Dunga Brook Diary: Catch Me If You Can

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August 2, 2018 · Posted in Commentary 

May 2011, Albany to LA, SW Flight #4938

Vicki Whicker

The morning sky is orange and pink and purple, the ground is a lush patchwork of greens and blues.

I’m on my way back to the relentless sun and baked neutrals of Southern California.

I already miss central New York.

I pick up my pen and open my journal…but how to describe the first taste of my future?

This Mother’s Day weekend trip, from Los Angeles to central New York, was my first visit to my new-old house.

Back in April, I bought the house, sight unseen, from a post on Facebook. My soon to be New York neighbor (a former LA acquaintance), Jim, is responsible for this purchase. He posted a photo of a forlorn little house for sale and asked, “Who wants to be my neighbor?” And, there it was, my little house, in a field of mud and snow…

Who doesn’t dream of an 1820s farmhouse? Who doesn’t want an acre?

Truth be told, I never did…until I saw Jim’s veggies.

For years, he’d been flaunting them on Facebook. I was shocked by his summer posts of ridiculously large cabbages and copious tomatoes. The lushness got me. I was sold long before that little house came up for sale.



All told, the house and the acre cost me a grand total of $14,000.00.

I’m not a bargain hunter, but this was a deal. Right?

Ok. She’s not a looker. Yet.



I do so love LA.

My LA friends are fabulous. The job opportunities are limitless. But, IMHO, the sun is a bit much. And the dry air? But, NO.

Pepper in career burnout, and TENS (the empty nest syndrome), pile on fires, floods, earthquakes, gridlock, the occasional riot, add a dash of my dismal dating life, and…I’m out. Exit stage left.

As the plane reaches cruising altitude, I relive last night’s nightmare…as follows…

I leave the quaint bed and breakfast around 7pm and drive 14 miles to Jim’s house to feed baby goat, as promised. It needs to be bottle fed because the mom-goat has rejected it. Jim is in the city, tonight, so it’s on me. Ichabod, born on Mother’s Day, and two days old, will be hungry.

The bottle is easy enough to find, Jim’s house has electricity in the kitchen (and the bathroom, and one bedroom, but nowhere else).

I drive with the bottle to the barn door and park with the brights on, so as to illuminate the insides of the giant, dark, cavern.

Because…No electricity.

Why most of a house and all of a barn without electricity? Not sure. I imagine his building in Brooklyn, where he lives most of the year, has electricity in every nook and cranny. I imagine that this no electricity thing is his “upstate thing”. He seems to like it rough. Just saying.

This is my last trip to the valley where I will, soon enough, come back to live happily ever after. Once I quit my job, once I tell everyone, once I pack my house, once I have a farewell party, once I persuade my son to join me on the cross country move, once he graduates from high school in June. So, we’re talking July.

My headlights beam into the barn, but don’t really help, I mean they do because they’re a light source but, once in the barn, anything to my left or right is completely blacked out.

The baby goat is in a stall to my left. I use my iPhone to find him, it illuminates the mom-goat’s face, nicely. She looks scared, worried. In the shadows by her feet, where the baby should be, in the corners where he could be, he is not.

He is not? What?

I call his name, not that he would know it but I suddenly feel the need to call out something.

The darkness is large.

Aside from frogs and crickets and mom-goat…there is silence. Like you’ve never heard, that kind of silence.

It occurs to me how far from help I might be.

There are no close neighbors. Our two houses are alone on this stretch of county highway. Which is not a highway at all but a country road. In the middle of nowhere. No cars have passed. No cars will pass.

And, no cell service.

“Ichabod!” “Baby goat!”

“Maahahahaaa.” Mom-goat’s reply reverberates. Her feet shuffle hay, churning it.

Her fear transfers to me, magnified. It sears my solar plexus.

What the fuck? Where’s baby goat?

I goose-step into the bowels of the barn. I don’t want to but there is a baby missing and I must.

Wings beat, screeches fill the air…things…flying…at me…seriously close to my scalp. I duck, throw my arms around my head.

Bats? Barn swallows?

Why the F did I volunteer for this and why doesn’t Jim have electricity, and what the F happened to the baby Ichabod?

Visions of weasels with blood dripping from their fangs fill my head. Huge weasels. Voracious creatures of the night, slithering and killing the innocent…

I run out of the barn. Millions of stars twinkle.

I can’t go back in, the very idea is a NO.

I walk the perimeter of the barn, as far as I dare, but the dark pushes me back.

To my rental car. I’m turning the engine on, backing out, driving as fast as I can, hugging the curves and hills, all I want are the lights of civilization.

“I lost him!” I wail to my son, on the phone. I’m crying on my doily of a bed at the quaint BNB. Almost hysterical.

So not me.

“It’s ok,” he assures me, “it isn’t your fault. Can you go back tomorrow? Before your flight?”

I post my sad tale to Facebook…

“Baby Ichabod is missing!”

LA friends who’ve been following my upstate adventures are distraught—they, too, had become instantly attached to the baby goat.

In pre-dawn light, pre-flight, I re-walk my steps, calling his name. With each step I take the sun is a bit brighter.

Time is ticking.

I poke in the shadows that still lurk in the barn. With additional light, I poke new corners.


I go outside, walk the perimeter. Calling, calling, calling.


I have to leave.



One more try.

And, in a corner of the barn, a corner that I could not see last night, I find the tiny body of a baby goat, curled up.

I touch it.

It’s warm.

I lift it and he opens his eyes, they‘re clear, he’s shivering!

He’s aliiiiiiiive!

I return him to mom-goat and he latches onto her teat and drinks. His tail wags.

No more bottle!

But how did he get out? The stall door was latched.

As I ponder this, baby Ichabod walks through a gap in the stall. Jim, half-assed farmer that he is, has put the mom-goat and baby in a stall with a baby goat sized gap in its hodge-podge construction.

I rig the stall with pieces of wood and crap that I find on the floor. No more Houdini moves for Ichabod.



All the way to the airport, I sing at the top of my lungs. What a fucking gorgeous place this central New York is! The barns! The fields! The farms, the lakes, the brooks! The woods!

Before I board my flight, I post the “Ichabod Miracle” story and photos of the beautiful little guy next to his mom.

Now, halfway to LA, I compose my resignation speech to my boss and my good-bye words to longtime friends.

I’m really doing it.

I’m leaving LA.

I‘m moving to central New York.

What could go wrong?


(To be continued…)


Vicki Whicker is an iphoneographer living near Cooperstown, New York. In 2011, after 25 years in LA, she quit her fashion job and decamped for the wilds of central New York. Without a job, not much forethought, and a vague plan to remodel an 1820’s farmhouse, she had no idea what was ahead. https://www.instagram. com/vicki_whicker/


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