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The hair of a goat

We take winter seriously here in the Upper Midwest. Very seriously. Overnight lows this winter were anywhere from the 15- to 30-below-zero area. Daytime highs don’t create a lot of melting. So how does a person stay comfortable in weather like this if, let’s say, you have to work outside?

Two words.

Goat socks.

More specifically, we’re talking about socks made from the mohair of an Angora goat. Not just any goat and not just any sock, though. You want warmth, you go with Thermohair socks from Austin’s Mohair in Harmony, Minnesota.

I first learned about goat socks at least seven years ago. They are incredibly warm, incredibly comfortable, and they don’t make my feet sweat like some heavy-duty socks I’ve worn. Thirty-six years as a diabetic has given me the kind of circulation in my extremities that makes me a bit more sensitive about temperature extremes. Nothing maintains warmth in my feet like goat socks. They’re about $25 to $30 a pair, but I feel they’re worth it.

The product alone would be okay. The real bonus comes when you make the trip to Harmony to get your goat, as it were. Ada Austin is the sweet little old lady behind the goat farm and the goat products. She is a first-rate character. The first thing that will catch your attention when you drive into Ada’s yard is her color preference. There is a strong purple flavor . . . everywhere. There is the purple house, the purple sheds, the purple lawn furniture, the purple tractor. Even Barney would think Ada may have gone a little overboard. But Ada will be the first one to tell you that when you get old, it’s perfectly acceptable for a woman to make a purple statement. Ada’s statement is mighty, mighty bold.

So I got myself some goat socks years ago and loved them. Ever since then, I have been getting other people clued in to the goat sock phenomenon. One of those people is familiar to a fairly wide audience in Iowa. He’s Mark Pearson, the host of Iowa Public Television’s weekly journal of rural America, “Market to Market.” It’s a show I’ve watched since I was a little kid. Mark has been the host since 1991. He also is a co-host of the daily noon farm show on a group of radio stations across Iowa called “The Big Show.”

I’ve known Mark for several years. So last fall when he said something on his program about cold weather and how he had to do chores at his farm in the freezing cold, I went to Harmony and got a couple pairs of goat socks for him. Mark got his socks around Thanksgiving and absolutely loved them. He became a Goat Disciple.

When it was time for some holiday shopping, I stopped by Ada’s store and invested in several more pairs of goat socks. Two pairs went to Mark’s broadcast partners on “The Big Show.” Five other pairs went to a group of people at WCCO I know, with the idea being that they’d have them in time for their annual ice fishing trip in early January. Still other pairs went to other recipients.

A couple months later on a Thursday morning around 10:30, my phone rang. I decided to take the call.

Hello, this is Jeff.

“Jeff, this is Mark Pearson.”

Hey, Mark.

“Jeff, Bob and Ken got their goat socks and they absolutely LOVE THEM! We want to have you on the show today to talk about them. We’ll probably have you on around 12:40 or so. Can I call you at this number?”

Yeah, that will work.

“Okay. You’re not going to be busy selling any of that high-priced hay today, are you? We want to talk about that, too.”

The live interview went quite well. They had been discussing Two Guys Farming earlier in the show and specifically spent some time on my job title and the corporate slogan, which they loved. By the time they got me on the air, the mood was light, to put it mildly. Mark mentioned how the socks can be run through a washing machine, but cannot be dried in a dryer. They need to be hung up to dry or else they will shrink, big-time. Just before everything was over, he mentioned how he had one pair of non-goat socks several years ago he wore for four months straight without washing them. They kept his feet warm, but they smelled kind of funky. The closing music was starting to play, so I remembered Jerry Seinfeld’s rule about leaving on a high note as I left them with the following comment: “Mark, that may have been what was generating the heat for you!”

Later that afternoon, Ada sent me an e-mail. Within two or three hours of the goat sock discussion on “The Big Show” (where we didn’t even get a chance to mention the Web site or the phone number for Ada’s store), her phone went nuts. She had moved a ton of goat socks in that time frame! She was beyond ecstatic.

If you’re good to me, I’ll be good to you . . . in spades. That’s how it works in my world.

When I told Ada about all the other places I had sent goat socks, and the responses they had generated thus far, she replied again with equal amazement: “I THOUGHT YOU WERE A FARMER. WHO ON EARTH ARE YOU? You have more connections than the president!”

Maybe, but I wouldn’t want his job.

What, and give up show business?

Guy No. 2

Read More from Jeff Ryan, Guy No. 2

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