Home again.

This weekend I went back to the house I grew up in to see my family.  As always, it was a heady mix of laughter, gunfire, blood, wild animals, borrowed goats, homeless wood-carvers and unexpected funerals.  I’d write about it but I can never quite capture the bizarre awesomeness of visits to my old home so instead I’ll leave you with a picture I took in my parents backyard:

Southern comfort.

The picture quality is awful because I took it with my phone, and also because I was pretty sure someone was shooting at me at the time.  Both of these things are true.

PS.  Behind the still is a giant pack of goats.  I asked my mom when they got goats and she said they didn’t have goats.  When I gestured to the dozens of goats roaming around she said “Oh, your father is just borrowing them”.  Because OF COURSE HE IS.

PPS.  He’s borrowing them because he doesn’t want to mow the lawn.  Not because he’s trying to impress people.  No one is ever impressed with borrowed lawn goats.

168 thoughts on “Home again.

Read comments below or add one.

  1. Next time someone asks me when I had kids I’ll just say I’m borrowing them. In fact… that might work for a lot of things!
    Ahhh… going home… there’s nothing quite like it. ever.

  2. Borrowing goats sounds like a great idea for when my recycling starts piling up. Or perhaps I could borrow some goats to go eat my neighbor’s trash who doesn’t motherfucking recycle. That would be amazing.

    I love that your folks have their own still. Mmmmmoonshine!

  3. Ummm, you may possibly be related to my husband. I swear something very close to that is in Mimi’s back yard…. You know we have the best time over there. 😉

  4. So does one pay by the head on those goats? And how does the quality control work? I mean if one goat can eat 6.5 million blades of grass but the other can only eat 500, how am I gonna know if I’m getting a herd of 6.5 million eaters and not a bunch of 500’s? I mean if I’m trying to avoid mowing my lawn this is a legit question right? Oh, and those whisky containers are full right?

  5. I have wanted a small herd of pygmy goats to mow my lawn for years. Stupid municipal law specifically rules out goats. Oh yeah, I checked.

  6. I so wish I could have gone with you, and I’m still disappointed that I didn’t get to meet your parents when I was in Texas.

  7. I just got really excited that you can “borrow” goats!

    I still have a feeling that Spencer will shoot the request down, but surely borrowed goats are more likely to get approved than permanant goats.

  8. Not at all shocked at any of this or the goat logic ( remember my goat climbed in the shower with me? thus earning me title GOAT LADY) So my question is…. when is the product of this AWESOME still going to be given away on the blog? Like The Bloggess’s Booze giveaway …

  9. Wait, wait. There was blood, someone may have been shooting at you and there was a still and you don’t think you can capture that in writing? I call bull Mrs. Lawson! You’re one of the top blog writers in the world out there and I request, nay, DEMAND that we hear more of this intriguing tale.

    Alright, demand is a little harsh. Please tell us about the goat/moonshine induced shooting. Or however it goes. You’re writing it, not me!

  10. Too awesome. On a related note though, we were driving through Topanga Canyon which is a very winding road between pacific coast highway just north of santa monica (or south of malibu I guess) and the San Fernando Valley. (all in Los Angeles) There are multi million dollar homes here and quirky little shops throught a tiny tiny little town right in the heart of the canyon. Anyway, we drove through on our way to the beach and saw a sigh on the back of a pick-up, “Goats For Rent, by the acre” So see, your father renting goats? Not that strange.

  11. My Dad does the same thing. It ranges from sheep to goats to cows. I’m thinking of getting him his own miniature donkey and name him Roy Clarke.

  12. I have always wanted a goat, maybe I can borrow one for a while to make sure I like it! Just read about your trip to Japan (I’m a bit behind) Oh My Goodness!!! Sounds like a blast!!

  13. Suddenly, things start to make perfect sense. It’s like I finally got around to seeing the first 10 minutes of “Inception.”

  14. Just when I think I can’t envy one more thing about you – you show me a picture of a still at your parent’s house. Sigh.

