A gift, a goat - and a raisin bread crust

The wonderful smell of fresh raisin bread poured out of the open bakery door. Immediately I was back in my childhood, and Auntie was baking bread.

She did it every week, but this time it was special: raisin bread. Oh, how I loved the smell of raisin bread!

The year was 1942. My Canadian father had enlisted to fight the Nazis and was sent to Europe. My American mother had taken her two daughters back to Oregon to await the delivery of a third child.

"Auntie" was her foster mother, no blood relation at all, but the only grandmother I ever really knew.

Auntie lived in a little old house on a small curved street in Silverton. Next door lived Mr. and Mrs. Hoyt. Beside them was Mr. Gorder, and beside him lived Auntie's best friends, Mr. and Mrs. Tomason.

The houses occupied the outside of the curve. On the inside was a little grassy area I would have loved to play in, but that's where Mr. Gorder pastured his goats - two of them - on long, long tethers.

I was terrified of those goats. They were huge, taller than I, with yellow eyes.

On this particular day, Auntie took a still-warm loaf of raisin bread, wrapped it up in brown wax paper, and handed it to me. "Take this to the Tomasons," she said, "and take Carolyn with you."

I was a timid 4-year-old; Carolyn a fearless 2-1/2. Both Mother and Auntie were always saying, "Take Carolyn with you."

So, burdened with fear, responsibility, and fresh bread, I took Carolyn by the hand and off we went, down the porch steps and onto the street. There was no traffic to worry about in those days.

But as soon as we reached the street, the goats noticed us - no doubt smelling the warm bread - and began to come toward us.

I had heard the adults talking, and I knew that goats would eat anything - including, I was sure, raisin bread and little sisters.

In order to avoid the goats' reach, I took Carolyn across the Hoyts's lawn. I was afraid of Mr. Hoyt, too. He was hearty and loud, but that didn't bother me as much as those goats.

Down through the flower bed we went, across Mr. Gorder's goat-clipped grass and through the Tomasons' rock garden into their driveway.

Heaving a sigh of relief at our safety, I knocked at the Tomasons' door. There was no answer. I knocked again, but still no answer.

Carolyn and I sat on the porch steps while I tried to think about what to do next. I didn't want to take the bread back to Auntie because she might think I hadn't done what she told me to. But I didn't want to leave the bread there on the porch for the goats to get.

Oh, that bread smelled so good! As we sat, I noticed a fat raisin sticking out of the wrapper. As I tried to poke it back in, it fell out. Carolyn stuffed it in her mouth. Not fair. I wanted a raisin, too, so I took one.

Now there was a hole in the bread. I thought if I picked away a little of the bread, it might hide the hole. So I nibbled a bit. That still-warm bread was so good.

Then Carolyn wanted some. Now there was a bigger hole. And that bread smelled better than ever.

Finally, when there was nothing left of the bread but a crust, I took Carolyn by the hand and began the scary trek back up across gardens and rockeries to Auntie's house. Our pinafores were very dirty, and we had leaves in our hair when we arrived, but nobody seemed to notice. I didn't say anything, either.

It was not until after supper that Auntie realized that Mrs. Tomason hadn't called to thank her for the bread. She rang her.

To this day, I can see her standing by that big wooden phone.

"Yes," she said. "I sent one down by the girls this afternoon."

There was a long pause. I began to tremble as a frown appeared on Auntie's face.

"Nothing left? Nothing but crust?"

Auntie looked like a thunder cloud as she turned to me. I burst into tears, trying to explain how the Tomasons weren't home and about the goats and how I didn't want them to get Carolyn or the bread. "And, oh," I cried, "it smelled so good!"

Strangely, the thunder cloud vanished. Auntie tried to be stern, but the compliment to her cooking was just too much. Carolyn and I were dismissed to bed, but the story got around. I heard a great deal thereafter about goats and raisin bread.

I've learned a lot in the years since, of course. Now I gladly take my grandchildren to a local farm to mingle with pigs, donkeys, llamas - and goats: Nubians, Saanens, pygmies. I've become very fond of those friendly and curious little animals.

But in my memory, that mouthwatering aroma of fresh raisin bread will always be wrapped in the brown wax paper of childish fears outgrown, responsibilities long past, and goats, now loved.

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