Junglepixiebelize - Recollections of a Gringa Pioneer
Nancy R Koerner - Copyright@2021 - All Rights Reserved
"Space-Goat Wears the Devil's Pentangle"
Question: What were the chances of hitching a ride, up a jungle track, into the bush, with two live goats in tow? Answer: This was Belize; anything could happen.
On this day, it happened because Hippolito “Polo” Neal – who owned a farm up in Macaw Bank – had driven his truck town on a Wednesday, instead of a Saturday. Polo always drove his truck hard-and-fast, and for good reason. An accident has caused permanent damage to his right leg, and that was the gas pedal. So, for Polo, the term “lead-foot” was both physical and attitudinal. He literally could not raise the right leg of its own accord in order to move the foot from accelerator to brake. Instead, Polo had to grab his right knee, with both hands, manually lift the weight of his leg off the gas pedal, and manually place it on the brake to the left in order to slow down. And he did not like having to do it often.
For the same reason, when in town, Polo conducted almost all his business from the driver’s seat. So when we waved him down, he was happy to help. He drove a super-heavy-duty dual-wheel pickup with a crude homemade cargo-and-passenger box on the back. Unfortunately, whoever had nailed the roof on the box had left the bare points of nails sticking through the ceiling. (I cringed, and tried not to imagine a rollover.) My husband, likewise, rolled his eyes, loaded the goats, and resigned himself to fate. The baby was my ticket to riding up front in the cab. (Did that make me feel any safer? Umm. No.) Polo didn’t really “drive” that truck so much as “aim” it and then hurtle through space. For most of the way, I had shut my eyes and held my breath. At least, at that speed, it hadn’t lasted long. Arriving at the bush-trail, we thanked Polo for the ride, while thanking God even more for having survived it. But the decision was made: no more “taking passage” again on the Cristo Rey Road. Strictly dry-season dory from now on, until another vehicle could be purchased.
The previous gringo-owners had named the animals to match their personalities. Fine-Goat was black and white, sweet and well-mannered, with a quiet disposition. Space-Goat was the brown one, stereotypically cantankerous, with a mischievous, if not slightly-evil, look on her face. Like the devil’s pentangle, I thought. At first, our concern was the ability to keep the goats from wandering OFF. It turned out that the problem was going to be preventing them from wandering IN. Through the years, Space-Goat, especially, would consistently insist on being a family member. Goats have a natural love of high places, but I could not have possibly anticipated the day Space-Goat would climb the unbelievably steep front staircase, and head into the house to explore. Hearing the clatter of pots and pans, I had rushed in to find her, front hooves on the kitchen counter, her head turned over her shoulder, again glaring at me with that same baleful stare. Stories about goats “eating anything” must have been specifically written for Space-Goat. There was nothing she wouldn’t nibble. Over time, she ingested a very small baby rattle, a tiny Tupperware lid, several crayons, and had actually chewed on (if not technically “eaten”) both a tin can and the clothes hanging on the line – just like in the cartoons.
However, the joke turned serious one day when my husband saw her filch a tube of epoxy resin from the workbench. There was no doubt. The tell-tale flecks of paint from the tube’s label were still were stuck on her tongue. Funny, yes, but also frightening. Space-Goat was due to deliver her kids any day now. Frightened, I checked a book on natural medicine (for humans) to find out how to create a homemade emetic; we needed to make her throw up. It suggested a vile concoction of warm water, salt, and mustard. Using a smooth glass Coke bottle, we had glugged it down her throat. Ten minutes later. Nothing. Half-hour later, still nothing. At this point, the only salvation might be to make the half-day trek down the Cristo Rey on foot, to the Western Highway, and then hitchhiking to Central Farm, hoping the veterinarian was in. Not realistic. With no vehicle, and considering all the time it would take, and then still gambling on the vet’s presence, it would have likely been “udderly” fruitless. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) But the goat did not look sick either. Not at all. In fact, she seemed fine.
Having a sudden hunch, I remembered the animal husbandry book we’d brought from the States. I flipped through the pages, and there it was, in black and white. Goats were ruminants; they couldn’t throw up. We broke into hysterical laughter, and shrugged. OK. The goat would either live or die; there was nothing we could do. Hell, in that case, why not just give her the other tube as well? It was a two-part epoxy. Maybe the catalyst would mix with the resin and she’d just poop out the whole thing. Again, welcome to Belize, where thinking “outside-the-box” was to be a survivalist's way-of-life.
Strangely enough, Space-Goat never did suffer any ill-effects from her culinary experimentation, thus confirming conjecture that goats really did have cast-iron stomachs. And, sure enough, a few days later, she gave birth to a perfectly-healthy single kid. Not another nanny as we had wanted, unfortunately, but a little billy. We sighed heavily. In keeping with tradition, we decided to name him Scape-Goat.