Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Second Tuesday on Franklin Hill Farm

Distress signal

By Bettina Sperry

Waking up to the peace of this farm each morning has been one of the blessings of luxury afforded to me. With a gorgeous farmhouse front porch, complete with rocking chairs, it would seem that I’d land there to await the morning sun with coffee in hand. Instead, my usual first hour of the day is spent stepping out the back door, walking the yard behind my house, and taking in the beauty of the farm. On many mornings I’ll take a camera with me, especially when the sun is peering over the mountain from the east.
The fence the crows had been sitting on
    Sunday morning was no different. Following my usual routine, I opened the back door and stood quietly on the porch overlooking the farm. A mist had settled over the pastures. I heard a lot of clacking and noise. Four crows were sitting next to one another on the board fence. A fifth crow was sitting nearby, just a few yards away, though quietly so. They were all facing the same direction. No camera in hand, I ran in the house to find it. Stepping back outside, the mist was too dense to capture a photograph of the four crows. I watched and listened. I noticed a woodpecker was similarly making a lot of noise. We have a lot of woodpeckers around here, but there had not been one this noticeably close to my house, nor had I heard one making such an uncomfortable rancor. There was disharmony in the sound of his bill against the tree. In fact, there was disharmony in all the sounds around me.
    I went back into the house momentarily. Again, I stepped out on to the back porch to observe the crows, but this time with coffee in hand. Once again, the crows were cackling, and this time they seemed to be jumping around on the fence, as if upset. They were louder and more seemingly distraught. There was an eeriness about it, and I noted that death felt to be lingering in the air. Perhaps my imagination, I said. I stood still and listened and watched for what seemed the longest time. Just watching and looking for understanding. Between the cacophony of the mingling cackles from the crows and the unsynchronous billing of the woodpecker came another noise. A soft quiet cry, almost as if a child. Standing more still and quiet, I listened for discernment of what I was hearing.
    Softly, a second cry poured through the pastures. There was no means of determining the direction from which it was coming. Trying to make sense of what I was hearing, listening became important and intense. Looking around the farm, everything except the birds was still. A third cry fell amidst the cackling and billing, yet a little louder. I took note of the animals on my farm, thinking a neighbor may have small animals on their farm – my farm didn’t have an animal that would emit a cry like a child.
    Or did it? I called for Holland, finally having recognized that the cry could be a distress signal from him. I quickly put the camera and coffee down, pulled my boots on, and headed towards the pasture. Looking around the corner of the horse run-in shed, I saw Holland. He was choking. He had gotten his head stuck in a very small piece of fencing with no way out. The board fencing had closed in on his throat. I grabbed his body and then his head and shoved everything as hard as I could towards the somewhat larger space from which I could pull him out. He was frothing at the mouth and breathing hard. Hugging him, I pulled him away from the fencing and sat him down on the ground to give his body room to breathe. After several minutes, I moved him to his little goat yard and put him to bed for rest.
    I looked around. The sun now up and shining, the mist had risen from the farm and the crows were gone. I praised nature for the assistance brought to this little goat.

Holland has a disability. The July 30 note from the breeder had read:
Two weeks of tube feeding, a week of walking in circles, and a week of walking only backwards. I am so happy to see him enjoying life. I see horn growth on his head. He had thermal brain damage from a butane disbudder under anesthesia (veterianarian), a rare occurrence. He had the procedure at 12 days old. He received Penicillin, dexamethasone, and banamine along with IV fluids.
Copyright © 2015 by Bettina Sperry


  1. Bettina Sperry first noticed the clacking of crows and the commotion of a woodpecker, something disharmonious about it, eerie...then a soft, quiet cry, almost as if a child were uttering a distress signal....

    Bettina, when you acquired Holland from the breeder, you knew about his disability. At first, were you expecting that he'd nevertheless be fairly normal, or was it more as though you were taking on a special-needs animal? I can well appreciate that your heart went out to Holland (as I confess mine does in reading your column today).
        If you hadn't taken Holland, would someone else have taken him? Was he in a position of being "adopted" or...euthanized? I'm just trying to comprehend better what the whole story is here.

  2. thanks, Bettina, give Holland an extra hug for me, please

  3. Yes, I knew about his disability. At his birthing home, Holland didn't hang with the other goats. He hung out with a chicken. I fell in love with him and asked the owners if he could live with me on my farm. At that point in time, Holland still wasn't eating correctly, but several weeks later I received the message that Holland was ready for his new home.

    I think Holland was going to be placed in another home (farm), thus I asked if he could come home with me.

    I surely will Susan!