Here at column central we love contests. That’s because the more people you involve in any endeavor, the more fun and rewarding it’s likely to be. It’s one reason I sponsor a couple or three reader contests each year.
The latest and greatest challenge comes not from yours truly, but from Mill Mountain Zoo. That community institution, which celebrates its 69th birthday July 4, has five new goats.
Two are females named Fu and Star. Fu has a daughter goat, and Star has twins, a boy and a girl. The moms and kids came from a Floyd County goat farmer who recently retired. The three younguns have no names — yet. They’re currently referred to as A, B and C.
So this month, the zoo launched a contest to name the kids. It’s open to anyone, and entries can be made by placing a comment on the zoo’s Facebook page (scroll down to find the post seeking goat names), by emailing suggested names to the zoo, or in person, by filling out a form at its visitor’s center/gift shop.
That’s the first phase, and the deadline for suggestions is June 18, said Jessie Coffman, the zoo’s development director. She’s the person who dreamed up the contest. If you enter by email, it’s to her inbox you should send your suggestions: jcoffman@MMZoo.org
“I wanted something fun and light for the summer,” Coffman told me Friday.
For the second phase, Coffman will gather all the suggestions and hand that list to the zookeepers. They’ll narrow down the list to three potential names for each kid. The third phase begins June 29. That’s when people can vote on the zookeepers’ name choices.
Each vote will cost $1. Voting ends July 10. The three names that raise the most money will be bestowed upon the zoo’s three new kids. Those will be announced July 12. Coffman said voting can be done in person at the zoo; or online via its donation page at http://www.mmzoo.org/support-us
Also, by June 29, the zoo will set up three GoFundMe pages (one for each goat), listing the three potential names for each kid, Coffman said. That’s another way people interested in the names of Mill Mountain Zoo’s goats can participate.
Money raised via the contest will help support the zoo’s operations. Counting animal feed, salaries and other overhead, that’s about $1,000 per day, she added.
Mind you, these are no ordinary goats. Rather, they’re heritage myotonic goats. In this context, “heritage” means they’re “traditional livestock that were carefully bred to develop specific traits that make them well-adapted to their local environment,” Coffman wrote in a news release.
And how about “myotonic?” The answer to that’s even more interesting.
It means they’re fainting goats, also known as “Tennessee fainting goats.” The little critters have a recessive gene that causes their legs to lock up when they’re startled. That can lead to them falling over, or “fainting.”
They’re housed in the zoo’s “hoofstock,” a pen with a small attached barn just inside the zoo’s front gate.
The Casey family has a deep interest in the names of animals at Mill Mountain Zoo. This goes back to 1999, the year after our youngest — Zach — was born. He’ll be 23 in August.
At that time, I worked nights on the copy desk, which meant my workday started at 4 p.m. Late each morning on those days, (and on weekends, too), I used to take Zach to the zoo by bicycle. I’d harness him up in a bike cart, put an infant helmet on his head, attach the cart to my mountain bike, and pedal up Prospect Road, where we would visit the animals.
There was little rain — remember the drought back then? And Zach and I visited year-round — even when the winter daytime temps plunged into the teens. For those days, my concerned parents gave Donna and me a tiny, toddler-sized, down-filled snowsuit to keep Zach warm. It sported snap-on down-filled booties and a down-filled head covering, too.
Anyway, the first animal Zach and I would inevitably see upon entering the zoo was a llama. Her name was Nina. Little Zach used to love feeding Nina grass. And it came to pass that the very first word out of his mouth, ever, happened to be “Nina.”
His second word was “llama,” so we know this was no by-chance occurrence. Zach was uttering “Nina” and “llama” even before “Ma” and “Da.”
Nina the llama used to inhabit the fenced-in “hoofstock” that the myotonic goats now call home.
They’re not the only critters in that pen, however. It’s also home to two pigs. Coffman said one of them is a (formerly) wild boar named Helen, who sounds pretty smart. Helen doesn’t take sharing her pen lightly.
She soon discovered that if she raised a ruckus, it would frighten the living daylights out of the young goats. At that point they’d freeze and occasionally fall over.
“The female pig, has scared them, I would say with glee,” Coffman told me. “It’s fun to watch … The whole thing has just been cracking me up.”
Something tells me that the zoo has struck some gold with these fainting goats.
Because, if a bullying boar can figure out she can make tiny goats fall down with a well-timed snort, it’s just a matter of time before human kids realize the entertainment potential. By then, every child who can muster a half-decent “BOO!” will beg his (or her) parents for visits to Mill Mountain Zoo.
It’ll be the hottest ticket in town for the under-10 set. I hope they’ve got big baskets for all the money they’re going to rake in.
Contact metro columnist Dan Casey at 981-3423 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter:.