The high-pitched bleating echoed off the barn and alerted my ears to a special event. In the dark, I walked over to the greenhouse to find a miniature goat hopping around, making his first cries on earth. Mama goat calmly (or exhaustedly) observed, while the little one found his way to the nipple. The first hours are crucial, because the mother goat can't protect the babies from the weather; it's sink or swim. Nearby, his brother lie, with rear legs splayed out, looking dead, but breathing slowly. Occasionally, he'd lift his head and wearily look around. I don't know why he couldn't or wouldn't walk, but his future looked dim unless he could muster the energy to stand up and drink milk. Mama seemed to have given up on him, though she sometimes looked to him and licked his head. How could they survive the night?
The didn't survive the night. When I eagerly walked over in the morning, I couldn't hear a sound from the greenhouse. Looking in, the other goats stood around in a somber mood. Mama nudged her motionless baby, not yet convinced that he'd never move again. She stood there, confused. I tossed some hay in to distract the other goats so that I could enter the greenhouse and see if I could do anything. I felt both baby goats for breathing, looked into their eyes. Glazed-over eyes, tiny tongue sticking out, frozen dead. The splayed-out one never had a chance, but how did the dancing baby die? Not enough milk or enough cuddling to stay warm when it dipped to 27ºF? I have no idea. Mama sniffed at me, looked at me as if there were something I could do. We stared in each other's eyes; I pet her, as if it were some consolation.
Floyd had separated her from the others when he noticed the birth, and he gave her extra grain. I felt like she wanted to join the rest of her family, so I untied the fence to let her out. The other goats immediately ran in straight to the grain, almost stepping on the dead baby goats. Mama wandered past them, bleating loudly. I had no idea what to do. I could have called Floyd for help, but now I felt responsible somehow. I picked up the goats by the leg; they were surprisingly heavy for being less than a day old. I tossed them over the wall, onto the snow, figuring that they'd only be trampled on if I left them there. I jumped out of the greenhouse and moved the siblings closer together on the snow. Mama goat cried out inside, but after a while, she joined the small herd, standing together, with some after-birth hanging from her, and with a full bag of milk that'll never be drunk.
Outside, snow started falling a little heavier, and I worried that the babies would be covered, hidden – somehow that seemed undignified. What would Floyd do when he found them? I didn't want to see him and talk about it. All I could do was drive away from the farm.