Goats and Bugs

by Nick Brady

Chapter 9

Bobby and George slipped on their clothes, bobby slung the blanket over his shoulder and they climbed down from the tree house. It had been a glorious afternoon but was time to return to reality. They rode the tractor back to the barn where they checked on the goat pen. The goats were frisky and Pepper was sitting quietly by the gate. When she caught sight of the boys she stood and wagged her tail.

"Hello Pepper. How's my girl?" Bobby opened the gate to the pen to let the black dog out. She was still wrapped in strips of white gauze but they could see that it had loosened in places but was not stained with blood. Bobby knelt down and pulled back the bandages to check the wounds inflicted by last night's encounter with the coyotes.

"She looks pretty good," he said. "The cuts are healing over and the bleeding has stopped. I'll put some salve on those cuts." Bobby rubbed her head and she licked his hand. I think you're feeling better, aren't you girl? A couple days of rest and you'll be good as new, won't you?"

George fed the goats and gathered the eggs while Bobby did the milking. As soon as they got to the house and put things in the cooler, Bobby started thinking about dinner. "I want to eat a little early tonight so I can go to the barn and get ready for any visitors." He looked in the refrigerator and shook his head. "I hope you like chicken. That's all that's in here."

Bobby quickly cut up one of the last roosters, rolled it in seasoned flour and put it in a skillet to fry in bacon grease. "I'll fry this guy and bake some potatoes. If you'll make one of your fine salads that'll be enough." He sat down to watch George chop up lettuce and tomato. "What are you going to do with all the insects you caught this weekend?"

"I'm supposed to go over to see Herb again on Wednesday night. He's going to show me how to mount them," George told him.

"But right now they're just a crumpled up pile of dead bugs. How are you going to mount those things?"

"Herb explained what to do," George said. "When I get home I'll make a relaxing jar. That big pickle jar we we found when we cleared out the stuff for the goat pen will be perfect. He said to crumple up a bunch of wet paper towels and put them in there with the dead bugs. By the next day they'll be soft enough to mount."

Bobby nodded his head. "You've got this all figured out."

"I think so. I've got everything I need. I have to get Herb to show me how to mount them."

"You just stick a pin in them, right?"

"There's more to it than that. You have to spread out the legs and wings so they look natural and you can see what their markings are. Especially the butterflies. You want their wings to look real nice."

"Sounds complicated," Bobby admitted. "All I got to do with the goats is feed them."

"And keep the coyotes from eating them," George reminded him.

"I'm going to take care of the coyotes. We loose some chickens to them sometimes."

They talked while Bobby turned the chicken and checked the potatoes. Before long everything was ready and Bobby went to the living room to roust Ely from his Sunday afternoon nap. "Dinner's ready Dad. You hungry?"

Ely opened his eyes. "What? I think I may have dozed off for a minute. Hmm. Smells good in here. What's for dinner?"

"Fried rooster Dad. Your favorite," Bobby chuckled.

"Oh yes. That's always good. You're a fine cook Bobby."

They sat down to eat the house specialty. "Me and George are going to sleep in the barn tonight and see if we can't get those coyotes."

"They'll likely come back and try again," Ely agreed. "You know where the shotgun is, and there's a box of shells in there too. The magazine will hold five. I'd fill it up. You might get more than a couple of shots at them. You're a better shot than me. Be careful, son."

"I will, Dad. If George holds the light I should get a clear shot."

"You boys make a good team. Good luck. I'd like to get rid of those devils."

George and Bobby cleaned up after dinner then took the shotgun and the big flashlight and went out to the barn. Bobby pocketed a piece of leftover chicken for Pepper.

"Will Pepper get into it with the coyotes again?" George asked.

"She'd like to but I'll keep her tied up with us," Bobby said. "She's in no shape to tangle with them again, but she'll let us know if they get close."

They checked on the goats who frolicked at the sight of them. Pepper wagged her tail and sniffed them through the fence. Bobby slipped Pepper a piece of fried chicken then took an apple from his pocket, cut it in half and fed it to the eager goats. "I think Bonnie and Clyde like apples," he laughed.

He motioned for George to follow him to the other side of the milking stalls where they were partially out of sight from the goat pen. They sat behind a bale of hay, tied Pepper to a post and settled down to wait. "They won't come back again until after dark," Bobby said. "We can make ourselves comfortable until then. Pepper will tell us if they come back."

"So what will we do if they show up?" George asked.

"We need to be quiet. We don't want to scare them off. Pepper will hear them and let us know. You take the light and when I tell you, shine it on the goat pen so I can get a shot at them. If I miss, we'll chase them out and try to get another shot, OK?"

