I was at the office the other day pretending to do important work when my cell phone rang.

It was my wife, Sherry.

“Hi. You’ll probably want to kill me right now, but I just bought a goat.”

I replied with the best time-honored spousal retort I could think of.

“WHAT?”

Yes, another domestic animal purchase had transpired — telephonically, anyway. Sherry had struck a deal with an area family for a pygmy goat. She was calling to inquire when I could provide the transportation that would bring the goat to its new home.

According to nigerianpygmygoats.com, the breed — pygmy goats, Capra hicus — originated in Africa and was first imported into the U.S. in the 1950s. The precise breed is the Cameroon dwarf, which came from the former French Cameroon area.

The goats can be used as milk and meat producers, but I was informed that the purpose of our goat is simply to be cute and to become a petting magnet.

I tried to make the argument that we already had one old goat that isn’t really cute anymore. And the petting thing could be a little awkward. Clearly when it comes to blame, I handle the scapegoat role like a pro — perhaps even the greatest of all time, so to speak. Isn’t that GOAT enough?

Actually, I didn’t put up much of a fight. We are selling many of our sheep this fall, so adding an ovine cousin would be no big deal. I did, however, ensure that when Sherry said the goat was male that we were buying a wether and not a buck. I’ve seen and smelled bucks. No thank you.

A few days later, I put the portable dog kennel in the back of the truck — a kennel that has hauled as many sheep, pigs and chickens as it has canines — and drove to pick up the goat. His name is Steve because that’s what one of the children called him on his birth farm outside of West Salem. The goats came out of the barn — they apparently have the run of the place — and Steve was lured close with some grain.

When we arrived home, Steve scampered into the barn and seemed to be fine. But the next morning I witnessed a standoff. Several dozen sheep and two mini-donkeys were standing in the field. Steve was standing next to the barn. Whenever Steve disappeared around the corner, the flock starting coming toward the barn. When he reappeared, the flock backed up. It looked as though Steve was winning this battle.

It took a few days for the sheep and donkeys to accept their new roommate, who has a black body, a white spot on his face and ears, and a white tail. Because our Scottish Blackface sheep have horns, they are often mistaken for goats. Some of the ewes have realized they are much larger than Steve and like to butt his butt: They aren’t interested in having a dinner companion.

But Steve is quite agile and jumps directly into the hay feeders, which protects him from unwanted head butts. The donkeys don’t mind if he shares a meal with them. He comes to the fence for chunks of grass and is slowly allowing a few pets. His soft bleats are a contrast to some of the harsh cries of our ewes.

Steve also has discovered that one of his safe spots is a 2-foot-by-4-foot ledge that runs around the inside of the barn. He nimbly jumps up on that ledge when he wants a better view. Perhaps I’ll build him a goat playground with old pallets.

I suspect he will soon have another companion. Sherry has already talked about getting one more goat so the two can play together. Thankfully there will be no offspring.

I’ve already eyed a few sagging spots in our woven-wire fence and figured Steve could clear those spots if he chose to. It wouldn’t be our farm if I weren’t chasing some animal or fixing some fence.

Former La Crosse Tribune editor Chris Hardie and his wife, Sherry, raise sheep and cattle on his great-grandparents’ Jackson County farm.

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