My dear friend Mary Phil and her husband own a farm just outside of Nashville. Mary Phil and I have known each other since what seems like time began, but actually since we were college sophomores, when we would lay in bed and sing Tammy Wynette at the top of our lungs. I was her maid of honor, some 30 years ago, and I have called her every wedding anniversary to cheer their marriage on. I like being part of their marital success.
Mary Phil shows me the same unwavering support. When I get wobbly here in Nashville, missing my husband back in New Hampshire or unclear of my next creative steps, she helps put the wheels back on my emotional car. A couple of weeks ago I drove out to her farm to meet some goats she’d named after Mama in honor of her 85th birthday.
A Different Kind of Goat
These aren’t your basic goats — these are Tennessee Fainting Goats. Fainting Goats have a genetic disorder (myotonia congenita according to Wikipedia) that causes their muscles to freeze for roughly 10 seconds when the goat feels panic. It doesn’t hurt them, but when they get startled, the younger goats stiffen and fall over; the older goats straggle along in an awkward, stiff-legged shuffle. Not surprisingly, their panic and subsequent collapse gives predators a distinct advantage. This is Mary Phil’s second herd of Fainting Goats, thanks to her first herd’s untimely meeting with the neighbor’s dogs.
Following Their Lead
I am all too familiar with panic and paralysis and sometimes I wish I could be a younger Fainting Goat. Instead of feel the fear and do it anyway, I’d like to feel the fear and collapse into a small heap. Sometimes that’s not a bad course of action — eventually, the fear will pass. But if I succumb to that desire often enough, I run the risk of encountering the neighbor’s dogs and that’s not an end I’d like to meet. So I’ll try to follow the lead of the older goats and stagger off towards my goal, startled and stiff legged, but still standing.
And now, see for yourselves.
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