"Sure. I can do that," George agreed. "Me being quiet will be the hard part."

Bobby laughed and put his finger to his lips. "Shh!"

They settled down behind the hay bale and relaxed. George felt himself dozing off but figured that Bobby would wake him if anything happened.

Later in the evening he was awakened by a nudge in his ribs. Bobby was crouched down behind the bale of hay with his hand on Pepper. The dog was tense and growling softly. Bobby did not speak but pointed towards the goat pen. It was very quiet. There was enough ambient light so that George could make out the gate on the goat pen. They held their breath and after a few minutes George thought he saw something move outside the pen.

Bobby put his hand on Pepper to quiet her then pointed the shotgun in the direction of the pen. After a moment he touched George on the arm and said "Now!" George switched on the light to see two furry animals freeze in their tracks and turn their heads in their direction. The light gleamed from their eyes for an instant, then they turned to run.

At that moment, two shots rang out from Bobby's shotgun. There was a loud yelp as one coyote fell to its side and the other darted away. Bobby jumped up and gave chase followed by George with the light. They could hear Pepper's frantic barking as she strained against her restraint.

"Get the light on them!" Bobby shouted as they gave chase. George followed closely and scanned the ground with the flashlight until he picked up the remaining coyote. Bobby stopped quickly and fired three more times tumbling the animal head over heels. "I got him!" Bobby yelled triumphantly. They ran to where it lay and assured themselves that it would not move again, then ran back to the barn to check on what was there.

The little goats were bleating nervously but unharmed. Beside the gate was the other coyote, it's head nearly blown off, and clearly dead. "Wow. That was a good shot!" George said as he looked down at the grisly remains.

"I got him when he was looking at us," Bobby said calmly. He stepped into the pen and petted the little goats who seemed reassured by his presence. The only other sound was the insistent whine from Pepper who seemed annoyed to have missed the excitement.

Bobby walked over to his dog and untied the rope which had restrained her. "Come on girl. We got them for you. They won't bother us again." Pepper followed him over to where the dead coyote lay and sniffed it. She gave a low growl, turned around and kicked dirt on it with her hind feet., looked back one more time then sat down next to Bobby.

"We need to get rid of this thing before it starts to stink," Bobby said. Taking a shovel, he dragged it to the garden, dug a deep hole in the soft dirt and buried it. "Looking down at it he muttered, "You might be good for fertilizer, but that's about all." Kicking a loose clod of dirt onto the mound, he spit on it and turned away.

Whistling at Pepper, Bobby and George walked back to the house. The dog looked uncertain then entered the kitchen where Ely sat waiting. "Did you get 'em?" he asked.

"Yes, sir. I got one in the barn and the other in the field. They're both dead. I buried the one and I'll look for the other one tomorrow." Bobby laid the shotgun on the kitchen table and George put the light next to it.

Ely nodded and smiled. "I thought you two would make a good team. Good work, boys. Now you better get to bed before it's time for the morning chores." He put the shotgun and flashlight in the closet, then turned and said, "I'm proud of both of you. Good night."

The boys sat in the kitchen for a minute then went into Bobby's room. Pepper followed and took her place on the pallet that still lay next to the bed. George and Bobby undressed and lay down with a sigh.

"This has been quite a day," George said.

"Just another day on the farm," Bobby said wearily.

Bobby was up at the usual time in the morning. George groaned and sat up. "OK. I can do this. Bring on the chickens."

"You don't have to get up, George. I can manage," Bobby laughed. "I do this every day when you aren't here."

"I'm fine. It was just a short night with the coyote adventure. I won't wimp out on you."

"You haven't wimped on me yet," Bobby said. "You were a big help last night. I couldn't have held the light and shot at the same time."

"Yeah? Glad to be of service."

Pepper stretched and wagged her tail. She was ready to be back to the old routine. The three of them went down to the barn to do the morning chores. George fed the goats a big scoop of goat feed and tossed part of a bale of alfalfa down for them, then went for the eggs. Bobby banged the feed bucket on the side of the barn and Pepper trotted stiffly down for the cows. The milking done they returned to the house and ate Ely's breakfast. Pepper watched them leave the barn and decided to stay. Things were back to normal.

They sat side by side as the school bus drove them to school. Ely had given George a box to carry his bug stuff. In addition to the equipment he brought with him was added the big pickle jar of dead bugs. They parted for their classes then sat together in English. At lunch they went through the line and ate together. This too had become part of their routine.

"You gonna call your bug guy tonight?" Bobby asked.

"I will," George replied. "I want to be sure I do this relaxing thing right. I'm supposed to go over to his house on Wednesday to get him to show me how to mount them."

