Historic Rock Hill farm

Climbing goats latest feat on historic Rock Hill farm

dworthington@heraldonline.comApril 9, 2013 

There was a time when Ann Stevens would dream of getting exquisite jewelry and fine clothes.

After all, she was Miss Conway – either 1959 or 1960, she can’t remember the year. She was, though, a runner-up in the Miss South Carolina pageant.

Now, Ann Stevens Roddey, married 51 years to Jack Roddey, gets “animals and chicken coops.” Her latest gift from Jack was a pair of white peacocks.

And she has climbing goats. Twins: Esau and Jacob.

The goats are about 6 weeks old. They spend most of their time in one of the Roddeys’ barns with their mother, Vivian. When Ann goes to feed their extensive collection of chickens in the afternoon, she puts the young goats in a small pen beside the chicken coop.

It didn’t take Esau and Jacob long to learn they could scale the large tree in the pen. The climb often isn’t steady. The trunk has scuff marks from their hooves.

As the tree gets steeper, they steady themselves about halfway up the trunk before bolting to a small landing where the tree branches out. Sometimes, they get more adventurous, climbing higher on one of the main branches.

Ann says her goats share the traits of their Biblical namesakes. Esau “is hairy, and he’s the hunter,” while Jacob is “the mama’s boy. He looks like a Jacob because he is smaller.”

Ann names most of her larger animals. Vivian was named for Vivian Vance, the actress who played Ethel on the “I Love Lucy” television show.

Her donkeys are Lucy and Ethel. They had a pair of male goats, named, not surprisingly, Ricky and Fred, to complete their animal TV family.

Esau and Jacob appear a little skittish when it comes to their celebrity status. They’ve climbed the trees for visitors and for the Roddeys’ grandchildren. They seem to do best, Ann said, when they follow their afternoon routine.

Their tree climbing is not unusual for goats, said Jack Beer, a livestock specialist with the Clemson Extension Service in York County.

“Old-time goat herders say if you’re missing a goat, the first place to look is up,” Beer said. Most young goats will try to climb just about anything, he said.

And all goats are experts when “flight” is concerned.

“The other thing the old goat herders will tell you is, if your fences won’t hold water, they won’t hold goats,” Beer said.

The goats’ exploits are just another page in the history of the farm that dates to 1811, when Maj. Thomas Roach built his home there. The massive, front-yard oak was planted in 1812, Jack Roddey said.

It’s not the only historic place that Jack Roddey has called home. He was born in the governor’s mansion in Columbia in 1930 when his parents, John and Jean Roddey, lived with Jean’s father, Gov. John G. Richards Jr. Jack grew up on the family farm, and he and Ann saved it from leaving the family in 1987. They’ve been there since.

Ann, a city girl, set about reviving the property and the land.

“What is the use of having a farm if you don’t have animals?” she said.

They repaired the coops that Jack’s father once used to raise quail. The quail eggs were collected daily and shipped by Greyhound to preserves, which incubated the eggs.

“The eggs went out 2,000 to 3,000 at a time in cardboard boxes of 50,” Jack said.

A wide variety of fowl fill their quail coop and other “birthday” coops for Ann.

The have Dominique chickens that came to America with the Puritans. They have Frizzles, which Ann calls “beauty parlor chickens” for the feathers on their feet. They have Polish chickens that look “like Phyllis Diller” because of their crest of feathers.

And they have, of course, Gamecocks.

“My friends can’t believe I live on a farm,” Ann said.

Growing up, she had neither dog nor cat. Now she has chickens, pea hens and peacocks, pheasants, pigeons and guineas – and climbing goats.

“I fell in love with it,” she said of the lifestyle. “It’s so peaceful, very peaceful. It’s a wonderful life. I live on a forever vacation.”

Don Worthington •  803-329-4066

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