62: Country Life

62: Country Life

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: I Can't Believe My Dog Did That!

Country Life

I have no relish for the country; it is a kind of healthy grave.

~Sydney Smith

Buster couldn’t understand why he wasn’t invited to accompany my husband George on his trip to the woods that cold January afternoon. Though George and I, born and raised in the suburbs, were struggling to adjust to our new life in the country, our high-energy Yellow Lab loved everything about living on a farm. A pond for swimming. Barn cats to chase. Manure to roll in. Not a care in the world. Buster wasn’t the least bit concerned about what to do with the old billy goat we’d found dead in the pasture that morning. But we were.

Most of the options we could think of for disposing the carcass seemed downright barbaric. Tie a concrete block to the goat and sink him in the pond. Throw him on top of the brush pile and set it ablaze. Leave him for the buzzards. We decided that there was no choice but to bury the goat.

Which was problematic for one big reason. The ground in Middle Tennessee, though not frozen solid, was rock hard.

No matter. George took the shovel and pickax from the tool shed and hauled them and the goat, already cold and stiff, up a steep hill to the wooded area at the back of the pasture. Then he began to dig. Deciding that narrow and deep was preferable to shallow and wide so that wild animals wouldn’t scavenge the remains, he painstakingly carved out a hole that looked to be the perfect size. Covered with sweat despite the frigid temperatures, he picked the goat up by its feet and gently lowered it into the grave.

The legs and hooves protruded almost a foot above the ground. George tried bending them. He tried twisting them. He tried folding them. It was no use.

He pulled out the goat and dug some more. The wind picked up and the weak winter sun began to dip behind the mountain, but at least the heinous task was almost done.

Well, no. The grave was still too shallow. Again George heaved the goat out of the hole and kept on digging.

“This grave is deep enough to hold a camel,” he muttered to himself half an hour later.

For the third time, he picked up the goat and unceremoniously dropped him, upside down, into the hole. Six inches of legs still stuck up above the ground.

“That’ll have to do,” George said, picking up the shovel and beginning to fill in the hole. Enough dirt was left over that he was able to form a small mound over the entire grave. The mound covered everything but the goat’s hooves, which somewhat resembled four eerily colored mushrooms. He kicked some leaves and sticks over them and bent to pick up the tools.

“Rest in peace, old fellow,” he said and left.

By the time he made it back to the shed, snow and sleet were falling like crazy. Buster was overjoyed when George finally returned to the house. He’d been pacing the floor for almost an hour, begging to be let out. Now, without even pausing for a scratch behind his ears, he charged out the back door into the darkness.

“You don’t suppose . . . ?” I began.

“Nah. He probably just needs a bathroom break. No way will he travel clear to the back of the pasture in this weather. And even if he does, he won’t be able to find the grave. I buried that goat but good.”

I could only hope he was right.

A few minutes after Buster bolted outside, we heard a scratching at the back door. And there he was — wet, muddy, and out of breath — with a full six inches of gnawed-off goat leg clenched firmly between his teeth.

Country life definitely agreed with Buster.

~Jennie Ivey

More stories from our partners