!”
I made sure the fence was mended and made my way back to the truck. I snickered as I watched Dove chase Arnost up the hill and into the next pasture, continuing to bleat for him to wait up.
Arnost kept up a fast, strong trot away from the strange creature following him, heading for the safety of the herd. The strange creature that once was his goat ran after him.
“What a way to start a morning,” I whispered as I drove away, digging into the glove compartment for a power bar.
The cool morning air and the symphony of bird songs erased the obnoxious sound of Darlene’s voice and her irritating dog’s yelping. My vision of Arnost and Dove running up the hill gave me a good chuckle as I drove the truck around, doing various chores.
From time to time, one of the other does in the herd ran from Dove. And, of course, she ran after her. By the end of the day, her best friend finally stood near her and allowed Dove to graze close by.
For months, The Hat of Shame worked its magic on Dove. However, with the advent of breeding season, the hat, although successful, had to come off. I just hoped Dove had forgotten her old habits of sticking her head through the fence. But, just in case, I stocked up on duct tape and kept a cache of sticks in the truck.