The Goat Whisperer

Karaoke can be fun - but try being the resident crooner to a pair of farm animals

By Doug Dine

Illustration by Felix Sockwell

And then it occurred to me: Not by accident was the drunken Greek music god Pan represented as a goat. Goats love music. I guess I had unconsciously realized this when I named the little beasts after two musicians whose voices sound to me a little like bleating goats (in a good way): Natalie
Merchant and Melissa Etheridge.

Though goats are earth’s most disobedient species, music has never failed to snap Natalie and Melissa into total obeisance since the day of the flood. When I was still bottle-feeding them, I’d use Keller Williams or the Be Good Tanyas to get them to chill. When they were ready to wean, they seemed to like the Beatles. And if I want them out of my rose bushes (evidently filet mignon to goats), I have to pull out my saxophone and lay on the Charlie Parker live. Nothing else, nothing recorded, will extract them. They won’t even look up to, say, the standard James Brown or David Grisman, or even Beth  Orton’s “Stolen Car.”  To my extremely amateur efforts at Bird, Natalie and Melissa march back to the corral like I was the pied piper. Goats are discerning music critics.

My biggest musical challenge came last fall, when Natalie seemed less than interested in the billy goat, Walt, I had brought in for her to date. Walt stank and had vicious horns, so I couldn’t blame her. And as an overprotective father, Natalie’s reticence about becoming a teen mother actually made me kind of proud. But in order to have local milk here at the Funky Butte Ranch, I needed a lactating nanny goat. To speed up the romance, I belted out the obvious Marvin Gaye and Al Green. But what really seemed to work was when I burst forth with some early Allman Brothers, with lyrics slightly modified:
Goats, can you feel it?    
Love is everywhere.

We’ll see if my aria really was effective in the late spring, when Natalie is supposed to give birth. Which reminds me—as head midwife, I’ve got to come up with a labor song for the big day. I’m leaning toward “The Kids Are Alright.”

Doug Fine is the author of Farewell My Subaru: An Epic Adventure in Local Living (Villard), out this March. His work has also appeared in The Washington Post, Salon, Outside, and on NPR. For more about Fine, see

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Issue 25

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