  15. The funny thing is, I totally knew why the goats would be borrowed. No explanation needed here.

  16. Dude, borrowing goats to mow your lawn is totally legit. People here in Seattle do it all the time. Also, people here in Seattle are fucking strange. A local insurance company even made a commercial about how having goats mow your lawn is a quirky, fun, Seattle thing to do. Suppose that was a better choice than them highlighting how Seattle people wear socks with sandals or drive with their heads up their asses. See, at least your family is not from here.

  17. I think you might be a cousin 3 times removed or some shit like that. My Great-Grandmother made moonshine in the barn behind her house. And she played the harmonica and could dance one hell of a jig. Also, she was doing all of this up until she died in her late 80’s. I hope to be half the woman she was. I say half because she also loved making and eating frog legs, and soups with day old road kill. That’s just a little too redneck for me. 😉

  18. Did you know that people will PAY YOU to borrow THEIR goats?!! It seems like a scam to me, but I’ve seen it.

    On a side note, goats are mean little creatures that would eat your toes if you let them.

  19. Maybe yard goats are better than the yard calves we had. I thought edible lawnmowers that fertilize as they mow was the perfect way to avoiding actually doing any yard work. The yard calves decided on my porch directly in front of the door was the best place to drop off their fertilizer. The lawnmowers are now in the freezer. They’re the best damn lawnmowers I’ve ever eaten.

  20. True story: when my parents went on vacation while I was a senior in high school, I threatened my mom I was going to bring goats in to eat all of her flowers because she was making me water them. My parents’ house looked like the friggin Garden of Eden threw up on it, FYI. She just laughed at me.
    So, I found out my neighbor had goats. I asked if I could borrow one. She let me and told me that goats like animal crackers. This seemed morbid to me, but I went with it. So I hired a friend to drive while I picked up a kid (young goat) and held it in my lap while it bleated all the way to my parents’ house where I promptly tried to convince it to eat my mom’s flowers. It refused and only searched for animal crackers. So I beheaded a few flowers and stuck them in the goat’s mouth and took pictures and then I gave the photos to my mom in a frame for Christmas.
    So yeah, people borrow goats all the time. I don’t know what’s so weird about that.

  21. I was just talking to the Husband about borrowing some goats when the snow melts so we don’t have to mow the lawn. Dead serious. We decided we’re just going to truck in some dirt and turn our backyard into a mini-bike track. Win-win, if you ask me.

  22. I really wish that you would go into further detail about the visits to your parents…you always leave us with these little things like “As always, it was a heady mix of laughter, gunfire, blood, wild animals, borrowed goats, homeless wood-carvers and unexpected funerals”. There is such a story there!

    And borrowed goats with purpose is better than my neighbor’s pet goats…they have no purpose other than sometimes breaking down the fence and scaring the crap out of my next door neighbor…which is kind of hilarious when the cops are trying to figure out what jurisdiction they have over goats. I’m on Long Island, NY – not really an area where you would expect goats – borrowed or otherwise.

  23. I’m a big fan of goats. And sheep too. I once hauled a sheep over a hundred miles in the back of my ford tempo. Except it was actually a ram and it was in a dog crate that I had assembled in the back seat of my car. This is a true story. I’m from West Virginia in case you couldn’t tell

  24. Our eldest son moved back in and wants me to let him switch the pet snake for a goat. He wants to drink the raw goats milk. They don’t sell this stuff everywhere.

  25. What are your folks brewing out on the “veranda”? Moonshine, perhaps?

    I grew up in a house with obscene amounts of taxidermy. My particular favorites were the antlers mounted above the hooves, which were turned up to hold the gun and the mysterious and elusive “jack-a-lope”…. yep.

  26. I don’t think they’re called a “pack” of goats, I think they’re technically known as an Awesomeness of Goats. (I desperately want goats, but my husband refuses, so he let me get bees instead. It’s not quite the same. :::sigh:::)

  27. borrowing goats…you know, your dad and I should talk. I’ve long wanted to start a rent-a-mule program in NYC: mule stands would be scattered through out the city; you’d give a nice man a small deposit, take a mule, strap your possessions onto its back (kids soccer gear, groceries, your own bag, several bottles of wine, toddler) get to where you’re going, unstrap all possessions (hopefully remembering toddler), and return mule to the mule-a-teer at the closest stand. We’d make a total fortune b/c we could undercut the price of taking a cab. And the mules would be available at rush hour in the rain. I think your dad is just the guy for this.

