The protagonist of one of my stories is a goat herder– a boy who walks with goats taller than him.
These goats band together to protect him from leopards, let him suckle with their kids, stand guard over him as he sleeps, an old burlap-sack for cover, dreaming of sugar candies and plums.
But on my trip to Rajasthan, I met the real characters.
Billy-goats. They pushed their noses into your hip, thigh, waist, their amber eyes all lit up with curiosity. I saw no goat-herder, just groups of goats and rams chasing locals and tourists alike.
If you looked like you could be bullied, they did not hesitate. They came, these large, shaggy beasts, head bowed, horns at the ready, so you began to run and dropped whatever was in your hand, a packet of snacks, offerings at the temple, biscuits. They chomped it all down, they weren’t picky. Resounding head-butting fights broke out over toothsome morsels.
If you showed them your empty hands, they stopped, and snuffled a bit. You could pet them then, their soft heads, their long-haired, shaggy coats, their silken ears, and they would stand, leaning in to you, enjoying the massage.
These were no guardian goats or scapegoats (they’re still ritually sacrificed in some parts of India). I loved the militant yet curious goats of Rajasthan.
Perhaps the goats in my stories would change now.
Have you lived in or visited rural areas? Any memorable experiences around farm animals?