Today I have a story that comes from long before most of the others. Throughout my life, I spent many years living on the farm my grandfather bought and built. It was a special place, my true “home” for the longest time. It was there that we kept our exotic mammals, many of our reptiles, and our livestock. As a small child, we kept a few lambs and goats as well, and plenty of poultry.
When I lived there as a young teenager, many of the animals were gone, leaving empty pens and overgrown pastures.
As a young person still trying to find footing in the world, I often struggled with many of the same things others at that age do. I was living alone with my grandmother, which brought it’s own difficulties, but we slogged on and got along as well as a pair so different could.
It was during this otherwise dull time that the wandering goat joined my life.
I think we were on the way home from church when we found him. As we drove down the very long and lonely dirt roads, I was absorbed in watching the trees and underbrush pass by in an unending rhythm when my grandmother hit the brakes and exclaimed, “Look at this goat!”
I looked up and indeed there was a goat. A long legged white buck stood in the center of the dirt road, gazing nonplussed back at my grandmother’s old Buick. He was the epitome of the story-book billy goat: two light colored horns topped his head and a nice little beard graced his chin. We waited for him to run off, but he only stood and looked at us.
After a moment I got out of the car and approached the goat, who walked over and butted my leg gently as if to ask for patting, just as my goats today do. I looked around – not a house or car in sight. In these deep backwoods of Navasota, TX, it was miles between homesteads and you could drive your entire way home from the highway without seeing another car. We knew most of our neighbors too, and none of them kept goats. This goat’s appearance was a mystery – where had he come from?
Well, we certainly couldn’t leave such a cute goat all on his own! I seized him by one horn and drug him over to the car and opened the back door. I shoved him into the backseat, his oversized testicles that hung entirely too low swung comically as he scrambled onto the luxury suede seats. Jumping back into the front seat, we continued our journey home. When we arrived, I pulled my new pet over to the very pen that would house the first K-N-S Farm goat herd over eight years later, and gave him water. There was plenty of brush to eat already in there for him, and I happily christened him “Billy” to top off the stereotype fully.
Billy was uninterested in staying in that pen however, and the next morning he was waiting for me on the porch. After a couple of repeats, I just let him stay out and go where he pleased – which he did! He even followed me into the house once, causing my grandmother to screech at a decibel I hadn’t been aware she could achieve. I suppose her patience could only go so far.
When I’d come home from school, I would make my way down the half mile lane from the road to our farm, and Billy would frisk up to greet me, his testicles practically mowing the grass as they swung back and forth. We would play together and I would give him a piece of bread before we’d go off and explore the forest and creeks that ran deep within them. Afterward he would sit on the porch and chew his cud while I read a book or talked on the phone with a friend.
When I had goats and lambs as a younger child, they were just livestock – food for our family. Billy showed me that goats could also be your friends. To this day I wonder where he came from – who raised him?
Billy stayed on the farm for around a month. One day when I came home Billy was not there. I was upset, as you can imagine, and spent much time looking for him on the farm, to no avail. I accepted the reality that a predator must have gotten him, but a few days later, one of the neighbors called to ask if we knew anything about a white goat. Billy had reappeared in his horse pasture, but could not be caught. My grandmother told them to keep the goat (no doubt tired of the pellets on the porch) but Billy only stayed with their horses for a short time before he vanished from their pastures as well.
I later heard that Billy reappeared on several farms before going missing for good. Perhaps someone finally was able to put him into a pen he could not escape, and he enjoyed a long life as some other child’s pet. I hope so.
I forgot about Billy until years later, when we brought home Hope and Uno and put them in that same pen. I shared those good memories with my husband, and I was able to pull out a picture that showed me in my dorky glasses and messy hair standing next to a silly looking lanky young billy goat. Did Billy unknowingly create a spark that would someday bloom into a passion for goats? Is his friendly companionship why I have bonded so strongly with our current pets? Even if not, he gave me some very fun memories and a new appreciation for goats that no doubt played some part in my current life, and I am grateful.
How I wish that picture had not been lost in the fire so that I could share it with you today, but sadly it only lives in my memory now – just like Billy himself.