  28. Your father is obviously protecting the family homestead from the Chupacabra, that or the Chupacabra has something on your dad and it’s blackmailing him and demanding payment in goats of course.

  29. Long time reader, first time commenter… just had to tell you that I think you are my fiance’s father’s other family. He bought a goat for the family when my fiance was still very young because it would help him not have to mow the lawn so much. I don’t think it actually worked out that way, though.

  30. totally just saw a feature on the today show about paying to borrow goats so they’ll “mow” your lawn. what’s worse, tho: long grass or tons of goat poop on short grass. i might opt for the long grass.

  31. Oh Jenny. I understand where all the drinking comes from now.

    In the immortal words of Kenneth the page, “Alcohol, why that’s not alcohol, it’s hill people milk!!!”

  32. I unknowingly borrow my neighbors goats all the time. In other words, once they eat everything he has over there he sends them over here to eat on my place so they don’t freaking starve. Sometimes he sends his horses over too. I don’t mind, really.

    Goats are awesome conversationalists.

  33. I feel like this picture and the fact that your dad borrowed lawn goats explains so much about you. Mostly about why I like you. If my family was southern they would be like yours. Instead they pull a pontoon boat full of people behind an ATV at night, with a keg in the bed of a truck following it. Klassy.

  34. This is, truly, my favorite thing about having family. Initially, you’re forced to tolerate them and pretend like you’re not one of them when your friends come around but then you’re a grown up and it’s so fucking liberating to just close your eyes and blindly accept whatever they bring to the table. Goats and all.

  35. Is there any chance of setting up an online “goat love connection” I live in the deep south and if your father has access to borrowed goats “overnight” I am thinking we could make some BIG BUCKS

  36. For four years, I lived in front of a toothless, white-bearded redneck who had goats and chickens. It took about a year before I realized that the constant stream of cars that would drive up to his house and stay for two minutes? and the fact that he sometimes mowed my lawn at 9:30pm? Yeah, that meant, in addition to being a goat- and chicken-farmer, he also dealt meth out of his shed.

  37. Are you telling me your parents, the folks living here, are the same people in your recent Christmas pics? The ones watching Hailey open her present? SANTA? Or were they the Victor Factor? Just checking for congruence meter calibration. My sextant has been off for weeks. Still, nice still. Seriously.

  38. That was fantastic. My sister bought two goats about five years ago for the same reason. Mind you, she lived in a subdivision (the HOA loooooved her). In the end, she gave them away, because they ate the fence, the side of her house and a chair.

  39. Yes. Now it is all starting to make sense. The apple didn’t fall far from the tree. Guns and liquor are traditional family values. The insanity is genetic.

  40. My husband’s legal assistant, who was like a second mother to him as she also changed his diapers when he was a baby, also had a lawn goat for a few summers. Lawn goats are perfect, especially when you don’t want to mow the lawn in the intense summer heat. Or when your lawn is green and lush and overgrown in January.

  41. My Mom’s relatives in Pennsylvania were sort of like this. At least as far as the moonshine goes. No goats when I was there. However, they had only recently installed indoor plumbing for a lavatory (this was about 20 years ago); they had had an indoor sink for eons.
    I’ll bet if you were willing to tell the stories, you’d get several blog posts from this one visit. We await your exposition.

  42. I saw this and immediately thought, “My family has those EXACT jugs!” (Seriously–the big size, the medium size, and the little size…) No goats, though. That would be the neighbors, who also had a donkey.

  43. I’m pretty sure the American Pickers guys would like the address.
    Those jugs in the front may be valuable.
    In the very least, they’d get to road trip and see some borrowed goats.
    Hey, if you borrow someone’s goats, does that make you a part time shepherd?
    And if so, would you only yodel part time?

  44. My girlfriend has a goat, Carl. Awesome name (course it is because I named him). So last week he gets a higher fence, no more out galloping at your merry Carl, but he doesn’t like this. So he tries a new route through a water trough. Nearly killed himself in a few feet of water. Stupid Carl. Now he’ll stare at the trough and you can tell he is reliving the nightmare. Did I mention Carl is stupid? Cute though, awful cute….but stupid.

