Day 1 - The Easiest Day.
After feeding, milking, saying goodbye to Richard, and loading the goats, we were on the road to Will's house. I say "we" in deference to my friends, the goats, who rode in the trailer. They are very good at what they do but are notoriously bad drivers, being easily distracted besides having great difficulty reaching the pedals. My 14 year old human companion who was to accompany me was invited (ordered?) by his grandmother to visit her in New Jersey a few days before we were to leave. I said that the Nationals were every year but grandmothers were not. Go. 415 miles later we were at Will's charming place, teaming up with about half of the crew of the trek. After milking, feeding, eating wonderful salad and pizza hand made by Will's delightful partner we slept, rising at 4 AM to avoid most of Atlanta's rush hour - a smart move.
Day 2 Never Boring.
Leaving Atlanta at 4:30, we stopped as we have done in the past and milked at a rest stop. Again, my 8 goats were hand milked by Will, Susan and Jennifer, mother and daughter from Florida, off to their first Nationals, and Paula, a veterinarian, also along for adventure. I do almost no hand milking because of MS and having had carpal tunnel surgery on both wrists. My wrists are probably strong enough but we want to avoid mastitis at all costs. Today we drove to Du Quoin, Illinois and, as in the past, were welcomed to their more than adequate facilities, where the usual activities of milking and feeding were attended to. After eating granola bars and fruit juice through the day for the 500 miles, the Mexican food restaurant was a welcome break. Our final traveling companions arrived, being comprised of 2 veterinarians and their 2 teen aged very adult offspring and their 20 or so goats. So we are complete with 9 people, approximately 50 goats, and 3 trailers.
Days 3 and 4 - Miscalculation
Will said "Oops! I think I was wrong about the distance!" Yes, he was - it was 763 miles instead of the 500. Long day. All the days are supposed to be 24 hours, but sometimes it doesn't work that way. So we arrived at Sioux Falls, South Dakota hungry and tired and the goats looked like someone had let the air out of them but we all recovered after regular attention and a good meal. This time it was a salad bar and the ubiquitous pizza at Pizza Hut. Good and filling. We really wouldn't have cared about the good part but the filling was nice. It was a loooong way to the bathroom around the show arena - no lights and with a very tall fence but we needed to move around anyway. Cole raked up all the bedding and everyone else did milking, feeding, watering, loading, filling hay mangers and we were on the road again, this time to Sundance, Wyoming, or is it still the Dakotas? Anyway, it was around 500 miles to the place where the Sundance Kid was from. We had a "yummy" meal and went back to the barn to sleep on our faithful cots.
Day 5 - Arrival
<>Because Will is part of the National Show Committee, we had the opportunity to arrive a day before the majority of exhibitors. With incredible energy and drive, all equipment (lots!) and goats were unloaded, decisions quickly made about who goes in which pens, water buckets filled and offered, mangers filled, and bedding strewn. We had arrived. Soon the work would begin.
<>Days 6 and 7
<>Remove more panels to make it more like home for the goats - one large pen instead of smaller ones where they feel trapped. French Aipnes, our breed, have their own philosophy: the last one standing is the winner. Therefore, the one who is the current leader (there is always one), has the greatest benefits but also will give her life for the herd if necessary. So, it behooves us as supreme herd leaders, to make it possible for the lower subjects to get the hell our of the way! Check-in, vet check, tattoo check, any other requirments for showing are dealt with these 2 days.
<>Day 8 Monday Will's Very Big Day
Saanen show day (Will's breed) Today was the day Will has worked toward for 15 years. He "cleaned up". Among many other wins, he went Reserve National Champion. Ben, the then 14 year old who accompanied me to Pueblo. CO in 2002 flew in to participate in (and sweep) the Youth Showmanship competition and help Will show. Together they, with help, brought all their loot back to the pens and arranged it in what Will contentedly called "a totally ostentacious display". My day was filled with morning milking, watering, going back and forth to watch the show, and telling the more than hourly visitor about our site and the diseases that were falling under this protocol. Many, many people saw me in 2004 when we sold half the herd and were amazed how far back I had returned and that Richard was not there. More than once I heard "We all thought you were on the way out of ....." To which I invariably replied "If you have friends, relatives or enemies with _______, get them on this website. You may save a life.