"I'm kind of curious to know how that goes," Bobby said. "You could call me if you like. I'm always finished with everything by eight o'clock."

"Sure," George smiled. "I'll call you Wednesday night after I talk to Herb."


That evening George told his mother about the adventure with the coyotes and his plans to mount the insects with Herb's assistance on Wednesday evening. She said little but nodded her head. When George came home from School on Wednesday, he waited for Phyllis to get home from work. He fixed some supper and had all his stuff ready to go. The relaxing jar had been prepared and it looked like it had done the job. He had his mounting board and a packet of the long mounting pins in Ely's box. He was ready. When six o'clock came he put supper on the table. By six-thirty he grew impatient. Maybe his mother had been delayed at her office. He called but there was no answer.

At seven he called Herb and told him that his mother was late and he had no way to get there. Herb was understanding and suggested that they try and make it the next week. George was disappointed. He was angry. He was confused. At seven thirty he ate the cold supper and at eight he called Bobby.

"Hey. How did it go?" Bobby asked.

"I didn't go. Mom isn't home yet."

"That sucks. What happened?"

"I don't know. I reminded her this morning so she couldn't have forgotten. I don't know whether to be pissed or worried about her."

"So, what did you do? I mean the bug guy was expecting you."

"I called him and he said we would try again next week," George sighed.

Bobby thought a minute. "You need a plan B."

"A what?"

"I mean you need a way to get over there if she does the same thing next week. Do you have a bicycle?"

"Oh. I see what you mean. Yeah, I have an old dirt bike, but I don't know where Herb lives," George admitted.

"You can figure that out. Call and ask for his address. If it's not too far you could get there on your bike."

"I don't know if Mom would let me do that."

"If she's not there she can't tell you not to," Bobby pointed put. "You aren't helpless."

"I guess," George said meekly.

"Maybe this is none of my business, but you're always complaining that your mother treats you like a baby. It might be a good thing if you were more independent. Your almost fourteen. You can take care of yourself," Bobby said bluntly.

George started to be offended then thought about what Bobby was saying. He hesitated then replied, "You're right. I need to depend on myself, not just my mother, and not just about going to Herb's. I do need to be more independent."

"That's what I'm saying. She might appreciate it if you would do more for yourself."

George was silent for a moment. "I know you're trying to help me. It's hard to look at myself, but you're right. Maybe I am acting like a baby. Maybe if I was more independent Mom would respect that. Or maybe she doesn't really care that much either way. This is kind of hard."

"You're a cool guy, George. You don't see yourself like I do. I see a smart, funny guy who is curious about everything. You can do a lot more than you think you can. How do you see yourself?"

"I don't know who I am," George admitted, feeling on the verge of tears. "I kind of see myself as a screw up."

"Maybe your mother sees you that way, but I don't. That's not the George I know."

George took a deep breath. "Thanks Bobby. You're the best friend I ever had."

"I could say the same thing about you," Bobby said quietly.

"Hang on," George said. "I hear Mom coming in. Can I call you again tomorrow?"

"Sure anytime." Bobby hung up with no further comment.

Phyllis came into the kitchen to find George on the telephone. "Who were you talking to?"

"I was talking to Bobby."

"Don't you ever get tired of that boy?

"No. Bobby is my best friend," George said defiantly. "Where have you been?"

"I had to work late," Phyllis said defensively. George could smell cigarette smoke and the faint odor of alcohol.

"I tried to call you at your office and nobody answered," George countered. "You were supposed to take me over to Herb's tonight."

"Well I'm sorry. I forgot. I had other things to do."

"I reminded you this morning before you left for work. How could you forget? This is important to me."

"I have things that are important to me"But Mom...."

"I'm not going to argue about this, George. The world doesn't revolve around you!" Phyllis shouted.

George decided to change the subject. "OK. Maybe it would be helpful if I could go to Herb's house by myself."

"And just how would you do that?"

"If I could ride my bike there I could do a lot of things without bothering you," George suggested hopefully.

"You can go riding all over town by yourself. I know you,George. You would get lost."

George was getting frustrated. "What do you want me to do? There are things I need to do, places I need to go. If I can't depend on you, I'll have to get there myself!"

"Don't you raise your voice at me! You get to bed!" Phyllis shouted. The conversation was over.

George went into his bedroom, threw himself on the bed and pounded on his pillow, Bobby was right, He needed to find a way to be less dependent on his mother. George lay back and fought the tears. He missed Bobby, and tried to think of what he would do if he were Bobby. No, that wasn't right. He wasn't Bobby. He had to figure out who he was. He undressed and got into bed. As he drifted off to sleep, he started to make a plan.

