Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rock's Roost

Rock’s Roost is a small piece of heaven in the Missouri Ozarks. It is a cabin, of sorts, sitting among tall pines on a very rocky patch of ground. Right now it is in hibernation mode because the owner, yours truly, suffers from wanderlust. But when Rock’s Roost is awake, it truly rocks!

It has been four years or so since the Roost was functioning as a farm, and even then it barely resembled anything that a real farmer would brag about at the local coffee shop. It was an enterprise that was all expense and no profit (all hat and no cattle), yet I profited considerably from the experience.

When Rock’s Roost was at the pinnacle of its glory it was home to a dozen or so pygmy goats that frolicked on their own playground. The large truck tires and painted barrels that I set up for their amusement, and my own, are still there, though they look somewhat sad without the goats. Little goats must have invented the game “King of the Mountain,” because they would spend hours upon hours knocking each other off of those tires and barrels! The pygmy goats seemed to be always giving birth. Sometimes they did just fine on their own bringing twins or triplets into the world, and at other times I would find myself up to my elbows in pulling goats. One spring day I came home after being gone for the weekend, and there to greet me were seven new baby goats and three very tired nannies!

Five or six domestic rabbits ran free, and several times a year they would bring out their baby bunnies to meet the other creatures that called the Roost home. There were also three pot-bellied pigs whose main goal in life was to find a cool place to sleep in the summer and a warm spot for slumber in the winter. In the winter I would usually get home after dark and have to roam out to the dark barn to feed – where I would invariably trip over a pig or two!

A large contingent of fowl made their nests at Rock’s Roost. A flock of noisy guineas worked the grounds during the day looking for ticks, and at night they would nest in the tree tops ready to sound the alarm whenever anything unexpected happened in the darkness. For awhile there were also peacocks, two males and two females. They would nest in one very tall pine right next to the cabin. Whenever something would set the guineas to squawking, the peacocks would chime in with their distinctive screams. All of the dogs in the neighborhood would then add their howls to the chorus. Nothing went undetected at Rock’s Roost, even on the darkest of nights!

Other feathered residents included a tom turkey, a cranky goose, and two dozen or so hens of mixed varieties that always provided an abundance of eggs - and all of my friends shared in the bounty! There were also a few roosters who liked to make noise and fight. The best birds on the little farm were four large emus. An emu is a three-toed, very large bird, similar to an ostrich only somewhat smaller. My emus loved to be hosed off on hot days in the summer, and they would sit in mud puddles and visit whenever the opportunity presented itself. One of the emus would reach over the fence with his long neck and feast on the cherry tomatoes that dangled close to their enclosure. Another was always underfoot whenever I did any cement work because she considered wet cement to be a delicacy! A large male ostrich also lived at the Roost for awhile, but he was as mean as the emus were sweet, and we soon had a parting of the ways.

But it was the dogs that were the King and Queen of the Roost. Paladin and Paloma, a pair of beautiful Great Pyrenees, ran the place by day and night. Those dogs were so special that they deserve their own post on this blog. It will be coming soon!

If the Roost was a comforting retreat on most days, it was magical during storms. A good spring or summer storm drove everyone together. The creatures of the Roost would gather in the barn, an assembly of friends waiting out the downpour and quietly tolerating the farmer as he fed the group and talked incessantly of things that were of no import to them. Life was beautiful, and everyone in the barn reveled in it. It was the very best of times!

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