Library Rambler: Billy Goat Gruff
Around two in the morning one cold January day, I answered a knock on my trailer door. A middle-aged man and woman wanted to know if I owned any goats. I said that I was acquainted with some.
“Is one of them a white billy?” the man asked. I admitted to knowing someone fitting the description.
“Does he have three female friends?” I said that the billy I knew often kept company with such.
He asked me if I would come and get them.
These were my neighbor Jackie’s goats. They had escaped and were at that moment eating some expensive shrubbery in Dr. and Mrs. Kildare’s flower garden. I knocked on Jackie’s door and, a few minutes later, we were following the doctor’s Cadillac down darkened highways and byways until we came to their farmette.
Despite years as an assistant goatherd, I could never tell when a goat was happy or sad. But on this night, when we turned the headlights on them, the goats in Dr. Kildare’s garden seemed festive and ready for a game.
On our team, we had two middle-aged men and two similarly-aged women. Opposing us was an equal number of young goats. The field of play, although they could have run off anywhere, was chosen by the goats to be Dr. and Mrs. Kildare’s flower garden.
Our first strategy was for three of us to pursue one female goat each while leaving the billy alone. This left Mrs. Kildare standing on the sidelines and, as we seven players charged through the garden, she cheered us all on with shouts of “Not the hydrangeas!”
We all soon learned that four-footed animals can easily sidestep the most artful goat chaser. Even if you managed to get them by the horns, they knew how to duck out of it with one quick jerk.
Calling time out, we huddled up and decided that the three of us would all target one of the females. Jackie and I did not want to fool with a billy in rut because billies smell so bad. If you want to know why billies smell so foul, you will have to go look it up because I am not going to tell you here.
They are so repulsive that no one wants to own one. People will rent a billy for a nice fee, but you cannot sell a billy. The billies themselves think they smell great. A billy will run after someone who wanders into the goat yard, because the billy wants to give the intruder the opportunity to enjoy billy aroma. If you see a person running out of a goat yard with a billy in pursuit, it is because that person does not want to smell the billy anymore.
After much trampling of hydrangeas and no goat, we again called a time out.
After Dr. Kildare caught his breath, he said, “I notice that the billy doesn’t run much. Why don’t we go after him?”
“He’s right,” Jackie said. “If we catch the billy, the does will follow him back home.”
“They will?” I was incredulous.
“I know, it’s hard to believe.”
“Why hard?” asked the doctor. Jackie explained that, if it were not so cold, he would notice a strong smell on the billy and, if the billy touched the doctor, the doctor would smell very bad indeed.
With our education complete and exhausted from chasing goats, we three cautiously turned to look at the billy and he at us. In that instant, the billy was sure we loved him and came trotting towards us to share himself with us.
Rhinelander District Library director Ed Hughes is available at (715) 365-1070.