Saturday, July 26, 2014

Time Traveler--Yes, That's a GOAT In Our Van...Why?

If you've read any of the Time Traveler posts, you have heard about our 1977 move from California to Idaho, with a goat in a playpen in the back of our van.  I don't have a picture of the playpen, but I DID find a picture of the van.  This was our family car lot of years.  There was also a whole period of time where my mom has told me that neither door worked, so she had to crawl in and out THROUGH THE WINDOW YOU GUYS.  With a 2-year-old.  On main street.  I can't even--

Sweet ride, huh?
It never looked any different than exactly this, and it was in fact three different colors.  It was a stick shift with a big Naugahyde bench seat in the front, and no seat belts.  I imagine it had a second bench seat, but I never used it because--hello, back then, if you were 6, you rode standing up behind the front seat, remember?  No wonder I have pretty good "sea legs"...

Dad also had a CB radio in it, in case we broke down a million miles from anywhere, because of course everyone had CB's back then. ( Dad was "Papa Bear").  Unfortunately, no one answered on that one time when we DID actually run out of gas, 10 miles up a river road.  Yeah.  Because that's what happens when you move to somewhere where they haven't even invented radio antennas yet, Dad.

Mom drove that van from Sonoma County, CA to northern Idaho in July of 1977, with me and my 2 year-old brother in the back.  I distinctly remember there being just a mattress on the floor in the back for the move, and we had all our stuff lining the sidewalls.  It was just like an awesome, moving fort. (Remember forts?) To us kids, it was super cool.  I don't remember if Mom was having as much fun.  Possibly not.

For the trip, they had put an old wooden playpen just inside the back tailgate, so the goat could ride along for the move.  I'm not even kidding.  We always had Nubian goats, (and even had a 3-legged goat once - pictured below), and I guess this was better than putting her in the back of the pickup truck (also below).  

We stopped at a KOA for the night on the way, because it's like a 24-hour drive, which is a long drive anytime, but an especially long drive in an antique van with a 7- and a 2-year-old and a goat in the back, I don't care who you are.

At the KOA, there was a bus-load of kids from Back East staying that night, probably on their way to California, because, hello--1970s California was pretty much everyone's dream at the time, riiight?  (Except for the Californians, who were migrating to Idaho to get even MORE back to the earth--like us).  Yeah.  We need to be further away from everyone...!  Let's go build a cabin in the middle of nowhere in Idaho!  Ok.  As long as we can take the goat, though.


On the overnight at the KOA, we had opened the back tailgate and tied the goat to the back of the van, so she could eat grass or not sleep inside the van with us or whatever.  Of course, we were soon discovered by the Back East city kids, who had apparently never seen a goat or read a farm book, (ever?).  They somehow couldn't grasp that anyone would travel with anything that wasn't a dog, so of course they kept asking us "What kind of dog is that??"  Dad came back from the showers in the morning and said that we were the talk of the whole campground.  Apparently everyone was asking everyone, did you see that van? I've never seen a dog like that before... What IS that?

Seriously?  A dog that screams 'BAAAAAAHHHH' All morning?  Where'd these kids come from?

We thought it was hilarious, like, "Ohhh, those CITY kids" but of, I can't even fathom the idea of a goat in a playpen in the back of a vehicle, for two days.  

I have such a strong memory of it that OMG I ALSO DREW YOU GUYS A PICTURE... (you can click on it to see it better).

Exactly like this.  

I remember stopping along the way at Mt. Shasta and getting out because SNOW, but not much else.

We made it to Idaho, where we set up a tent in the middle of the woods, which the 5 of us lived in until October, using an outside homemade shower with water piped across 20 acres from a nearby creek, cooking in an outdoor kitchen, and trying to keep the goats and the chickens OUT of the tent.  Mom also spent a summer washing dishes ON THE GROUND outside the building site, with random chickens supervising:

You can't make this stuff up, guys.  See?

We eventually built an awesome house, with help from a revolving door of itinerant hippies who would stay with us over the years, trading carpentry skills for room and board.  The house was finished over the next decade, though it burned to the ground in 1986, and our lives turned upside down, but that's another story.

Some more pictures from my limited collection (because pictures don't survive house fires...)
Our OTHER family car, a black-and-primer 1950ish Chevy truck.  I rode everywhere in the back, because WHY NOT?
That's me, my mom and Duncan the dog.  

Me in front of the California house, c. 1975-6

Dad with proof that, yes, there was a three-legged goat.  Awesome, huh?
THE goat in front of the half-finished house, with my monkey bar at right.  I lived on that bar.
That is the ONLY picture I have found of the goat who rode in the van. She's in front of her little homemade 'goat/dog house'.  Actually, she used to stand ON TOP of it a lot, too.  Also--note that there's no fence, so, she's either tied to the goat house or she's loose...  

P.S.  We also learned in those years that the best way to attact mountain lions is to live in the middle of nowhere with loud Nubian goats.  

P.P.S. The sleds leaning up next to the door were the way we GOT DOWN THE DRIVEWAY all winter. It was so steep that we'd park at the top, mom would sit on the back of the runner sled with my brother between her legs; and I'd sit on the other one, with a 5-gallon-bucket of water between my legs, and we'd ride all the way down to the house like that.  We packed water for quite awhile, as I recall.  Good times.

But, more about all that some other time... 


  1. Too funny. Patty just read this & asked if you were writing for any of your
    local papers. Like me, she was totally cracked up. Any way, we hauled
    for about 7 yrs before we got the well & holding tank in & could finally have
    running water to the house. And a septic system too. Imagine!! The 70s were quite challenging to say the least.

    1. Hi Mom! SEVEN YEARS?!? Good grief, that's even longer than I thought!

  2. You should write a book about this. Not even kidding.

    1. Aww...thanks! I think my mom should, actually. ;) There's definitely a story in there!

  3. Maybe a mother/daughter book and then in the future you can write one with your girls. Is it wrong that I'm kind of jealous that this wasn't my life growing up? My mom has always told me that I was born at the wrong time.....I should've been a grown up in the 60's and 70's and not a baby in 1980.

    1. mom *lived* it as the mother doing all that hippie stuff, so she has quite a story too!

      80s were awesome, too, though! :)