San Franciscans are a creative bunch. As an example, here’s the latest idea for lawn maintenance. Tired of moving the grass yourself? Don’t want to pay a gardener? These guys will deliver a goat to your door and leave it in your backyard for a week. At the end of seven days, your yard will be clear of pesky weeks, invasive shrubs, and probably everything else.
The day I passed this truck, the driver was struggling to get a goat out of the back. He was trying to be patient, but the goat was putting up a fight–bucking, kicking, yanking on the rope, and well . . . acting like a goat.
When I was in fifth grade, my class raised chickens as a science experiment. We rigged up an incubator, complete with towels and a restaurant heat lamp. We waited for weeks, checking the box each morning for signs of life. When the chicks finally hatched, we held a raffle to see which lucky students would take home a little chicken. I was one of those lucky students. I named my chicken “Brewster.” I wrapped him in my sweater and tucked him into my lap on the drive home. He lived in a cardboard box in my bedroom.
Brewster was adorable for the first month. All that downy fluff, all that innocent peeping… Who could resist? Then pale brown feathers replaced the yellow ones. He grew a beak sharper than the carbon tip on an industrial drill bit. He shat . . . a lot. Within a few weeks, my room smelled like a barn. Brewster was large enough to peer over the side of the box, those beady black eyes glaring at me as if to say, “I’ve got your number. You just wait.” When I tried to lay the bowl of Quaker Oats–because that’s what chickens eat, right?–in his box, he attacked my hand.
I’m not fickle when it comes to love. Once you’re in, you’re in. But I can tell you, Brewster tested my devotion. He was aggressive, spiteful, and generally uncooperative. As he grew larger, he flapped his wings in frustration until a cloud of dust and old feathers swirled in the air above the box. He pecked obsessively until he chiseled a quarter-sized hole in one side. It was like living with a madman.
One morning, I mentioned my woes to my dad who assured me he had the perfect solution. I came home from school and Brewster was gone. I’d like to think my dad took Brewster to the local SPCA, or found an kindly farmer who made better use of Brewster’s talents. But I think that’s unlikely. My dad grew up in Louisiana. He spent his childhood hunting squirrels and anything else that crawled, slithered, leaped or flew through the woods behind his house. I never asked my dad what happened. My relief at being rid of that animal overshadowed any desire to mourn. Goodbye, good riddance. I never stopped to consider the part I’d played in Brewster’s downfall (Who me?? What did I do? It wasn’t my fault that chicken was crazy!) Thinking back on it now, I believe my only question was, “Can I get a hamster?”
There was a moment, as I watched the driver struggle to wrangle the goat out of the truck, when I seriously considered signing up for the service. I asked the man for his card. Oh look! It says here I can rent a couple of goats or a whole herd of 80!
Then I came to my senses.