  45. Goats! Why didn’t I think of that form lawn maintenance? Hmmm…my visits home, to my parents’ home five minutes away, usually involve laughter, large dogs, booze, lots of people “talking” at the me time and occasionally shooting guns into the ground…or into squirrels. Also? We live in city limits. They’re not big on fireworks either.

  46. Okay.
    1. how do you get a fire under that still?
    2. does goat sweat taint the liquor? I mean the first sip. after that it doesn’t matter, and you can’t see the goats.
    3. who bleached the rifle stock, Sarah Palin? that’s one girly lookin’ musket.
    4. nice touch with the micro wave antenna on the roof. that’s how I knew Sarah Palin was involved.

  47. It’s hard to say (since I’m basing this on a single photo) but, it looks like your family is, like, WAY classier than my family. My parents use dog shit to mow the lawn. It works, too – Everywhere there’s a pile of crap, the grass is super short.

  48. Those stills could go in the Moonshine Museum of Pigeon Forge, TN. Yep, been there, saw that.

  49. Oh shit. My husband keeps talking about how we should get goats so we don’t have to pay the lawn guy… and now he’s going to find out we can just BORROW them from someone!!! Come summer, when there’s a herd of borrowed goats munching my lawn, I’m telling the police that it’s YOUR fault.

  50. I love goats. My dad used to have one. His name was Bubba. Bubba would knock you down to get your beer, which was really annoying, but other than that, he was a good goat.

  51. Personally I think borrowed lawn goats are pretty impressive. WAY more impressive that regular lawn goats. But not NEARLY as impressive as a still that actually broadcasts the alcohol into the that atmosphere through the clever use of an antenna on the roof!!! Whoa, baby!!! THAT’S awesome!!!
    Please buy me one of those.

  52. Follow this one – my daughter’s boyfriend’s roommates (college students all) bought a miniature goat on Craig’s list for their Homecoming…used it as a chick magnet during the festivities, fed it beer, accidentally let it loose during the parade, and had it resold on Craig’s list at the end of the weekend! And just so ya know – it worked as a chick magnet – all the girls were ‘Oh, it’s so cute!’

  53. The neighbors bought goats and they did a great job on clearing a lot of land in very little time–including the ubiquitous blackberries. They either purchased a bonus goat or the goat found a little friend, because next thing we know there is a very pregnant goat and then a little baby goatlet running around. Unfortunately it would wander over a little bump in the pasture and not be able to see mama and then start bleating like crazy. It sounded like a child crying and really fooled me several times. They then purchased chickens and a rooster, a horse and a calf. We do not live in a rural area. Their neighbors to the North are three newer houses that were selling for some 700,000 dollars a couple of years ago. On our side the homes are somewhat more humble, but still it was unexpected to find a farm spring up next door. I loved it when the wind changed and it smelled of….farm because we have a really snooty neighbor on our side that is always complaining about something.

  54. Doesn’t want to mow the lawn but does want to make own liquor. Those are my kind of priorities, rah tharrr.

  55. That is a much better set up than most of the moonshine outfits I know!
    And borrowing goats is TOTALLY normal. I would know since my inheritance, at the moment, is 50 goats. My father has decided in his retirement to be a goat farmer. This isn’t really too abnormal, I grew up and they have lived on the same 30 acres for the last 32 years. My favorite book when I was a kid was “The Goat Parade” by Steven Kroll. It was just destined to be.

    ANYWHO…Pops rents out his goats quite often.

  56. @Shay: I bet you totally ate whatever your grandma made and only found out later about the day old roadkill. lol Am I right?
    I was marked by plucking chickens myself. Not roadkilled ones either, my grandma pulled their heads right off. Then she plunged the bodies in boiling water before they were plucked. Sicko, man. To this day I can’t eat chicken if I had to fry it, and feel like a wuss because of that.

  57. Awesome picture, and it explains a LOT. 😉 I drive by the house I lived in as a child whenever I visit my folks, but strangers live there now. Makes me a bit sad that I can’t look around, but then I get down the street to the drive in that serves the best root beer in the country, and I am no longer sad. Ahh, sweet syrupy sassafrass.

