Why did the chicken cross the road?
Because he can!
OK, the joke is much funnier when told in my Silver Sneakers class. Besides my illustrious career as a writer, I am also a fitness instructor and among the varied classes is my Silver Sneakers class. It is a fitness regiment for senior citizens and/or those overcoming an injury or working with a disability in which I also get to tell really bad jokes because they are all trapped in a room with me for an hour.
While we work on muscle development, endurance, balance and circulation, we also talk about body posture, injuries and overall health issues. A recurring topic is the awesomeness of chickens or, at least, how they walk.
Watch a chicken walk. Perfect posture. Have you ever known a chicken to have a bad back? You should take a moment to emulate the walk of a chicken. Head up. Slight bend in the legs with an arch in the back, bottom poked out, shoulders back. Now walk! Beautiful.
Of course, it is a little difficult to convince 70-year olds to walk around like chickens.
We talk a lot about back injuries or, more importantly, how to protect the back. This would include how to sit or lift things with proper posture. We also talk about falling. Hip, wrist and back injuries often result from a fall because, quite frankly, humans do not fall well. But how to teach efficient falling to senior citizens?
Why did the fainting goat fall?
Because he can, my friend. Because he can.
See, there’s another joke that means so much more if you would simply go to your computer, get on YouTube and type in “Fainting Goats.” You are in for a treat.
According to the goat history books, (yes, there are goat books), the Tennessee Fainting Goat or Wooden Leg Goat was essential to a rancher by the 1880s.
The goats do not actually faint. They have a genetic problem with relaxing muscles. When startled or upset, the muscles seize up and, stiff as a stuffed goat stuck in a deep freezer, they simply keel over.
In the old days, they were used partially for meat but also for protection of sheep. When wolves or coyotes happened about, the fainting goats would freeze up and fall over, offering themselves up as the sacrificial lamb while the real sheep bleated on to safety. The goats came close to extinction by the 1980s, what with all the fainting in front of wild dogs and such, but, thanks to the efforts of the Tennessee Wooden Leg and other goat associations, they are back and fainting better than ever.
And thanks to a good friend of mine, I got to see them in person. We drove out to the Akin Willow Kreek Farm (see www.akinwillowkreekfarm.com) to a herd of almost 70 goats, a duck (who thinks he is also a fainting goat), a donkey, horse and one Rottweiler (who once reportedly ate a small goat after she fainted but, “she [the dog] was just really excited,” so I guess that was OK). Within minutes of yelling “boo!” they were keeling over and sending us into peels of laughter. Animal lover that I am, however, I started to feel badly about making innocent goats pass out.
Owner Carole Akin assured us otherwise, saying, “It doesn’t hurt them at all.” They know how to fall and simply “roll with it.” Indeed. With any startling or excitable moment, even in full run, they seize up and roll over like little stuffed Piñatas.
If you know anything about goats, you know they can be pretty mean. In one minute they are tolerating a nice petting session and in the next, they are aggressively ramming you. But Fainting Goats are very docile, dog-like. When we were told we could pick up the little goats, I found them to be squishy and soft, giving no fight to being caught and held. In fact, they just hung in our arms, relaxed and unalarmed which, I guess you would have to be if you were given to passing out each time you felt mildly excited. Boy, imagine Christmas as a child. It would have taken me seven hours to open my box with a guinea pig in it because I would have kept passing out.
While the goats were incredibly entertaining, there were lessons to be learned from these lovable creatures. A recent string of polls have shown that more Americans are dissatisfied at work, with their government, and in personal relationships. It is in our oh-so human nature to focus on what it wrong in our lives yet, here are these animals, victim to their own muscle-locking bodies, rolling with the punches (of falls) and loving life. It was infectious. By the time we left Akin Willow Kreek Farm, we were relaxed, happy, and grateful.
Now, if I could only teach my Silver Sneakers class to fall like goats …
Now residing in “the nicest city in Texas,” Alexandra Allred is the author of numerous books, including White Trash, Damaged Goods and the Allie Lindell series. Visit her website, www.alexandratheauthor, or Twitter @alexandraallred but always check out her column the WDL as she ponders all things Waxahachie and beyond its borders.