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Goat’s Supporting Role

Prayer of the Goat

Lord, let me live as I

A little giddiness of

the strange taste of
unknown flowers.

For whom else are Your

Your snow wind? These

The sheep do not

They graze and graze,

all of them, and
always in the same direction,

and then eternally

chew the cud of their
insipid routine.

But I—I love to bound
to the heart of all

Your marvels,

leap Your chasms,

and, my mouth stuffed
with intoxicating grasses,

quiver with an
adventurer’s delight

on the summit of the
~ Carmen Bernos de

This photo was taken in Wilson, Wyoming and although I was
able to capture this stately creature in his own frame, appearances can be
deceiving. You see, in front, behind, and on each side of him were hundreds of
other goats. They were “browsing” (goats are browsers, sheep are grazers) in a
fenced-off, 1500 square foot patch of weeds. As my husband and I stopped our
bike ride to take a picture or two, we noticed a herding dog and two people (a
man and a woman) busy adjusting the pliable wire fence. Possessing a VERY
curious mind, my husband proceeded to call out to the “friendly folks” and
inquire as to what was the cause of such a neat and tidy square patch of

Here’s what we learned: the owners of this large portion of
acreage (this husband and wife) transported their herd of goats from another
part of Wyoming to clear the weeds in sections (around 1500 square feet at a
time) in order to maintain their newly acquired land in Wilson. Instead of using traditional lawnmowers
or other agricultural hardware, these folks used “goat weed-wackers”! We were
fascinated! “Tell us more!”

Turns out the goats are fenced off for about an hour at a
time in sections. They are free to “browse”, meaning they eat the tops of the weeds which prevents the seeds from releasing into the air,
landing in the nearby soil, and creating more weeds. Genius! Once one section
is complete, the fence is lifted, the herding dog takes charge of moving the
goats to the next section, the owners re-position the fence once more, and it’s
chow time for another hour. The amazing thing about this is that they (husband,
wife, goats and dog) spend all day(s)—from sun-up to sun-down—repeating this tedium
until all the weeds are wacked on their land! Talk about “green” practices!

As my husband and I re-mounted our bikes and headed for Teton National Park, I couldn’t help but think….and think….and think some
more. I came to the conclusion that animals, for the most part—domestic or
otherwise “semi” domestic, like these goats—are really “supporting cast
members” in our [human] screenplays. This doesn’t mean we don’t care for them,
or nurture their well-being. I’d like to think this is ALWAYS at play, no
matter what the circumstance; nonetheless, this was a topic of great
contemplation for me.

After listening to this couple talk about the role of their
goats, I was intrigued and needed to learn more. Turns out, goats are one of
the very first animals to be domesticated by humans (over 10,000 years
ago).  As such, legend, lore and myth
have culminated in a huge wealth of material concerning goat
meaning, i.e., what it represents, what it means on a deeper (symbolic) level,
and some attributes the goat offers as a totem, guardian, or messenger.

The goat is a powerful animal totem and is closely related to
the sheep, in particular the ram, (hence, the comparison earlier of browsing
versus grazing); but, his symbolism is different. Unlike their sheep and ram
siblings, goats aren’t particularly communal, often grazing alone and spreading
themselves far apart—of course, with the exception of “playing a supporting role in our
human screenplay” as noted above.

This is not to say goats are anti-social, but it does evoke
a sense of independence. As such, symbolically, the goat signals us to
contemplate our power as individuals. We might ask ourselves, “Is it time to
separate from the herd? Perhaps launch into an independent direction?” Often
times, the solitary path leads us to great discovery. Goats respect distance
and space. They also encourage independent adventures and explorations of high
vistas for the sole purpose of personal/individual growth and knowing.

Did someone say, vistas? Goats love great heights and love
to climb. Climbing speaks to us of progress and achievement. The goat will
travel and live up in cliffs and mountains at impossible angles and elevations.
They approach a precipice with ease and enthusiasm. This is encouragement to
search your soul in places high and seemingly
inaccessible for your sustenance. With deliberate intent, you can get there!

As highly intelligent beings, goats are insatiably curious. They will poke and prod at everything within their environment. Often this
prodding comes in the form of looking for weak links in their enclosures (if
domesticated). Goats encourage us to engage and entertain our own sense of
curiosity. This is where knowledge leads to intelligence and wisdom. As
Alistair Cooke so poignantly stated: “Curiosity is free-wheeling intelligence.” For the most part, curiosity and intelligence go hoof-in-hoof…oops, I meant hand-in-hand!
The goat is a grand reminder to be inquisitive.

As I road away from that fascinating “patch” of goats, I
couldn’t help but think of how endearing these animals are. As I learned more,
I see now, that the goat is a life affirming animal totem—a great reminder to
honor ourselves, our loftiest ideals, and keep exploring our vistas until we
achieve our highest vision. With great risks come great rewards. Set off into
uncharted territory as the goat does, and chances are, provisions will be
granted to you every step of the way.

Thank you, precious goat, for your supporting role in our human screenplays…

One Response to Goat’s Supporting Role

  1. Byron July 24, 2013 at 8:23 pm #

    What a content little weed-eater…where can I see pictures of the whole crew?

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