They come from afar to see our goats

Friday, October 31, 2008

Travel writers from as far away as Washington D.C. and San Francisco visited a Marshall County farm on Wednesday during their tour of some of the tourist attractions of Middle Tennessee. Having missed the Goats, Music and More Festival, this was a chance for them to meet some of the unique animals that are the reason for the festival's existence.

Escorted by Dianne Murray of Tennessee's Backroads Heritage Inc. and Cindy Dupree of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, the group of writers met Debbie Mullins and her fainting goats at Woody Creek Farm on Franklin Pike.

Welcoming the group to Marshall County were Lewisburg Mayor Bob Phillips his wife, Faris, city officials Terry Wallace and Lisa Jackson, and Mike Wiles,executive director of the county-wide Joint Economic and Community Development Board.

Phillips re-told the story of how the fainting goats came to Marshall County in the 19th century and introduced Mullins.

"She knows more about fainting goats than anyone in the world," the mayor said.

Mullins has been raising fainting goats for about 15 years. She also keeps a few Saanen does, milking them twice a day to get milk for her family to drink. Currently, Mullins has about 65 in her flock, but this number will increase dramatically soon when the does have their kids. She sells most of her animals for breeding stock.

The travel writers listened attentively and snapped pictures as Mullins showed off her myotonic bucks, including the World Grand Champions WCF Mr. Jigilo and WCF Tango. Mullins praised the myotonic goats for their good disposition. She says they make great pets, especially since their stiff-legged condition does not allow them to jump all over everything the way other breeds of goat can. The does and wethers (castrated males) are alleged not to have any odor; Mullins says the characteristic smell of goat comes only from the entire males. In 15 years she says she's never met an aggressive fainting goat.

The goats grow a thick, double-layered winter coat, and last year Mullins tried combing out and saving the soft, cashmere-like undercoat. Six pounds of raw wool became two pounds of clean wool ready to spin, probably enough to make one sweater.

Mayor and Mrs. Phillips had a well-loved pet fainting goat for several years, but she came to an untimely end. They say they have finished grieving and re-built their fence, so now they're ready to get another goat, or maybe a pair.

When the moment to demonstrate the characteristic "fainting" arrived, Phillips brought an umbrella from his car since quickly opening an umbrella is almost guaranteed to make a myotonic goat faint. One of Mullins' does obliged with a faint for the cameras.

"Wow," said the group as they heard that an estimated 15,000 people had attended the Goats, Music and More Festival, and they were also impressed with the caliber of the entertainers who performed at the two free concerts.