I woke up at 8am yesterday morning, rolled out of bed to find sneakers, blue jeans, tank top and t-shirt. I had been waiting for near to a year for this and it was a wonder I got any sleep last night with all the thoughts running in my head. It is no small thing to kill your first mammal and now I feel there is a stark difference in killing a snake (which I have a few) and killing something with soft hair, warm skin and eyes expressive as your own human ones. Colin and I headed out as soon as he got some food in him and we drove out to Walmart to get a tub. Then it was to Mr. Kelley's farm and let me tell you, I've never seen so many goats in my life. It's a humbling experience, standing waist deep in around 100-150 caprine animals, all excepting the youngest kids sporting horns. It should be known that goats can make more interesting noises that most humans could ever imagine and there ability to mimic human sound in nothing short of amazing. Picking one required a little time; not something I wanted to rush in the slightest. The first buck I pointed out in the herd Mr.Kelly wanted to keep and I can't blame him. This fellow of bittersweet sable with a inky black spinal ridge; a beautiful, dark beast. The next buck I found was solid white in body but his entire head was midnight black without interruption. A little small on closer inspection and so he was spared. Then Mr. Kelly pointed out a sibling of his, a solid white but for his chestnut head, neck and one chestnut sock. Lovely young one and then came the wrangling.
Now let me tell you something about wrangling a goat. If it sounds easy, destroy that thought in your mind before it takes root. There is nothing simply about catching a fleet footed quadruped with horns who has no interest in being caught by you. Goats are quick and have no qualms about rearing up and jumping away from you like their cousin, the deer. It took Colin, Mr.Kelly and me to corner this buck with two of his siblings flanking him. He feigned for Colin and then rushed me and I grabbed him. Now, let me tell you my decision to grab him was quickly replaced by my decision to pull him to the ground with all my body weight. For all that this goat wasn't any bigger than Riley, he was strong. I finally secured his body with my legs and my hands around the base and back of his throat so he wouldn't flay about. Or tag me with his horns on accident. All in all, he was exceptionally well behaved in his capture; never tried to kick, butt, gore or bite me once. Holding a goat is hard work because it's not like he stops trying to get away after you have him. It seemed like an entire year had gone by before Colin got back with the rope.
Colin tied the goat and then it was my job to carry him to the car. He was a pretty good weight and he wasn't happy about me picking him up. Nubians and their crosses scream, rather like humans when scared or upset. It's loud; my head was ringing by the time I got him back to the car. Now in his big tub, he laid down and calmed himself. Colin gave Mr. Kelley $70.00 dollars and back to A C Carey we went.
Now, we got him in the pen and let him calm down. Colin sharpened Saa, the knife he made me for my birthday. I got rehydrated and fixed up a snack for our goat. He wasn't interested so it was wine soaked apricots for the four of us.
And now, it was time. I took Saa in my hand and got down on my knees. I prayed and I thanked my patrons. The details of those prayers were only meant for the ears of my Gods and my Witnesses that stood by me. I will not share them.
I rose from my feet and when we caught the goat again I laid him across my lap. I petted him gently, smoothing his fur and calmed him. It is no small field of emotional ground to cover to hold something in your lap, touch it, sooth it, pet it and try to give it the last comfort of it's life. I put the point of Saa against the neck just behind the carotid artery and pushed with all my strength. The death scream of your first kill brands itself across your mind and soul as powerfully as losing your virginity; I will never forget the former anymore than I could the later. I needed Colin's assistance because the neck muscles were harder to sear through for me but he assured me that it was good cut. So we sat, holding the head as we bled him out the color of the fresh, arterial blood was like no red I have ever seen. Such a bright shade is almost hard for the human brain to process.
We hung him up and began the initial skinning process. It's important to tie off the urinary track as well as the lower intestine so you spare yourself a smell mess. In fact, the goat didn't smell at all until the dog ripped open the stomach after we gave them the offal we removed. To tell you the truth, that smell was no different or worse that a compost heap. It's mostly or partially digested grass, grain and acorns. I don't know how long it took Colin and I to remove the skin but at one point I was sitting under the hanging goat, 3/4 of raw hide in my lap while I pulled as hard as I could to remove the rest. It was the strangest thing I have ever felt, hand sliding between the still hot body and the skin as I used my fingertips to separate the silvery, thin subcutaneous layer between. The men were telling me it was like that of entering a woman, after a fashion.
Skin removed, Colin saw to the butchering while I tended to the hide. I had to get this nailed up and down in the cellar to cool off the body heat and soft dry before I began the truth defleshing process. I used a trowel to loose the fat layer and some of the flesh that had come away with the hide. It worked wonderfully and soon I found purchase underneath. It was slippery work and really labor intensive, I broke a fat sweat down in this otherwise cool cellar. 2 hours later, I had a damn beautiful defleshed hide that I covered in two pounds of salt and set in the tub for draining, which it would do over the next 2-4 days. Colin helped me get what he calls the 1% of the flesh off but I must give him credit. I was bone tired, my back was keying and my finger near to useless by the time I was almost to the salting stage. He helped me and my wonderfully husband to be was a great helper.
Seamus fetched everything I needed, provided extract hands and encouragement throughout the whole of the day. I never lacked for a drink or someone to hold my knife or pop pain medication into my mouth to give me the extra push I needed to get done. He was so supportive and it seems ever time I turn around, I fall more in love with this man who has come to understand me so well. This hide will be a sporran for him, a wedding present and I am putting my all into it. It is my greatest wish that it comes out perfect for my mate.
After a meal of mashed potatoes and the smoked goat ribs Angela made for us from out kill, we tested cut bottles and Seamus and Colin gave me a full body massage after the day's work. It made all the difference this morning. After they rubbed me down with copious amounts of shea butter, I took a long, cool, soapy shower and shed myself off all the blood, guts, oil and hair I had accumulated. Yes, I was washing my arms and face like I was scrubbing down for surgery every time I could but the shower was like heaven.
It was all I could do to drive home. Seamus bought us a bed time snack and I stayed awake just lone enough for us to eat, him to shower and I was out almost as soon as the light was out. I slept harder than ever before.
Killing has changed me, I can feel it as easily as the first cold snap of autumn. It isn't easy to explain but I suspect Colin, Ang and Seamus can see it, sense it and feel it.
No small amount of ground I have covered and it is will all my soul am I grateful to my teacher who is also brother of my choosing, my Gods and my friends. They gave me so much and without knowing it, prepared me for that took place yesterday.
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- Rite, Feast, Craft