August 4, 2005
Berrien County-- A lost art, once as common in Southwest Georgia as the sun coming up, is all but forgotten these days. Except by a 90-year-old woman who keeps her talent well practiced, not once, but twice a day.
The morning starts long before a rooster crows for Marie Shope. "Hop up. You know what you are supposed to do. Hop up," says Marie Shope after she unlocks a big, light grey, wooden door that has an upside down arrow cut in it.
Three registered dairy goats, Rosie, Jingle and a kid named Aster, wait for her. Rosie and Jingle hop on their wooden milking stands where Marie does a rare form of manual labor like few others do these days.
"Catch it right there and squeeze it out there," says Marie as she explains her technique. Rosie welcomes the squeezes. "Over two quarts a day," says Marie.
Jingle doesn't produce nearly that much because Aster still nurses occasionally. "I've had goats since the 1930s," says Marie.
Or is it the other way around? Do the goats have Marie? "Well, I have some really lovely friends I'd rather be with, but it's close," says Marie with a laugh. She treats the goats like children, mildly scolding Rosie. "You put your foot in the bucket," says Rosie.
For the most part of 70 years, Marie has had goats in her life. "They are good company. I talk to them," says Marie. And, sings to them. No lullabies, though. She doesn't want them to fall asleep as she milks them. "Only a goat would appreciate my singing," says Marie after singing a verse of, "I Shall Not Be Moved," milking to the beat of her song.
The love for dairy goats runs in the family. Marie has three of them. Her daughter has some as well as her granddaughter. Marie treats her goats as equally as she can. "You are a good girl. You are, too," says Marie to Rosie first and remembers Jingle was close by and might get offended if she didn't get a compliment.
Marie finds goats and girls have something in common. "Likes to be told how pretty they are just like all girls," says Marie.
Marie firmly believes goat's milk helps her beat arthritis. "You can't say it cures arthritis," says Marie. But, she can say it has improved the quality of her life. "Produce about what you need for me and another person. I don't sell the milk," says Marie. Georgia State law prevents her from selling it. "This one is about empty," says Marie after about 30 minutes of milking Rosie.
Empty for now, but in a few hours Rosie and Jingle will produce more milk. Marie will milk them again and both will live a better life because of each other. No kidding.