i would walk the mile and a half from my house up the dirt road, through the tunnel of trees, to the greenberg's. in the kitchen of that farmhouse was a wood cooking stove like the one in the farmhouse i grew up in. i stood next to it while catherine finished shucking green beans. then she would lead me to her barn. it was dark and smelled of decay. summers light filtered through the walls and ceilings, and the sound of catherine's soft voice cooing to the goats who lived there is my only memory of her speaking.
i loved these animals. i was in awe of their large smooth eyes, the soft waddles under their chins, the way their lips curled as they ate from my hand. the contrast of their bony spines and round bellies. they were brown and white, black and grey and kind. catherine would open the pen and the goats would file out of the barn in a single line. catherine gave me the switch and filled my pockets with grain. then i would take the group of gentle creatures out to the end of the crossroad and decide which direction to go. often i would choose to turn right onto butterfield road. there was a small school house and large fields and the goats enjoyed the grasses and flowers of those fields. i would walk barefoot, my feet making little sound on the smooth packed dirt, and the goats would follow or wander. if a car came by i would herd them to the side and into the field and the nod at the car as it passed. i don't remember ever using the switch. they were so gentle and docile.
one drunken evening many years later as i sat around a fire pit in my back yard i told this story to friends. they were in awe of the idyllic rural vermont i come from. they roared and cackled, buckling over with bellies full of laughter at the the innocence of my nine year old self walking down a country road with no shoes, herding goats. my friend bill yelled out "cat walker walks goats!" and the fire lit with our guffaws.
the next day as we worked through a busy night at the bar, bill exclaimed: "cat walker walks goats!" a chorus of chuckles from those us there the night before rose amidst the ruckus of the teaming brew pub. i swore that my first novel would be titled, cat walker goat walker. and so for years i have laughed at the title of my first book that i have not written. it has brought two memories together: child hood summer time, and whiskey drunk fire pits. it makes me smile, cat walker walks goats!
a month ago i got a letter in the mail. i opened it to find a note from my three year old niece, transcribed to my mother. it rambles on about tractors and parades, and how much she loves me. then tucked in a paragraph is the title of this post. blah blah blah goats. i burst into sobs of joy. my niece amidst all the hubbub of her 21st century existence is growing up to be a vermont grrl. it thrilled me. i hung the letter in my mothers hand on the cork board in front of my desk. i read it everyday.
i have no desire to have children. i think they are a general selfish plague of humanity, but i love my nieces with more heart than i knew i had. i find their curiosity and command of being human brilliant. and it is the smallest of their actions that i find the joy that allows humanity to procreate. perhaps it is i who will suffer for not having children. but i will not. i think it is wrong to treat the earth as we do and make more children. there will be a skeleton of this precious world left to them. and for that i am sorry, because i was raised on an idyllic country road walking goats barefoot and every child should have such peaceful opportunity.