Day 9, Dr. Cole, Dr. Kim, Cody and Casey - Toggenburg Day
Lots of Toggs, of which I saw several classes, in which "our" girls placed very high. At the Nationals, the classes are cut from as many as 100, sometimes more, to 20. This was the most amazing Togg Nationals I have ever seen, with ALL the "cuts" being Best in Show quality. Today was the day that one of the breeders whom I have known for 17 years, told me that she has Rosesea. She is also having the same mental problems that most of us have. We spoke briefly several times a day (which is how it works at the show) and she read a great deal of the site and will probably begin soon. She was already on many of the same supplements but not NAC and many not up to the dosages that we use.
Days 10 and 11 The Clipping Factor
Wednesday and Thursday for me were spent clipping bodies and udders. I had already clipped legs, tails, feet, heads, bellies so that the bodies could be done the last day or two. It shows off the animal to best advantage and leaves body hair for protection. It was air-conditioned in our huge barn and got down to 48 degrees F. several nights! I grew up in West Texas and when I packed I said "It's July, I don't need goat coats." and struck it off the list. Well, July in Wyoming is very different. So, everyone was clipped and looked beautiful and as ready as I could make them. By now, lots and lots of people had seen me working ALL day every day. They have all heard of our site and I greet all who visit and invite them to comment. To all the visitors who get to this site, I say "Go for it"!
Day 12 Friday Show Day
Gather 'round, friends, and help me show! Will, Dr Cole, Dr Paula, and I showed the 8 of our girls who came with me. At the Nationals the classes are divided into 12 age groups, beginning with very young kids (the real thing). We had 1 - 2 year old, 3 - 3 year olds, 3 - 4 year olds, and 1 - 5 year old. Interestingly, one of the the judges just got out of the hospital with recurrent pneumonia. I am going to call this person and suggest he take a close look at our cpn site Anyway, so here we are at the show, never being expected to be there again and really never expecting to be back and certainly a few years ago never expecting to be in the ring again. All but 1 made the cut. I did 5 classes that day. Two really nice things happened besides having 7 make the cut - the breeder with Rosecea was behind me and said "I saw this wonderful rear udder and expected her to go 2nd or 3rd" and our 1st freshening 3 year old went 13th. Normally, they are the first to be cut. We went 5th place Best 3 Females and 6th place Produce of Dam. All in all we were a little disappointed at the placings but at the same time thrilled to have done as well as we did. Since we have a young herd due to selling so many in '04 and picking ourselves up off the floor, our performance bodes well for next year in Louisville. Next year, Richard can go and Dr Kim won't have to move like a dervish unloading and loading to help me do the things I still can't do and maybe won't be able to next year. But, I sure can do so much that I haven't been able to do for a lot of years.
Days 13, 14, 15 Not Anticlimactic
Release time was originally 8 AM but was moved to 6 AM. The 2 little bucks I had brought were delivered to the people to take to WI and CA, and the little doe kids I had brought in hopes of selling (to cut down on the numbers at home -it was a doe year) had gone with their new people. One or the new owners was a 12 year old girl, Taylor, who bought Athena,and named her, with her own money and came that morning to help me pack the remaining items after Dr Kim, the dervish had left. I had told both Taylor and her mom that if she got tired of the state of things, she had a home with us. What a great child! I love for our goats to go to places like that. We finally drove away about 10 AM and went directly to Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Pizza again (more pizza than in the last 5 years were eaten on this trip), which is fine - we needed it! The next day was much more than the 763 miles on the way up but that was ok too. Will had a blowout on a brand new tire but everyone was ok. Good drivers all. I did all my own driving. The next day was back to Will's home in Georgia which by now seemed like home to my girls.
Day 16 The Last Day
At 6;30 I woke up on the floor where I had slept happily in my sleeping bag ready to get on the road. But the problm was, everyone else slept in till 8;30. So I fed and watered and being unable to get the portable milker out of my truck by myself, I enjoyed the beauty and sunrise peace of Will' delightful place. His small home is on the list of homes in Atlanta. Eventually every one got up and Dr Paula, an incredible vet with lighting fast hands had everyone milked out in a few minutes. Incidentally, she is one of 2 or 3 people I have known in my life whose smile lights up the world. I left with utmost confidence in the GPS that Richard had gotten for me and had taken me directly to Will's door and Du Quoin and around town at home a few days before leaving. After a couple of hours of Atlanta, it dawned on me that something was very wrong: I must have hit something because I do believe it had switched hemispheres. I now have 4382 miles on the trip odometer. Will has about 3000. In other words, I saw a lot more country (and Atlanta) than I intended. Will's is about 415 miles from our house. So I got home about 8 PM, a little wiser, older, and hungrier than I intended. But .... I went to Wyoming and got home. Is there anything better?