Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Billy Goat's Stuff---where's a troll and a bridge when you need 'em?

 This afternoon, I journeyed out into the Eastern North Carolina wilderness. My mission was to procure some firewood from a back roads wood yard. I had heard it was the cheapest and easiest way to go. So I go. The deal is, this old guy opens a gate; you drive in, and fill the back of your vehicle from the mountains and mountains of chopped wood, give the man some cash, and drive home.
I knew a bunch of things about this place before my arrival. I knew this guy had a fenced-in yard. I also knew it contained an industrial sized wood-splitter, a small forest of stripped and stacked trees, and the Mt. Everest of chopped woodpiles. I had driven by the place a few times. Of the four roads available to take in order to leave my little town, the wood yard is the one we take least.
The last thing I already knew about this place was that it’s awfully hard to miss…a really big, hand painted, wood sign announcing to all passersby, in no uncertain terms, “FIREWOOD”! Let this be a lesson for all you budding entrepreneurs out there! Marketing and advertisement does not need to be expensive and complex to be effective…it worked on me!
There was one thing that I didn’t already know about this wood yard. Apparently they have goats…three to be precise…living in the yard. I found this out quickly as the Billy (grown male) goat approached me like a dog would. He was getting my scent and figuring out if I had anything he could eat. The old guy said (in the kind of Southern I still don't always get) that I shouldn't mind him just tell him to scat. And if that didn't work, "just smack 'im in the head with one of them logs. That moron Billy is some kinda retarded, or somethin’."
The other two goats, both young females, kept a wide berth from me and anything else that might have the possibility of being me. This kind of reaction was my go-to mental image of “normal” goat behavior--cautiously fretful, except when pertaining to food. It was becoming clear that I was mistaken.
The old guy stayed there with me in the yard as I started to load up the van. He even helped me with the logs, as much as an 80 year old man can. I suspect he was quick to offer assistance, more out of loneliness than out of kindness. He’d obviously been talking to the goats for way too long and was way too eager to tell someone all about them. I was a friendly ear and I couldn’t really leave him, at least not until the van was full. He had all kinds of things to say about the goats. His main theme, however, was all the possible fates that might soon befall this "moron goat."
 Through his “country” drawl, I was able to figure out a few of the details. The goats were not his goats. They belonged to his son-in-law. Incidentally, it is also his son-in-law who cuts all the wood for the old guy to sell. The goats were there to keep the grass and weeds down in the greener seasons.
Everything else he said about the goats pretty much boiled down to one common, ultimate outcome. This I understood with sparkling clarity, even through his “Rural-speak.” The old guy wanted nothing less than complete and total goat eradication!
First he offered the Billy to me as a pet. After politely turning down that tasty offer, he asked me if I've ever had goat meat. I told him, shocking as it may seem, I hadn't had the pleasure, but I have had lamb. Then he told me he'll likely sell them to the Mexican meat market down the road. The learned experience he spoke with was inherently implied.
"Yeah, them Mexicans, they'll eat 'em...(to the Billy):SCAT-get back you retard!!"
This was when the (horned) Billy goat turned the entirety of his attention towards me. The old guy warned me that the goat would try to sneak up and ram me when I was turned around.
At that moment, I was standing between the log pile and the back of my van. The goat was maybe ten feet away. I turned to grab a couple of logs and quickly turned back round. Although I hadn't actually seen the goat move, he now stood a good 7-8 feet closer than before. I clapped the two pieces of wood together loudly and yelled for him to scat. He didn't flinch. He stood his ground, stuck his out his tongue, and, literally, dropped a raspberry (Bronx cheer, zerbert, fart-sound) on me! PHFFFFFTT!!
*not really said goat

"No, you gotta hit 'im on the head!" Thanks for the sage advice, old guy. I swung a log over his head and backed him away as if I was fencing. He retreated to his “10-feet-away” spot and stood there glaring through sinister eyes.
Starting a fight almost never improves one’s situation. So I moved to another side of the pile to peacefully collect my logs. I was able to get a good-sized stack in my arms despite my constant backward glances.
The Billy goat had not followed me.
I returned with my logs and went to deposit them on the stack behind the third row seat of the van. It’s safe to say I was slightly taken aback when I saw the Billy goat staring at me from inside.
He had hopped up onto the logs in the back. Then he hopped over the back seat. The Billy goat stood perched on my kids’ booster seats with a degree of smugness that I was unaware a goat possessed.
I yelled, "Get Out!”
This strategy proved to be a pathetic waste of breath.
The goat did the tongue raspberry thing again (I think I heard him chuckle a little too--but I could be wrong about that).
 He wouldn't budge an inch. The “plan” that ultimately extricated the goat from my van consisted of opening the side-sliding door and gently coaxing him down with whispered compliments and loving remarks (that didn’t really happen) How it really went down-- the old guy used a blunt piece of wood  and smacked the goat in the rear-end, with a loud “Whack!” The goat jumped right out then. 
Later, I caught that goat trying to jump in for a second time.I was able to thwart this attempt.
There weren't any more major events to report. But that Billy goat never stopped staring at me with those deranged eyes.
I thanked and paid the old guy. I got in the van to leave. Before I could be on my way, I had to wait for the gate to be opened. I sat in the idling van while this way-too-old guy wrestled with a way-too-big gate. The bigger challenge, however, was keeping that crazy Billy goat from making a mad dash for freedom (as this was clearly the goat's intent when he saw the opening gate).
The way he was stymied, could have been the strangest thing I saw on this strange day. Keeping the most aggressive and nasty goat I’ve ever witnessed at bay was the old man's wife. She might have been even older. She was definitely slower and frailer. Despite her apparent shortcomings, she deftly put us to shame with her goat corralling abilities.
The goat backed away from her in actual fear. Her secret old yellow fly swatter. She waved it in the air and inched forward, keeping her slow and steady pace.
The goat now successfully occupied, I slipped out the gate, up the dirt road, and away from this unique place.
At the end of this day, I was able sit in the warmth of a blazing fire.

I had to write this all down. Because I know that tomorrow, it's going to be quite a bit harder to believe that it all happened this way...but I swear to you, it did.


  1. David Sedaris, watch out for Dan Hirsch!

  2. You are a great story teller..... but then you have a great story! LOL

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