Farms are places that witness the full spectrum of life, from the joyousness of birth to the ultimate demise through death. The reality of the cycle of life is perhaps even more readily apparent on small farms, like mine, where many of the animals have names and interact daily with the humans who stumble through their world. Everyone on the farm operates in the knowledge that what is playing underfoot today may be gone by tomorrow.
Still it is hard when a farm creature dies.
Caesar, the little goat that I wrote about earlier this week, became a family member at Rock's Roost this past Saturday when I brought him home from a swap meet. He was just twelve days old when he arrived here, and he was still being fed with a bottle.
Caesar and I had a good Saturday as he got to know the farm and his new neighbors. Saturday evening I fed him a bottle he eagerly consumed. Sunday morning he was ill, and he stayed sick throughout the day. I figured out, correctly, that I had mixed his formula too strong. Monday, when he was back on his feed and acting friskier, I called the veterinarian. The vet said that his symptoms indicated that the formula had been too strong, but he suggested that if Caesar was feeling better - and he was - to wait two additional weeks before bringing him in, at which time he would be wormed and receive an all-purpose shot.
Tuesday morning Caesar was fine and consumed a full bottle of formula. At lunch time, however, he declined another bottle - but was playful, nonetheless. By that evening things suddenly turned worse. I found Caesar lying lethargically in the straw, though with no signs of pain. At dawn the following morning he was dead.
Caesar's spirit has crossed the Rubicon in search of greener pastures, and his temporal body has been buried beneath the root ball of a holly tree that my son planted on the farm yesterday. The evergreen reminder of the young life cut short will serve as habitat for other life at the farm for years to come. I suspect that the little goat would have liked that.
The question I neglected to ask at the swap meet was this: "Why has this little goat been removed from his mother?" Was he ill to begin with, or, like the Russian infants that I saw in a Moscow orphanage, was he suffering in silent despair at the loss of his mother, his first and strongest connection to the strange world that he had abruptly entered two weeks earlier. The lesson I have learned is to never adopt an animal that has not been weaned.
Caesar, I regret any role that I played in the brevity of your time on this earth. I will think of you as I watch the holly tree reaching for the sky and providing safety and comfort to other life on the farm. Play on, young spirit, play on.