The other goats, Sage and Pearl, are preoccupied with their own bowls of dry cob on the other side of the barn, so as LaLa nibbles the golden oat flakes with his black lips, I am safe to steal a kiss. He’s the sweetest goat, but still wild. All three of the goats are borderline wild. I am careful.
But I’m not supposed to kiss LaLa. The Bearded One asked me not to, after I casually described the wonderful smell during the act, and which I should have known that the Bearded One would see as highly dangerous. If a chicken squawks in the distance, goats may whip their horns around violently. Also, lice are always possible, though we’ve no signs of such so far.
“Quit kissing LaLa,” he said softly this week when I kissed him, the Bearded One, good night, and I said okay, I would not do it anymore.
I sound like an addict.
It’s 7:30am and I’ve already done the chicken chores — opened the aviary, lowered the feeder from its rat-proof overnight position, mucked out under the roost — while the goats watched patiently, scratching themselves. Their fleece is long and dense now, and I plan to pluck and brush it out this year and do something with it. After I kiss it.
Now I squat down next to LaLa, with my back to the open barn door, as he eats. I stroke the long, tendrilled locks on his neck. The curly black fleece is thick and smells richly goaty, and I pet him and coo into his long, velvety ears that I’m not trying to eat him. Maybe it’s because I’m a Capricorn, the astrological sign of the goat, that he smells so good to me.
I don’t have much time. Sage will be finished and will tromp over for the attention that he is entitled to as the biggest. But I don’t want to kiss Sage. And Pearl won’t let anyone touch her. I want to kiss LaLa. His first owners named him for his lovely singing voice when he was a baby. He doesn’t talk any more than the other goats, now, though.
LaLa is just about the height of our Golden Retriever Ruby, and he wags his little tail just like she does. I admire the ridges in his foot-long horns. His head is so hard and bony, as hard as the madrona wood the Bearded One has carved a spoon and a spatula from.
Which reminds me. The spirit of my obligation to the Bearded One regarding this promise, of course, I think, is staying safe. I have no intention of putting myself at risk.
LaLa is almost finished now. I’m still hunched down, inches from a smooch.
LaLa’s beard circles slowly as he chews. Goats have no upper front teeth, and use their lower incisors to scrape, leaving the molars to grind. His palate is for smelling. When I kissed him the first time, it was on his back.
People kiss horses’ noses and no one bats an eye, I think. Not to mention dogs and cats. There is just no good reason to discriminate against goats.
I have just seconds now. LaLa’s vacuuming in the last bits of grain and I run my hands along his whole body, smoothing down the fleece on his shoulder and puckering —
“Quawk!” Leah races around the corner of the goat barn and flaps around me as I’m a breath from my goal. “Brrrk-brrr- brrrk BRRRRRK!” Busted.
“Did the Bearded One send you?” I say to the Rhode Island Red hen who is now scratching in the dirt.
LaLa trots out of the barn to the hay rack, out of my reach, and the hen walks over to take his place. She squats down, her way of saying pick me up.
Which I do. And pet her silky-soft feathers. And give her a big kiss.