  58. Goats are a good idea, but I believe guinea pigs are even better because they eat grass, they’re tiny so they can hide in the grass while they eat it, and they don’t live a very long time. That is why we got guinea pigs, and is also why we no longer have them.

    And is your family still in the moonshine business???

    I also realize this comment is totally stupid, and I wouldn’t blame you if you deleted it, or called the po po on me. Not sure what my problem is today. I blame the sinuses.

  59. Your Dad should borrow a flock of geese too and then split the lawn in half and see whether geese or goats are the more effective mowers. I’m imagining some sort of gambling den springing up around this sport, so it will be handy to have the still right there.

  60. Can I borrow the goats this summer for my lawn…ROLFLOL. Going home is always an adventure, mostly I try to avoid this adventure.

  61. HAHA! That is really country. Being from West Texas where the ground is flat, the people are slow, and the air smells of dirt and cow shit, I thought it didn’t get much more country than that. But, then again, we mowed our lawns with a John Deere, so you clearly win.

  62. I love the still. I wish I could have one but since I don’t have a basement it would be too obvious. In High School I had a goat named Clint Eastwood. I sure miss that goat. Okay I’m don’t having flashbacks. Thanks 🙂

  63. It’s really hard mowing around all those old cars, pickup seats and toilet gardens. Goats are a great idea. But you needed to include the car seat in the picture, for the full effect.

  64. I’m not sure if I should be afraid, or proud of the fact that I recognize a still when I see one.

  65. My mom had a long running affair with Mr. Jim Beam. As a joke and totally unbeknown to her, my older brother put an old goat in her backyard one day. She called and called my dad demanding that the goat be removed. He ignored her all day. It was great.

  66. You know how when a boyfriend meets his SO’s parents and family and they have a good time but at the end of the night, as they’re getting in their car to go home, the BF says, “Hmm, suddenly you make a LOT more sense now that I’ve met your family?” Any time you post about a trip home, I get that feeling about you.

    Not that I’ve ever had that said about me. And not that you’re my girlfriend. Although…I’m open to the idea. Let’s talk to Victor and see what he says. I can’t promise you a dry sauna but I can promise you that I will be absolutely delighted any time you purchase panda pajamas.

  67. One night on my way home I almost drove off the road because as I rounded the corner there in front of me was a herd of goats staked out on someones lawn. While not an unusual sight in some areas of our country, but in Fishkill, NY it was quite a shock.

  68. Speaking as someone who OWNS goats, they’re not really good lawn mowers, unless your lawn is small, then they do a pretty damn good job.

    By the way, your phone takes excellent photo’s!

  69. Please, please tell me they live in a suburb. I mean country folk are like this, I have a cousin who borrowed 80 hens and when she unpacked them there were over 300 in there, and someone dropped a horse off in her laneway, so stills, gunfire and the rest would be par for the course. But in the suburbs that would be magical.

  70. OMG. BEST LAW MOWING METHOD EVER! And good for the environment too. I smell a great business opportunity! You should put an ad on the side bar: Goats for rent. However, you may want to add “Pervs need not apply” otherwise you’ll need to replace the goats too often and your profit will drop.

    So you have managed to burst our bellies with laughter WITHOUT resorting to talking about your folks. Until now. Wow. That takes talent, did you realize that??!!

  71. I’m confused…were the goats shooting? And I had a backyard like that when I was growing up, too…only we had a small paprika factory and chickens we’d stolen.

  72. Goats you say, free lawn mowers you say??? Your right now one is impressed with borrowed goats, but owed out right goats are a great status symbol, especially when living in a city highrise aparment. They do make terrible neighbors though, that and the whole association with satan.

  73. My dad used to borrow cows in the spring and summer so he didn’t have to mow. Then one summer I was learning to ride a bike in the cow field (I’m from Kentucky, after all…no pavement around) and I spooked the cow we called “Big Tom” and he chased me on my bike into a tree. I have a permanent scar above my eyebrow. I now resent everyone who borrows animals for lawn mowing and am thinking of starting a support group.

  74. Do they shoot mistletoe out of the trees on Thanksgiving so it will be good for Christmas? It is good to think ahead.

