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  • Howling winds couldn't distract my gaze. The stillness of their bodies was surreal. Scrape marks in the soft soil. Hay moving in the wind. Hay that last night had been carefully placed in the mangers for these goats. Expecting him to breath, I am trasfixed on the body of the large Billy goat. I wait, thinking I see movement, but it is only a gust of wind blowing his white hair. Glimpses of white and brown dot the area. Looking closer I see their little feet, their soft ears and precious mouths. Just a few hours ago they were romping by their mothers as they made their way to the barn for the night. Leaping, kicking out to the side, landing, only to take off again as if they had springs on their feet.

    "It jumped out over here." I am startled back to the reality of what needs to be done. The mountain lion must be tracked down and "taken" and it must be done before the rains come. There are new foals in the barn and they may be next on the lions quest. The hounds whine, but there are no bays of chase. It has been too long, we will have to wait until the lion comes back.

    The few live goats that are left are locked in the barn where the mare and foals are housed. The bodies of the nine (9) goats are piled in one place, so the lion will come to an exact area. A trick wire is placed on the top goats' carcass, so when it is moved an alarm that the Tracker has will go off. The waiting begins. At 10:00 p.m. the alarm is sounded. Our hound man gets his dogs and as he approaches the barn he sees the lion emrege from the barn and leap over the 6'6" fence without touching, loped across the arena and headed toward the mountain. The hounds give chase and soon the lion is treed. It is huge. The biggest lion our tracker has ever seen in his many years. The lion is shot and falls, the wind is howling and the rain is here, coming down in sheets.

    Document the damage. Document the results. Document the loss. All is documented, all is legal. The depredation was a success; yet there is no celebration at the Walking G Ranch. The dead are counted and the living are being cared for the the young man, Paul, of 13 years of age and who the goats belong to. The nannies that are alive have lost their young, the young that survived have lost thier mothers. Each kid must be fed three thimes a day and the nannies milked, for they won't accept another's young at this point. Chores are a welcome distraction. The filling of water buckets, cleaning of stalls. Chickens to be let out. Horses fed.

    It is raining in an area of dust. Welcomed rain, rejuvenating rain. Spring will happen this year. Paul is consoled, he is encouraged and receives many phone calls of condolence for his loss. He is a tough young man. Practical minded, he plans on getting a loan from his mother and father and buying 100 young goats to eat the star thistle and he'll buy another guard dog, since one was definitely not enough.
    "This is my business." Paul states and no lion is going to ruin me." He smiles a smile of hope on such a young face.

    Yet as we are loading the body of his prized Billy goat, the goat that was raised on a bottle, that he played tag with, I watch his hand caress the goat's face and give him a little pat with a trembling hand, as the tailgate is closed.

    I turn away not so much for his sake, but mine...tears were blurring my vision and I felt so sad, so angry, so helplesss in the midst of this created madness.
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