Sometimes its the little things that buoy you up in ways you don’t realize until they are gone. We jumped pretty quickly into raising goats when we got to Indiana. Even though they were an expense and I wasn’t working, the goats gave us something to focus on, something to work towards, so we went to work cleaning out the barn, patching holes and building fences. We were all a little bit lost at sea (if you can do that in the middle of the ‘heartland’), the children unsure about new schools, me wondering how to remake my life and move us forward, and we delighted in losing ourselves in caring for Honey, Ginger and Nutmeg. None of the reading we’d done (OK, I’d done) had prepared us for just how charismatic and fun goats could be.
Of course goats meant we needed goat food, mineral block, hoof trimmers, fencing material and tools, fly spray, and straw and hay. And so, along with the library where we whiled away hours making use of the free internet and I bonded with the librarians, we quickly became regulars at the local feed store. It wasn’t a big place but you could find everything you needed there. If they didn’t have it they’d order it. In the fall it smelled faintly of the new mown hay that was stacked to the rafters in the adjoining pole barn. There were store cats to pet (and sometimes kittens on loan from the humane society), free wooden pallets to build goat stalls out of, food for every animal we owned as we added a 4H pig, a rabbit and chickens, to our little hobby farm, and friendly folk. Whether it was the owners or the employees they were always ready to chat about the local news and gossip, pass on advice on animal care, and commiserate about the weather. I found myself confiding my goal of returning to school to get my teaching license and bragging about the kids as they settled in to the local schools (one of the owners was on the school board so there was always the chance you’d hear something relevant to the children as well as the animals).
It was my ‘Cheers’ – you know the place where they always know your name and they’re always glad you came? Granted I didn’t haunt the place the way the Cheers regulars did but I looked forward to going to the feed store, knowing I’d be met with the feeling that they knew me and were glad I was there. And then they closed. Yep, retired, sold the business and its now a plumbing place. I buy my feed at Tractor Supply or Rural King, both large warehouse like places, and staffed by people who barely look you in the eye much less remember what you buy and ask after your animals and kids. That just leaves the library. And I don’t get there that often anymore.