  75. I currently have goats and donkeys in my backyard. However, as I live in Africa this is considered mildly acceptable. It wasn’t so acceptable when I lived in a condo in Dallas. Go figure.

  76. Borrowed lawn goats is so smart. I tried to borrow landscapers from the local Home Depot but then I learned that it’s more like kidnapping and returning them unpaid is frowned upon…I’m guessing. The Immigration people said a lot of big words to me and I just nodded and returned them to the corner I got them from.

  77. It’s so ironic that you wrote this. I wrote about goats yesterday on my blog. I’d love to raise goats. Or maybe I should just borrow them, see how much work they are, and decide if the lawn car benefits are worth it. LOL

    Haven’t seen a still like that since I left Tennessee a few years back. Here in Hot-Lanta you don’t see stills too often. More yuppies than stills here. I’d prefer the opposite..

  78. What with the gun talk, I was expecting to see a target practice area. So was absolutely thrilled with the still! That you were being shot at as goats grazed in the background was even better. (Not in an ‘icing on the cake’ sort of way, just meaning how cool to be shot at while perusing the family still. With goats in the background.) Definitely can’t make this stuff up!!

  79. That’s so AWESOME!

    I don’t know why you ever left!

    Between the shine and goats milk, that’s like all day long Redneck White Russians right there.

  80. Having a goat (or multiple goats) around to keep the growing grass at bay sounds like a fine idea but only if they pooped little clouds of glitter and music instead of goat-turds. But then you wouldn’t have them just to eat grass, you’d have to market (exploit?) them and charging admission to passersby to gaze upon their goat-ey musical glitter pooping awesomeness. And the people would trample your lawn, and all would be for naught. I’d stick with the mower.

    Glad you had a nice trip home. Also glad you didn’t get shot.

  81. Hi Jenny (?) I can’t find contact info anywhere else on your site so I hope this makes it to you. I am starting a new blog titled Kitchen Wisdom and it’s basically about the art of being female. Not a mom blog, not a feminist blog and not a martha stewart blog – it’s just aboust connecting with your feminine energy (more on that later) anyway, I would like to use a cropped picture from your shots of you painted in black and white for my header, it’s beautiful. Will you allow me to use this? Let me know, it is perfect for my purpose.

    Keep up the funny stuff

    Aimee

  82. I’d laugh at your borrow lawn goats but my mom sent me an email three days ago explaining that she’s buying baby goats so she doesn’t have to mow anymore.

    So. I guess that’s going around.

  83. Is that a working still, or lawn art? Because if that’s a working still, I’d like your parents to adopt me. Please.

  84. I take great pride in my family’s rather unique brand of insanity. They (we, if I am honest) are somewhat overly-tortured relative to actual crosses to bear, but are endless sources of amusement to ourselves, and even sometimes, others. But most especially to ourselves. That last bit according to others. Your line, “This weekend I went back to the house I grew up in to see my family. As always, it was a heady mix of laughter, gunfire, blood, wild animals, borrowed goats, homeless wood-carvers and unexpected funerals” is one of the funniest fucking things I have ever read. I love the way your mind works – proudly going to those dark places most people go but are afraid to turn on the light. This is the first time I have commented. Thank you. Laughter is currency, and I owe you.

  85. So it’s kind of like when I visit my family, only substitute goats for hogs that wandered over from the neighbor’s property. My dad did ask permission from the neighbor to start shooting at them though, just in case they belonged to him, but they’re feral so let the gunfire begin. We went to their house over Christmas to hang lights on the house and I have pictures of my dad, husband and brother in law arming themselves like it was the zombie apocalypse.

  86. You’re Popcorn Sutton’s granddaughter? Coooooool! Seriously, it’s all OK as long as they’re not making Chupacabra porn or cooking meth for the West Virginia Whites. Looks like the back side of Fort Mountain, from here, where the alleged descendants of Prince Madoc of Wales cook up corn mash and use dead possums for yeast.

  87. I am a new reader (thanks, Jackie!) and my husband already hates it because I am constantly laughing out loud and reading bits to him (which he has yet to think of as being as hilarious as I think they are). I think “Borrowed Lawn Goats” would be a great name for a rock band. Also, my mutt acts like a goat sometimes, so I can pretend I have one.

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