Monday, March 10, 2008

A Childhood Memory: Attacked by a goat

This is my 499th Post!

Scarlet recently reminded me that I was going to tell my story of being attacked by a goat when I was a kid. We'll, there's more to the story than just a goat. Enjoy.
My Daddy deer hunted when we lived in Petersburg. Every Saturday during season he would get up before dawn and head down to the Nottaway River, to a farm in which the land was leased each fall to his hunting club. There, hunters would be stationed along two-track roads and at the edge of fields while dogs ran deer in the swamp in the hope that they’d come out in the open and the closest hunter would fill Bambi with buckshot. I went hunting with him once, a boring experience which cured me as this type of hunting. My brother and I sat on the ground, wrapped up in a blanket while Daddy sat with his pump 12 gauge at the ready, listening carefully to the sound of the dogs. That day, no deer can near us and by late morning it was over. We drove back in to a shack where the deer that had been shot were slung up and men busy with saws and butcher knives, carving up the meat and then wrapping it in butcher paper. They’d gotten three deer that day and everyone went home with several packages of meat.

My dad shot several deer during the three years we lived in Virginia. For years, he had the anthers of one deer mounted on the wall in his office. He also shot a turkey. He was near the river and the bird fell into the water. I loved hearing him tell the story stripping down and going into the freezing water to retrieve his turkey. There weren’t many turkeys around back then and from what I know, this was the only one he ever shot. That Christmas, we ate the old Tom, carefully watching for stray buckshot.

Belonging to the hunting club meant that one had obligations to fulfill in addition to paying dues. You had to take your turn feeding and caring for the dogs. Sometimes Dad would let us ride along. We’d drive out southeast of town on the highway, sometimes stopping at a gas station for a Coca-Cola. I remember Dad was furious when they went up to a dime a bottle. Deposit was two cent, but we always had a few bottles in the truck to exchange. We left the highway and went down a series of rural roads through fields of tobacco and corn and peanuts till we finally turned off onto a two-track that ran beside a field. In a few hundred yards, we were deep in the woods. We drove on a bit more till we got to a shady area where the underbrush had been cleared. There in pens, the dogs were kept. The hounds were all yelping as we arrived, in anticipation of running around and of having food. Dad cleaned out their cages and gave them food, which drew the dogs back into their pens. Water came from a pitcher pump. My Dad had to get primed, but after the water started flowing, I was allowed to pump water into the buckets.

One particular day still sticks in my memory. The well had gone dry. There were a number of metal water containers and Dad loaded them into the trunk and we drove further into the woods to a house that looked like none I’d ever seen. I thought I’d seen poor houses before, but this house sitting a mile or two back in the woods, was a new experience. The house was constructed of unpainted wood which, thinking back on it today, had obviously been uncured. Over time the lumber warped and twisted leaving gapping holes in the walls. At the time I didn’t know this and thought the guy could have used a square and level when building. About half the panes in the two windows on the front of the shack had cardboard instead of glass. Smoke was coming from a pipe, they obviously cooked with wood. Chickens, dogs, and hogs ran around and clothes hung from a line that was stretched between trees. As we drove up, several barefoot kids that looked to be about my age took off around back. My dad got out of the car and called out to a man who waved him on over. He took the water containers and followed the man to a pitcher pump where they filled the containers. I got out of the car and started to walk around the house, to where the kids were, when it saw me.

I quickly learned why Satan is often depicted as a goat when I looked up I saw pure hate in the eyes of this beast. His head was head down and he was charging straight at me. Even today, I remember the goat being much taller than me. At the time he seemed to be the size of a small horse. That probably wasn’t the case, but I was small for my age and, I think, was in the second grade at this time. Paralyzed with fear as the beast approached at full steam, his horns aimed for my gut, I was was unable to utter a sound. In quiet desperation I prayed, “help,” as the goat came closer. My prayer was answered for when the goat was only a few feet from me, his chain which I had not seen came to the end. I can see it today in slow motion even though it occurred in a split second. The goat that had been so intent on bucking me was jerked back by the chain around his neck so hard that he was flipped on his back. When he landed, his feet were still kicking the air above. About that point, Dad and the man realized something was wrong and started yelling for me to get away from the goat.

Dad placed the water containers in the trunk and gave the man a few dollar bills, thanking him for the water. “Thank you, sir,” the man said, obviously grateful for the cash. His children curiously started reappearing from around the house, staying well behind their dad as we stared at one another. When we got into the car, they finally waved. Although we lived only a dozen miles or so from each other, we were from two different worlds.

When I got home, I told my mother about the goat and how I’d bravely stood still until it came to the end of its chain and how funny it looked flipping on his back, his legs kicking in the air. Then I started telling her about the shack and how the guy needed to learn how to use a square and level. Dad had let me brag of my bravery, even though he knew that I had been scared to death, but he wasn’t going to let me belittle the man. “Some people got to make do with what they got,” he said, “we should be grateful that he let us draw water for the dogs.”

For years, I wondered about those kids. Although I joked about their house to my friends, I always felt guilty about it and wondered what it would be like to live their lives. I had never seen such poverty and felt blessed to have what we had. At the time, the schools in Virginia were still segregated, but that would all change in another year or two when integration arrived. At that point, those kids would be sent to school with white kids like me. How did they fit in? And today I wonder what those kids who grew up in a world more like my great-grandparents than my childhood world are doing as middle aged adults? As for the goat, I wish I could have been there when he was barbequed; I’d enjoyed gnawing his bones as I counted my blessings.