Bobby put his cell phone in his pocket. He felt bad for George. When he thought about Ely, he realized that he was lucky. His father respected him and seldom questioned what he did. Not because he was indifferent, but because he trusted Bobby. When Bobby screwed up, Ely tried to calmly help him find a better way. Their respect was mutual.

Bobby wondered what the deal was with George's mother. Bobby had only met her briefly after the 4-H meeting, but from what George had told him, there was something going on there. Maybe George was too close to the situation to see it clearly, but Bobby suspected that his mother had a problem of some sort, and it wasn't George.

In the meantime the goats, chickens and cows needed to be tended to and Bobby went through that routine as usual. It was nothing that he couldn't do by himself, but it was nice when George was there to help. He missed George for a number of reasons. As he milked, he tried to think of some way to help. He didn't know enough about Phyllis to understand what was going on. He would need to talk to George. He looked over at Pepper. She was sitting calmly watching as Bobby cycled the cows through the milking stall.

"How are you doing, girl? You back to speed yet?" Pepper cocked her head to one side and wagged her tail. "I appreciate you looking after Bobbie and Clyde. You like those little goats, don't you?" Pepper was not much of a conversationalist, but she was a great listener. Bobby often talked to his dog and she was always attentive.

"What's the deal with George's mother? George is a good guy and his mom doesn't appreciate him. How could she forget something that was so important to him? If she wasn't working late, what was she doing? What's more important than her son?" Pepper lay down and rested her head on her front paws, keeping her eyes on her master as he spoke to her. "If she had something else she needed to do, why didn't she call home and tell George she was going to be late? Was there some reason she didn't want him to know what she was doing?"

Bobby thought back and remembered George telling him about coming home and finding his mother in the bedroom with some guy. He guessed that there was more to that story. He squirted some milk at the barn cats, picked up the milk and eggs and went to the house. Pepper stood up and shook herself then followed the cows out of the barn.

At eight o'clock, George called him. "Hey," Bobby said. "How's it going?"

"Mom came home at the usual time with a pizza, we ate then she went out again."

"Yeah? Where did she go?"

"I don't know," George admitted. "She acted like she was in a bad mood. She didn't offer an explanation and I didn't ask her."

"Was she pissed at you?"

"I don't really think so. I think she just didn't want to answer any questions."

"What's going on? Is this something new?" Bobby asked.

George waited a moment before he answered. "I think she has a boy friend."

"What's wrong with that? She's single. It might be good if she had a boy friend," Bobby suggested.

"Maybe, but I think I know who this guy is."

"Who is he? Is he an OK guy?"

"He is the father of a boy I know at school," George said quietly.


"He's like, married to this guy's mother. I think mom is dating a married man."

"Oh? Maybe they're separated or something like that. Are they living together?"

"They came to school together for a program. I saw him then and it took me a little while to figure out who he was."

"That's awkward," Bobby acknowledged. "Maybe they just got together for the school thing."

"I don't think so. I have a class with the kid. I've heard him talk about his mom and dad like they were both in the house."

"How do you know she's seeing him?"

"He was the guy she was in the bedroom with," George said softly. "Unless she's got another one, he's the guy."

Bobby blew out his breath. "That's very awkward. Does this guy know his father is seeing your mom?"

"I hope not. That would be embarrassing," George said. "He hasn't acted funny around me, so I guess not. I feel bad for him if he finds out."

Bobby hesitated then asked quietly, "How does this make you feel about your Mom?"

George felt his throat tighten. "I feel ashamed. I wouldn't expect my mother to do something like that."

Bobby struggled for the right thing to say. "I'm sorry." was all he could come up with.

George took a deep breath then let it out with a sob. "I don't know what to do."

"Not much you can do," Bobby said. "You can't help what your mother does. For sure, it's not your fault."

"I wish you were here, or I was out there with you," George cried out.

"I bet you can come for the weekend again. It sounds to me like that would work out for your mom."

"You think so?" George sniffed.

"I bet you can. You need to catch some more bugs. And Bonnie and Clyde would like to see you."

That made George laugh. "Have they missed me?"

"They have, and so have I," Bobby said quietly.

"Really? I've missed you for sure."

"Ask her. I bet she'll let you come."

"I'll try. I'd rather not be home this weekend."

"That might work out for both of you," Bobby said wisely. "I'll be looking for you to come home with me on Friday."

"Thanks Bobby. You're a good friend."

"Yeah, well so are you. I got to get to bed. See you."

George hung up the phone and sat in the kitchen thinking. Bobby had asked a lot of questions, but didn't criticize Phyllis. He had only offered encouragement. George was making a plan. He wanted to spend all his weekends with Bobby, he needed a cell phone, and he needed to be less dependent on his mother.

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