After enduring the plunderings of a neighbor's hungry goats for three years, a part-time corn and soybean farmer went to Prince George's District Court. Yesterday the court ordered the goats' owner, a Mitchellville dental technician, to pay him $1,975.
Richard Fowler, an electrician who lives in Bowie, recounted how he laid down his first soybeans on the 52 acres he rents off Woodmore Road in Mitchellville in 1980, rotated to corn in 1981 and went back to beans last year. But a herd of goats from John Crutchfield's farm next door trespassed every year, Fowler claimed, and each year they ate more. Last year, he said, they chomped 10 acres of beans clean to the roots.
So Fowler, 48, counted his losses, photographed the goats in action, and sued Crutchfield for $2,975.
Fowler and his brother and farming partner, Clayton Fowler, testified in court yesterday that they had seen goats on the fields almost every time they came to check them, two or three times a week. The number of goats increased each year, they said. By last year they said they counted 42 of them.
Crutchfield claimed that the real culprit was deer that routinely grazed on Fowler's fields. ". . . We argued that the deer could have caused a lot of damage," said his attorney, Steven R. Smith.
Fowler's attorney, Rita Mannheimer, countered that deer would nibble tips of a plant; only a goat would eat the whole thing. "There aren't that many deer out there, and I don't think deer will eat down to the ground," Fowler said after the trial.
In the end, the court lopped $1,000 off Fowler's demand to allow for what the deer may have eaten.