  1. Great story. Different deer hunting techniques in Virgina. Here, by law, no dogs and no shot guns, unless one is shooting slugs.

    As for meeting people from different socio-economic strata, my dad, who was dirt poor growing up, never let us forget we were but one generation removed from a life which others would deem "disadvantaged." It is a worthy lesson, I remember to this day.


  2. It was worth the wait; I love this story! You had me on the edge of my seat when you say his head was down and ready to charge...aiming for your soul, I imagine. A close call! You were a lucky boy.

    It's true what your dad said about the less fortunate. You never know when they're going to be the ones helping you.

  3. Good story, Sage. Now how did you know that the goat would be hauled up short by his chain? Or did you?

  4. Gee all the goats I've known in my life have been pretty harmless, unless I had food with me.

  5. Mr. Sherman, I don't like the idea of hunting with dogs and most places that's now illegal for deer... As for the shotguns and buckshot, in the swamps in both eastern NC and VA, buckshot was the only thing allowed for the land was flat an a rifled shot would tear throw the swamp and possibly hit something you never saw.

    Scarlet, thanks for reminding me about the story!

    Kenju, I had no idea the goat was on a chain till he pulled up a little short!

    Mistress, it seems this goat was huge, but I'm sure it was just that I was small. As an adult, most goats I've known have been obnixious--they've all been good for only the barbeque pit.

  6. I've never had goat but have eaten lots of sheep in the form of gyros. I wonder if they taste similar?

    Once when my parents were off on vacation, I stayed at some friends who had goats. I was probably older than you in this story because I remember them to never take my eye off them. I can remember walking backwards just to heed those words.

  7. Love your family stories Sage

    The week we moved from a garden apartment to a split level my dad took us to a very poor hidden area about a mile away so we wouldn't get "swollen heads."

    Thing was our development was surrounded by mansions so we really couldn't--but to my dad the split level was a symbol of having made it

    Loving South Carolina--the Grand Strand is wonderful

  8. Loved the story!

    Growing up we take things for granted. It is difficult to get children to realize what they have and that there is real poverty out there.

  9. Sounds like your father was a wise man . . . those are they type of lessons that stay with you all your life

  10. The mental image I have of you being attacked by a goat is too enjoyable to actually read the post yet and have that image shot. :-)

  11. Ed, I've never fixed goat myself, but have eaten it in Indian and Middle Eastern Restaurants--the last time was in Chicago--it was an Indian place and was in a stew like dish (with so much curry that you couldn't tell what you were eating)

    Pia, I remember being jealous of friends who lived in split-levels! Today they seem so out of date.

    Kontan, it's difficult to get children to understand but it is necessary for them to understand in order to have a healthy sense of humility

    Diane, he is a wise man (and has gotten a lot smarter since I grew out of my teens)!

    Murf, I love you too. :)

  12. That was good Sage. About the folks, it wasn't that long ago that some around here had outhouses. To the best of my knowledge that is no longer the case.

    The Nottaway River. That reminds me of Blackstone Va. I've been there before. An old man downtown told me Wal Mart was going to shut the ton down by moving in. They had just seen a transformation of Ft. Picket. The Nottaway were a people that spoke a language similar to the Seneca, Cherokee, and Tuscarora.

    We don't dog deer in this part of the state. It's a down east and lo country thing. It's illegal here in the Mountains. My cousin, Jello Boy lived in lo country Ga. for a while. He kne a guy that dogged deer with Beagles. He rode them around in the trunk of his car. He'd pull up, pop the trunk and Beagles poured out. My Pow Pow raised Beagles when I was small. I can remember his dogs and picture them pouring out of the trunk of an old beater. Alot of the fun of it is taking care of the dogs.


  13. I'd totally forgotten this was supposed to be about a goat by the time I got to that part of the story.

    Great story about the family your Dad knew. There used to be a lot of those old houses around here, unpainted and untreated wood with rusty tin roofs. I think most of them have been torn down or just collapsed over the years.

  14. In India, you get to see cows, goats everywhere. Poor people keep goats. They do look ferocious. As for as poverty goes, it is seeing is beliving. Kind of rampant everywhere in India including Delhi. And I teach students who mostly come from such a strata.

    Liked your story. Waiting for 500th post. I missed my 500th one and now it seems, I am near the 600th post!

  15. Sage: As usual, a very well told story. I'm not into hunting at all, but your stirring story about the blessings we take for granted is something I experienced this afternoon while thinking about those less fortunate. My volunteer work helps me keep my feet on the ground. I know of many bloggers who can attest to this themselves with various volunteer activities. Thanks for sharing a great story!

  16. Greetings from Ontario! Neat goat story. When I was growing up in Kansas my grandfather had goats. They are a very dim memory for me and they seemed to have disappeared shortly after we moved in with my grandfather. On a bit of a whim, I asked for goats for Christmas this past year. My partner surprised me on my 65th birthday in January with two Angora goats. So far they are in a small stall in our barn until the ground thaws and I can build some fences. Meanwhile, they are more interesting and fun everyday. The youngest one almost crawls into my lap now when I sit down with food which is what we always used to put into the compost. She will be one year old in May and literally bounces off the walls at times and will often just jump straight up into the air just for joy. Hopefully, I shall have more to say on my all too often ignored blog in the future. I seem to be spending more time on Flickr now with the same screen name. Looking forward to spending a bit more time with your blog as I think we may have a few interests in common.