"Hello?" he hollers. "Hello?"
It's only a rooster that answers him.
I'm waiting at the road with the children. And a goat.
I had seen her as we passed the tracks, head bent down at a fresh spring shoot. "What is that?" I'd asked. And her head had popped up and I thought at first she was a sheep but she trotted along the path right up to us, rope around her neck and bleating out a sorry, 'Haaaaallllpppp Meeeeeee, I'm looooooost.' (Yes, I speak goat - doesn't every body 'round here?)
"Hello?" He's still hollering, round behind the barn and then back out to us again. He shrugs. Nobody home. "There's a bunch of pens and a shed full of feed and old bagels..."
We resume our walk and she obediently joins our family like a leashed pet.
"Can we keep it?" Zander asks. "Please???"
A shiny white truck crests the far hill pulling a red trailer. Two men in the front are pointing and waving and when they slow we ask, "is this your goat?"
But, of course it is. And they point back to the trailer where we see the head of an alpaca and some sheep hunkered down in the depression of their quickly lost freedom. Their English isn't pristine by any means but they say it over and over, "Thank you, thank you."
A tiny Vietnamese woman climbs from the back seat, she nods her head at us and smiles as I hand her the rope and we watch our new friend walk away to the gated property.
"Why couldn't we keep it???" Zander asks.
We continue on our walk. The children are collecting beer bottles for spending money and we linger around the stream because there seems to be a few among the long grass.
When we finally turn for home and walk past the red barn nothing has changed. There is no movement. No face in the upper window. No sign of life but the motion of the wind in the trees. Like it never happened.
We begin the climb up the hill and then we hear it - one long bleated note to mark our farewell... 'Thaaaank Yooooooou!'
(This was not my first goat experience - that's me on the left - back in the day when my dad decided to try his hand at some goat raising.)