I didn’t really want to go into the “petting zoo” at the apple orchard. It never even occurred to me that I might have to despite the fact that it was I who suggested that our play date companions meet at the farm precisely because it was so kid-friendly. “It even has a petting zoo,” I believe were my exact words.
I live in a world separated from reality by a mind swirling in fog. I can admit it.
In my defense, however, I had taken many a dear friend to this particular farm to pick apples and play on the playground equipment (not to mention gawk at the one thing that makes this particular apple place unique in all the region) and it had always been enough for our tender charges to look at the barnyard critters through the chain-link fence. No one had ever actually wanted to pet one.
This trip, however, it was immediately apparent things would be different. Ittybit had made a shocking discovery at the farm stand: a little tray of paper cups filled with feed.
Otherwise it had been an ordinary visit: We had stood in line at aforementioned stand in order to fork over $11.50 for an empty bag. We had walked forever to get to the wrong place and had to go back. We found the right place, dragging boneless children behind us, and picked our peck of apples. We even walked between the potty and the playground more times than I have fingers to count.
That’s when Ittybit remembered the paper cups. She’d seen people her size cajoling people my size into buying them. Now, as we were on our way out, she wanted to feed the animals, too.
What could I do? I had gone to Rome.
Not only did we have to walk through a mine field of goose grease to get to the pasture containing the sweet little rabbits and chickens and pigs and pygmy goats, but we also had to pay a buck and a half for the pleasure. This and nary a bottle of hand-sanitizer in hand or even attached to the fencepost -- where, arguably, a goat could have gotten into it and wound up either drunk or poisoned (I’m fairly certain goats will eat a tin can if you let them).
But I digress.
It’s not that I think having pint-sized farm animals eating out of the palm of one’s hand isn’t worth the price of a tiny disposable cup filled with grain. And it’s not as if the farm, an autumnal destination spot for folks just like us, was without a restroom where we would be able to wash our hands in warm soapy water later on. It’s just that I was ready to move on to the lunch portion of the program. I wanted my little cup filled with warm mochaccino not woody pellets.
Ah well, I put on a smile and marched the kids right up to the petting zoo gate and proceeded, in my unearned confidence, to release two goats.
Only, the goats didn’t actually disappear. The petting zoo inhabitants stayed nearby, munching on the lowest leaves on some apple trees and mostly ignoring our efforts to lure them back to captivity with our tiny cups of grain.
I was mortified.
Now mingling with the fog in my brain is a chorus of angry farmers singing (in unison and with four-part harmony) “WHO LET THE GOATS OUT?”
“They must be used to this,” said my friend, trying to console my guilty soul by pointing out there was no one in authority tending the zoo or assisting stroller-driving visitors safely past the gate and the wily goats.
“Maybe if I had that mochaccino I could have lured the goats back to the pen,” I tell Ittybit, reminded of a movie we’d seen lately in which an animated deer had a thing for frothy coffee drinks.
“I don’t think so, mama,” she told me, having herself taken a sip of one of my caffeinated beverages recently. “It really isn’t anything like ‘freedom in a cup’.”