Greetings, Gentle Reader,

Recently, we had a fascinating experience at our house, or, to be more precise, in our barn. I had gone to the barn to do morning chores when, to my surprise, I discovered that someone had been there during the night.

The signs were everywhere. The fascinating part of this hilarious episode was the criminal's apparent goal, which seems to have been to feed a baby animal (an orphan?) some goat's milk. Now, it is true that goat's milk has saved many an orphan, but it is unusual for the young critter to be brought to the goat in the middle of the night, without the owner's knowledge.

Our desperate criminals (well, maybe not too desperate) seem to have been good farm kids. They carefully kept the goats (probably little ones), which they seem to have let out into the runway, from getting into any grain. (Grain could have killed them.) They even covered a bucket of grain which I had left sitting out. They tried to do no damage, and they succeeded. They took one package of gum and two baby animal nipples.

This episode has brought us a lot of fun and laughter, and because of that, I would like to address this column to the young rascals who committed this not-too- serious crime.

Dear Young Men,

You needn't have turned off the intercom; we would not have been able to hear you through it anyway, unless you had pushed the "talk" button. If you need more milk, I will teach you how to work the head locks on the stanchion, saving both of us a lot of aggravation. Thank you for blocking the way to the grain so that the goats could not get into it. Unfortunately, neither could I. You did too good a job. (The 100 lb sack of bran, two sacks of 4-way and two bales of straw were too much for my astonished, bemused body to handle.)

I think I know which goat you took out of the stall and put on the stanchion. The amount of "sign" all over the milking room gave me a clue. She is a pretty tough customer, and can teach a grown man what bandaids and chiropractors are for. If I had been able to get a grip on your bodies, I would have made you clean it up. She sprinkled it liberally and most abundantly, and I cleaned it up, but not without some grumbling.

I am not sure whether SHE climbed the wall and dumped supplies of every type onto the floor (yes, you did find and pick up almost all of them), or whether she just arranged to make YOU climb the wall and dump the supplies. As I said, she is a pretty tough customer.

Now kids, what you did was not harmful, but neither was it strictly right. If you had called, I would have crawled out of bed and helped you. (Oh, I know it wouldn't have been anywhere near as much fun if I had been there, but I would have seen to it that you had colostrum milk too, if you needed it.)

I don't have to question what kind of parents you have. Your behavior has given them away. They have taught you to be responsible and decent. (Unfortunately, there is no cure for adolescence, except time.) If I could find out who your parents are, I wouldn't tattle on you, because I know that they would kick your cans so hard that you would have to take your meals standing for at least a week. (Yes, you do deserve it, but you have given me so much fun that you have softened me up.) What I WOULD make you do is pay for one package of gum and two lamb nipples. That's what you owe us. Now, let me tell you what we owe you.

I.O.U. for:

1) A reminder that there are good, strong parents who teach their children, and good (albeit dingy) children who learn what they are taught.

2) A much needed reminder that kids will be kids, and that they still get involved in the same kinds of rattlebrained, but hilariously funny, antics that we did when we were kids.

3) A renewed faith in American youth. (Any young squirt who would go to the lengths you went to, in order to care for a small animal, is admirable and deserving of praise, and the praise should come right after you get your cans kicked.)

4) A reminder that some crimes are very real, and both serious and important, while other crimes (?) are none of the above.

5) A reminder that kids are only young once, and that they should not to be expected to behave as though they are adults, until they truly become adults.

You did well kids. If you need more milk, just call. The number's in the book.


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