Guy Case may be just 10 years old, but his hands, blistered and worn, bear stories beyond his years.
He helps Nathan and Marnie Schwanke with Barney’s Barnyard, a petting zoo that came to Saint Mary’s Primary School on Thursday morning.
Guy grew up on a neighboring farm to the Schwanke’s Sunset Ridge Minis in Cochrane, Wis. While other kids were playing video games, Guy was learning how to care for the farm animals. Now, he has the farming experience of some men twice his age.
“He helps me a lot,” Marnie said. “He’s always there for me, and it’s nice to have someone close by.”
At the schoolyard Thursday, Guy shuffled around quietly like the leader of a pack, handing off guinea pigs, letting kids in and out of the goat pen and telling them about the animals, all the while a leash or two dangling from his wrist, a kitten and a Schnauzer Pekingese dog named Maggie on each end.
“He’s my kind of guy,” Marnie said.
Guy feeds the animals on the farm, and he helped build a fence for the Silky Fainter goats, blisters and all.
When fainting goats get scared, Guy said, their muscles tense up, and they collapse.
“They lay for 10 to 15 seconds with their eyes still open,” Marnie said. “When they get back up, they’re almost embarrassed, but they get used to it.”
Once, a friend of Guy’s dad brought his Harley-Davidson motorcycle by the goat fence, and with one roar of the engine, they all “dropped like dominos.”
Despite all the farming experience, Guy thinks he might become a police officer someday.
“I like to argue,” he said, “mostly with my brothers.” He has six siblings.
Behind the tough exterior is Guy’s compassionate personality.
At the schoolyard, Guy let go of Haylea, the three-week-old kitten cuddled on his chest, and the kids swarmed around her.
“The baby kitten is my favorite,” 6-year-old K-Larae Christensen said. “I like kittens because my aunt gave me two, and I get to take care of them myself.”
Guy put the kids at ease by staying close as they eagerly, and sometimes reluctantly, petted and fed the mini horse, the donkey named Barney, a lion-headed rabbit, a bottle-baby lamb, the guinea pigs and the fainting goats.
Nathan, Marnie, Guy and other volunteers started traveling to Alma, Caledonia and Cochrane with Barney’s Barnyard last summer and are booked every Saturday this month. They will hit Pla-Mor Campground in Winona, Gilmanton parade and Wabasha Riverboat Days later this summer.
“There’s just nothing like this for the kids,” Marnie said. “This way (kids) can get compassionate about animals early.”
Just like Guy.