Mar 7 2011

Goat on a Hill

Melissa Crytzer Fry

Goats. I had probably run past them a half dozen times during my daily jogs before I realized they were even there. Staring at me. That is, until one of them screamed at me in an eerily boy-like voice.

Goats feed near their camper “storage shed” with the breathtaking Galiuro Mountains in the background. Click to enlarge, then click forward button for additional photos.

So began my ritual of “baahing” back at the neighbor’s goats, or yelling, “Hi, goats!” up to them from my running trail along the railroad tracks. And then one day, I saw the curly-horned male at the crest of the hill (see him in next picture, left). His horns, like an intimidating native headdress, were a sight to behold. The Galiuro Mountains rising behind him, wrapped in all their wild west lore, simply took my breath away. The goat’s confidence, mirrored by the perfect backdrop – rugged, tough mountains – was what I saw. But, instead, the childlike words “Goat on a Hill” formed in my mind.

What a great idea for a children’s book, I thought.

My goat-calling skills are improving, as noted from this shot of goats young and old. My bellowing sure got their attention.

This wasn’t the first time I’d run past the neighbor’s property and envisioned such a story. The first occurred when I saw three Gambel’s quail sitting on the fence that enclosed a makeshift “chicken coop” that, really, was nothing more than a floppy cabover truck bed camper now wilting in the desert sun and laid to rest in dry soil.

I could hear the chickens clucking away inside and wondered if the quail were chatting with them about their outdoor freedom. Did the quail wonder why their fellow winged-brethren were caged? Then I saw it quite clearly, a title for the book: Desert Quail and Chicken Are Friends (along the lines of one of my childhood favorites, Frog & Toad Are Friends).

P.S. If you’re worried about my overactive imagination, I can explain. A previous post (scroll to “For Writers-For Everyone”) defines the phenomenon: it’s all about endorphins and the creativity unleashed while running.

For Writers – For Everyone: I can recall some of my favorite children’s books, as if I just discovered them yesterday. Doesn’t this fact, alone, illustrate the huge impact that words can have on young minds? Some of my all-time favorites include The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Where the Wild Things Are, and James & the Giant Peach. Then later … everything Beverly Cleary … and then everything Judy Blume. And so on, and so on.

What childhood stories most influenced you? Without them, do you think you’d have become a writer? An avid reader?

I think the other lesson I learned is that it’s okay to let loose and think like a child once in awhile. For writers, it can result in an extra boost of creativity and can even help with point of view. Do you agree?

P.S. Don’t miss my AMATEUR PHOTO CONTEST. Submissions being accepted now!


19 Responses to “Goat on a Hill”

  • avatar Erika Marks Says:

    Melissa, how remarkable. I especially loved your opening mention of “baahing” back. Makes me think of a beloved fruit pigeon I always visited at the zoo in New Orleans. He would make this wonderful gesture of lowering and raising his head in greeting with a trademark coo, and I learned to mimic the sound and gesture enough that he would do it back to me. I’m sure the other patrons thought I was a nut, but, man, that interaction with that sweet, soulfull bird always made me smile. (Even cry, sometimes!)

    As for childhood influences, I think I always was drawn to the spooky/mystery/fanciful stories, and I am still aware of those early influences when I find myself building stories now. Amazing, isn’t it?

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    Melissa Reply:

    Glad to know I’m not the only one speaking to animals.Your bird sounds LOVELY. I’m sure the goat owner thinks I’m nuts; he’s “caught me” talking to the goats on multiple occasions. And he now waves frantically at me, so he must appreciate my camaraderie with the barnyard animals!

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  • avatar Tracy Mangold Says:

    Love it! I regularly read children’s stories – books from my own youth to keep that fresh perspective. I still adore them and feel the energy and the awe I felt the first tim I read them. Now that I have my own child – it is even more fun. I loved “Kavik the Wolf Dog” by Walt Morey, “The Haunted Cove” by Elizabeth Baldwin Hazelton and my all-time favorite, “Anne of Green Gables” by L.M.Montgomery..plus “The Boxcar Children”, “The Chronicles of Narnia” I could go on and on. There’s such a beautiful simplicity to those stories and by that, I mean they don’t carry the baggage as do so many grown-up novels. I hope that makes sense.

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    Melissa Reply:

    Yes, Tracy, makes perfect sense. Children’s books aren’t as heavy … they are so often designed to entertain in a “light” and “hopeful” manner. Thanks for sharing. I feel like I need to get out to the library and just immerse myself in some of these suggestions.

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  • avatar V.V. Denman Says:

    I just love your pictures and what you write about them. Some of my favorite children’s books were: Little House on the Prairie, Mama’s Bank Account, and the Dr. Seuss collection.

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  • avatar Leah Says:

    I love this! I love how seeing goats on you run inspired an idea for a children’s book. I can see the premise too. And what an awesome place to run that you actually see goats! Favorite childhood books: Little House on the Praire. I can’t wait to read them to my daughter.

