Photo by Lalit Sahu on Unsplash
Our farm was ten acres located in the Ohio snow belt. It was rural. And snow, lots of snow, was a regular thing.
In fact, the winter before I’d had to take a sled down to the bus stop to get my young daughter off the bus and back up our long driveway to the house.
The morning of Martin Luther King Day in 2011 was no different.
We had snow and it was cold. See-your-breath cold.
I was grateful I freelanced from home and didn’t have to go out in the weather. But there was a fire in the woodstove and I was nice and warm in the house as I worked.
That is until my mom called me from her office around one o’clock in the afternoon to remind me to check on Cora, our pregnant Nubian goat.
Cora had delivered triplets the previous year according to her previous owner. Two of them had died within 48 hours because Cora didn’t feed them.
If she delivered, especially in this cold, we’d have to make sure she was caring for and feeding her baby or it would die. I admitted to mom I hadn’t yet checked on her.
I assured her I’d go check on her right away. But I hung up and cursed having to go out.
I glanced outside and even thought momentarily about not going out to check. The snow was deep. And It was cold!
But I also knew a newborn goat would die quickly in the cold if not cared for. So, reluctantly, I threw on a coat, my gloves, and my boots.
At the door, I steeled myself against the coming arctic wind, swung it open, and headed for the barn. The snow was already deep. I had to trudge through it.
I grumbled to myself the whole way, sure that I was making a trip out into the cold for nothing. Mom had fed everyone before she left for work several hours earlier.
Other than maybe breaking out the ice over the water buckets for the horses, goats, and chickens, this was probably a wasted trip. I slid open the barn door and headed for the goat pen across the aisle.
Suddenly I saw it. A dark black shape lying in the straw.Then I saw another little brown kid near its mother and another black one curled in the straw not far from her.
I could see immediately the black goat closest to the gate was in trouble.
It was covered in afterbirth. It was shivering. Cora was making no move to clean it off.
My mother’s instinct kicked in. That baby needed to get warm and fast.
I grabbed an old flannel jacket hanging on a nail in the aisle of the barn and tossed it carefully over the baby goat.
I plugged in the heat lamp hanging from the ceiling and clamped it to the side of the pen.
I went into the pen and lifted the flannel wrapped kid into my arms and shifted him under the heat lamp. He was breathing but not moving.
With a word of encouragement to Cora, I headed back to the house for towels as fast as I could move in the slippery snow.
Less than ten minutes later I was back in the goat pen on my knees briskly rubbing the little kid dry with the towels.
After a few moments, it started to move around a bit. My eyes welled with tears. Soon he was squirming and trying to move away from me.
The shivering subsided. Cora came over and put her head down and licked his fur. I smiled through my tears. He was going to make it for now.
I dried the other two goats a little more with the towels for good measure and then headed for the house once more to mix up some milk replacer formula.
Once inside the house, I called mom. “Yes mom, triplets again. No, I didn’t check gender.
Yes, I will check when I go back out to feed them”.
The first feeding was up to me
I spent the next two hours in the barn trying to get those newborn kids to nurse from a bottle.
I sat in the straw with each one on my lap in turn, the bottle high in the air while they nuzzled and licked everything but the bottle. One even climbed over its sibling to suck my chin!
Eventually, I got them to eat a tiny bit by first letting them suck my finger and then slipping the bottle into their mouth.
It wasn’t enough. But it was a start. I headed for the house once more.
Halfway back to the house I remembered, “gender”, so I turned around and trudged back to the barn to check. I held each of the small goats in my lap and inspected them carefully.
To my very untrained eyes, it looked like two males and a female to me. Mom would be happy about the female for milking.
It’s one of the reasons she’d gotten Cora to begin with. She wanted to make goat’s milk cheese. She’d made goat’s milk cheese before several years prior, when she ran her garden co-op. It had been a very popular item.
Later that night, mom and I were back in the barn trying again to get the kids to nurse.
She’s the animal expert in the family. She checked gender. Turns out I was wrong about the little brown goat.
Cora had given birth to three boys. Born on Martin Luther King Day, mom pointed out. And I remembered, MLK’s wife’s name was Coretta.
We named them Martin, Luther, and King.
They grew up to be healthy, happy goats. Mom got to make goat’s milk using milk from Cora after the babies were weaned. A year later we sold Martin, but Luther and King stayed on the farm several more years and brought joy to me, my kids, and even a few of the grandsons who came to live with us for a short time.
Triplet kids born that cold, snowy day will forever make Martin Luther King Day more memorable for me.
It was only fitting to name them after such an honorable man.