In one of my parents’ old corn cribs, you’ll find a wooden beam that stands out compared to the rest. Etched in blue sharpie are the names of the show goats my brother and I worked with each summer, their names becoming a part of the crib’s history. While I was home in Ohio during the holidays, I walked by this piece of wood — seemingly insignificant to some — and had a flood of memories rush in.
When I was 7, I somehow talked my dad into letting us buy some goats from our neighbors who lived down the road. More of a swine man himself, he gave in to the idea, after some begging on my end. I believe he’d tell you it was one of the best decisions he ever made.
From my neighbor's herd, I picked out 10 pregnant does to call my very own. My family and I often joke and call our original group of goats "brush goats," because “the only thing they were good for was eating brush,” my dad would say.
While those brush goats may have not been the best in the genetics department, they laid the foundation for what would come to be one of our family’s most time-consuming and memory-filled ventures.
Our first kidding season with the brush goats was something I will never forget, and quickly became my favorite season, even to this day. Though the winter winds would attempt to take my breath away while I trekked down the hill to the barn, it was well worth it when I opened the door and saw little goat kids cuddled up against one another and hopping all around.
I would spend hours down in the barn, sitting on the straw while the kids would pile up onto my lap and attempting to name every single one. Which I soon found out was not an easy task.
As the kids grew and got older, it became time to pick which one I would be taking to the county fair. Still knowing nothing about the goat industry, I based my decision on which was friendliest. I landed on a weather named Macx.
That summer was full of cleaning out his pen, feeding, bathing and working with him each and every night once the sun had set. My dad would accompany me on these evening walks I would take up and down the hill with Macx, always an hour long.
As I got older, sometimes I dreaded these hour evening walks. But looking back, I can’t help but smile and be grateful for the time I got to spend talking to my dad at the end of each day, telling one another about how our day had been, while we each had a goat in hand.
Toward the end of our evening walks, I would always hear the familiar words “one more time up champion hill,” the nickname my father had given the hill we would walk the wethers up and down each night. He instilled hard work in both my brother and me, telling us going the extra mile, or one more time up champion hill, would be worth it in the end.
When I did have my first win in the arena, the first thing I heard as I received a proud hug was, “I told you the one more time up champion hill would be worth it.”
And while I no longer partake in the evening ritual of going up champion hill, my younger brother does. I am hoping he savors those evening summer walks, as I know they are fleeting.