Cycling past the Chicken Ranch this morning I heard some bleating and thought, ‘ah, they’re branching out into goats now.’ A few yards further down the road it registered that the goat in question might have had its head stuck in a fence and, on cycling back I saw that this was indeed so. I then spent a few minutes discovering that the much vaunted intelligence of goats had been overrated while the goat spent some time investigating the edibility or otherwise of my shirt. With a stalemate reached and the goat still stuck, I went round to see if there was anyone about who would be better at goat extraction or at least on whose lap I might dump the problem, and maybe also to have a bit of a nose about. I almost never actually see anyone around at the Chicken Ranch and the few times I have they’ve had their heads down and not seemed inclined to notice or return greetings. This morning I could see smoke coming out of the chimney of the caravan, but it was guarded by a large and padlocked fence, and beyond that by a large and barky rottweiler which made it difficult to drop in and let them know. But I shouted ‘hello’ a couple of times between volleys from the rottweiler and eventually a young woman emerged and I explained her goat was stuck and she went off to see what she could do.
Normally I would have hung around at this point attempting to be helpful or at least learning how best to get a goat out of a fence for future reference (you never know when these skills are going to come in handy) but I was running late so I left her to it. I slightly regret this. The Chicken Ranch is still the subject of much muttering in the village and time has not improved its appearance, but I’m curious to know if it really is just a cynical exercise in rendering a patch of land so ugly that holiday cottages would be an improvement (as rumour has it) or a genuine attempt at smallholding on a shoestring that looks a bit scruffy. On the whole, I’d have thought the whole padlocked-fence-and-rottweiler vibe wasn’t going to count much in their favour, while a few ‘good afternoons’ to passing cyclists and dog walkers would probably go a long way towards getting people on their side, but what do I know? After all, I probably came across a bit abrupt myself, waking someone up to tell them their goat was stuck and then cycling immediately away. It would amount to neighbourly behaviour in London, but was rather brusque by the standards of behaviour round here.
Anyway, cycling back this afternoon I saw no sign of anybody about, nor, indeed, of the goat so it must have got unstuck, as it were. I’ll be keeping an eye out for goats – and people – in future. And if anyone has any handy hints for extracting goats from fences (don’t the really big Swiss Army Knives have a tool for that?) feel free to post them here.