Being a Goat Herder
Shaindle’s Shpiel

Being a Goat Herder

A harrowing tale of goat escape and rescue.

Shaindle Schmuckler

Shaindle Schmuckler spreads her energy and humor as a regular contributor to the Atlanta Jewish Times.

Sure, I had dreams when I was young. I dreamed of being an actress (for Universal Studios, with Edith Head as my designer). I dreamed of saving children. I had lots of dreams.

My dad and I were not on the same page: “A secretary is what you will be!”

Neither of us dreamed I’d be a goat herder.

When goats escape, whom do you call? Goat herders!

Within a year of my arrival in Atlanta, I was offered a dream position as director of Camp AJECOMCE at the Atlanta Jewish Community Center. I was lucky enough to recruit the most extraordinary staff, who returned year after year and helped build a first-class Jewish summer camp experience.

Unbeknownst to me, one of these staff members told his mom: “You and Shaindle should meet. You will love her, and you will become friends.”

He was right. Gail and I became fast friends, a friendship that continues to evolve and deepen and is a treasured gift.

The camp had grown to nearly 1,000 campers for the summer. We needed a full-time assistant director. As soon as Gail mentioned she was thinking of going back to work, I offered her the position.

Camp offered a myriad of activities, including a huge vegetable garden and a farm with animals. Horses were housed in our beautifully maintained stables. We had rabbits, chickens with a rooster, a pig, goats and sheep, to name a few. For the most part, all our animals got along.

For the most part.

The animals were safe and secure behind gated and locked fencing, so we never anticipated an escape.

It all began with the sheep.

Gail, who lived closest to the camp, received the 2 a.m. emergency call. The sheep had broken free. While her oldest son sang, “Baaa, baaa,” the rest of her family followed the sounds of the sheep’s urgent “baaa, baaa” replies and herded them back where they belonged.

The morning the sheep escaped, word spread like wildfire throughout our animal farm. Given that each animal spoke its own language, our hope was they could not communicate how wonderful an escape can be.

We were wrong. The goats decided it was their turn and hatched an escape plan. (Please do not send me emails that goats don’t hatch.)

Our goats roamed around Dunwoody, searching for something delicious to eat, like tin cans or paper plates. Kosher was not one of their dietary concerns.

When their escape was discovered by our farm staff, Gail and I jumped into action. We turned over the camp’s opening ceremonies to our valued staff and went off on a search we prayed would end well for the goats and for us.

We took a right out of Zaban Park and ran down Tilly Mill Road while shouting for the unnamed goats.

When we turned to be sure they were not in back of us, we saw, to our horror, a MARTA bus following us down Tilly Mill Road. Passengers gravitated to the front of the bus where they and the bus driver had a first-class look at these two crazy ladies shouting and waving their hands.

As I recall, we heard someone shout that the goats were spotted in the cul-de-sac down the street.

The bus driver returned to his responsibility of getting his riders to their destinations, and we were on our own.

As we turned into the cul-de-sac, we spotted the goats climbing the steps to the front door of one of the homes. Wait, is that today’s paper they are munching on?

Either the owners had too much to drink the night before and determined it was a hallucination, or they were too dumbfounded to open the door.

Just think about what could have happened had they opened the door. That hand-carved dining table that cost a month’s salary would have been devoured in minutes.

Finally, one of our staff drove up in his jeep. We coaxed the nameless goats into the vehicle and returned them to the farm.

The campers and staff greeted us with resounding cheers. Gail and I suddenly realized what we had just endured. We could not stop laughing — or was it crying?

We reassured each other that, while we were good at other things, there was no shame in realizing that goat herding was not in our future.

Is there even a school for this?

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