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  • avatar Rachna Chhabria Says:

    Melissa..I like the way you got inspired by the goat for a children’s book. What a coincidence, my current post tackles the issue of children’s writers. We really same to be on the same wave length.

    On another unrelated note, I will email you in a day or two with what kind of pictures I am looking for my blog.

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  • avatar Hallie Sawyer Says:

    Little House On The Prairie, Nancy Drew, Tiki Tiki Tembo (my fave!), and later Sweet Valley High (I know, lame) were what reeled me into reading. I do owe a little something to Dick and Jane for teaching me to read before Kindergarten. Even though the plots were boring and the words…ugh, can you say repetitive?! Oh wait. 🙂

    I actually enjoy reading my kids books at night because I feel like I am discovering right along with them.

    About the pictures. Do you carry the camera while you run?! You are my hero. I would have killed myself or the camera if I tried that. Love the pics, as always. 🙂

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  • avatar Jolina Petersheim Says:

    Loved this post, Melissa! It seems a majority of writers discovered their future career as children pouring over books, why shouldn’t we then pay homage to them? My favorites were The Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew, and — more than anything — the Anne of Green Gables series. For years I yearned to have red hair and a neighbor boy like Gilbert, but the one thing that stuck to me after all these desires had passed was to write just like Anne. If it hadn’t been for that impulsive heronine, I might be an accountant somewhere.

    Okay, definitely not!

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    Melissa Crytzer Fry Reply:

    I share the accounting/math disdain :-). And, yes, we should pay homage to our favorite children’s authors/books! Thanks for your continued support, Jolina.

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  • avatar Jessica McCann Says:

    “Hi, goats!” I love that you shout hello to your animal friends (and I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who does that).

    My favorite books as a child were The Velveteen Rabbit and all the Winnie-the-Pooh stories. I don’t know that they necessarily inspired me to be a writer, but I loved the idea of my beloved stuffed-animal friends having fun adventures in the Hundred Acre Wood. And even today, when I see a desert cottontail hop past my office window, I have fun imagining it is some stuffed toy brought to life because it was once loved by a child.

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  • avatar Julia Says:

    I love the idea of a “kid” book about goats…haha, I know…
    seriously, some of my favorite books remain children’s books, some of my favorite authors are children’s book authors: I share Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary. I love the Barbara Parks Skinnybones series. And I just blogged today about Alexander and The Very Bad, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day! I love Judith Viorst, too.

    Some of the writers of animal books were unforgettable as well, like Beatrix Potter and A.A. Milne. Just too many! Thanks for the great memories!

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  • avatar Kimberly Says:

    I love this post about the goats & your pictures! Do you always carry a camera with you when you run? Some of my favorite childhood books were The Witch of Blackbird Pond, The Secret Garden and the Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle series, so imaginative!

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    Melissa Reply:

    Oh yes…. Forgot about The Secret Garden. And The Little Princess… And the Witch of Blackbird Pond. Thanks for the reminders.

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  • avatar doreen mcgettigan Says:

    What a great post. Goats to sound so much like kids…are the little ones called kids? I think they would make wonderful characters for a childrens book. My favorites were Goodnight Moon, Riki Tiki Tavi and Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twin’s (A very long time ago).

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    Melissa Reply:

    Yes, baby goats ARE kids :-).

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  • avatar Natalia Sylvester Says:

    The book that absolutely influence me in my writing is Roald Dahl’s Matilda. There’s a chapter where Matilda learns about limericks at school, and after reading it I figured I’d try my hand at a few. That’s how I started writing (and never stopped after that).

    I don’t think I’ve ever met a writer whose fascinations with words didn’t start in childhood. I’ve always thought children have the most creative views on the world, so perhaps it makes sense that we wouldn’t want to let go of that.

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  • avatar Melissa Says:

    Ahh! How could I forget the Little House on the Prairie series, Dr. Seuss, Nancy Drew, Winnie the Pooh, Riki Tiki Tavi, Charlotte’s Web? LOVED those as well. Thank you, everyone, for some great suggestions and your enthusiasm. As mentioned above, I may need to go the library and relive some childhood memories. Sometimes, we just need to experience the wonder of BEING children again. Books are such a great way to transport us back to youth.

    And to answer the questions about running with a camera in tow…. I don’t (other than my iPhone camera). I had to go back three days in a row (after my jogs) to try to capture the goats up on the hill (vs. down in their pen). Many times, I’ll stumble upon something I want to photograph, then have to go back and “hope” I can still find it (like a Pipevine Swallow Tail butterfly caterpillar one day, baby ravens another). Sometimes I’m lucky, and the shot is still ‘there.’ Oftentimes, not…

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  • avatar Sara Says:

    I had to come back and comment on the goat post. Goats are my absolute favorite creature. They have such personality. They are so brazen and aggressive, but in a playful, humorous way. I had some growing up and I would just lay around the barn and snuggle with them. I think the babies thought I was a goat.

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