THE GOAT MAN (A LEGACY STORY of Billings, Oklahoma)
“Do as I say, not as I do” is a wonderful title that would have fit this story so well. But to be specific, I had to use the one that truly reflected the story. I must say that if you believe in Karma or that “what goes round comes ’round” then you can sort out the point of my sick sense of humor in telling the story at all.
During the course of raising children there will usually arise some differences of opinion. My husband and I were not exceptions. Usually if I said left, he said right and so on. I distinctly remember when the two older children were going to church camp I sat down and told them some of my “better” stories about the ‘ornery things I did when I went to church camp and further, how I got away with it all. My husband soundly took me to task for “putting ideas in their heads” and gave me a patronizing lecture about how parents should not do things.
It was my misfortune to have our children follow in my footsteps. I got a call at 10:30 at night mid-week from the camp pastor detailing the deeds of my misguided and inept tricksters. I had to force myself not to laugh as I assured him in serious tones that I was sure their intent was to have fun, and not to be perceived as “acting out”. I made a mental note to “educate them further” in the skills of the trade before the next camp.
Meanwhile the “I told you so’s” were flying all around me. It wasn’t that my husband had never been naughty, Lord knows that he had. He just never had the chance to do it at church camp, never having attended church camps, scouts or any retreats. He also had the theory you shouldn’t “tempt kids by weakening your image” with them. So, for the most part, these Legacy Stories will be the first his children, let alone grandchildren, ever hear of some of his less than “straight laced” behavior.
I think, therefore, this story of the “Goat Man” is appropriate, as years later, after we were married, we had to have and care for goats to provide special milk for our youngest child. When she was born I was hospitalized and could not breast feed any longer. I came home to a “fresh” goat to milk. Then other goats were added to make a “herd” for milking and eating. The adventures of goats loose and running in the neighborhood, butting heads with the children, and just in general the demands of their care, were just his “karma” coming back. (That’s my story and I am sticking to it.)
My hubby has been honest about his youthful escapades knowing they are to be entered into the Legacy Stories, but when asked about this one he denied it. I mean if you’ll own up to sneaking up to the Nazarene Church and locking the worshippers in during the Sunday service, why would you deny the Goat Man story? But deny it he did and he wouldn’t agree to me telling it until it was validated. He didn’t “remember” doing it. His youngest brother first told me the story, then one of his friends, Max Thomas, who helped my husband “do the deed” validated it as well.
It seems that my now straight laced husband, who always preaches “no tricks” on Halloween, did not practice what he preached. In his small hometown the young people were always hoping to do new and original things at Halloween. You can only run off with so many outhouses and do the normal things, for so long before it gets old. But, this particular Halloween they were looking for something that would be the talk of their little town yet not get then arrested. The only “record” my husband had with the law in his youth was when he was arrested on a complaint of setting off fireworks in the city limits. It was held over his head for years worrying him when it asked the question on job applications. (And yes Karma has repaid him for that too with neighbors who celebrate the 4th with gusto.)
It seems that on the corner of Main Street, at the main intersection, there was a hotel. Now in the fifties in a small town of about 400+ people, the hotel also was a place where some people, especially old people lived. And being a small farming community it shouldn’t surprise me (but it did) that there was an old man who lived there, in town at the hotel, that had about six or seven goats penned up in the back. He was known to the town and the youngsters as “The Goat Man”. Original, right?
On this particular Halloween it took ingenuity to think up something original in such a small community. The young people (hooligans according to some) decided to pay the Goat Man a visit, but not one he would know about or expect. In the dead of night, when the sleepy little town had put the young ghouls and goblins to bed, the boys waited until the night watchman would be making his rounds out of the town center. When his vehicle moved away from Main Street it would be safe.
The watchman was someone hired to be aware of the traffic that might come in or out of town during the night when people were sleeping. Someone had to mind the businesses and check to be sure the doors were locked. While not a police officer, the boys knew the Watchman could still “nail them” if they were causing trouble, so he was someone to be avoided. These young guys knew he’d squeal on them if he identified who they were or call the true “John Law” if caught red handed. They wanted to be sure he was out of the line of sight and not going to respond too quickly. (No one could call the night watchman when he was on his rounds. In those days, there were no cell phones and he patrolled in a car. There was one pay phone in the community and it was locked up at night.)
Well after midnight, the would-be pranksters made their way up town on foot and kept to the shadows. They were quiet so as not to get the animals stirred up and cause them to react. A bunch of goats could be as good as a watch dog. The hotel was quiet as everyone had settled in thinking that the Halloween celebration was over and had gone pretty well. The boys sneaked into the easily accessed goat pen. Like most small towns, the hotel back door and front door were unlocked. After all, they had a night watchman to look out for the town and this was “home” to those who lived there.
The clandestine group managed to grab on to one or two goats each, and stealthily, they led them into the hotel. Now I only have “hear say” from the culprits who “remember”, but I understand the small hotel was overrun by goats. Once set free and in unfamiliar surroundings, the lights were switched on and the goats were not as quiet and calm as in their pen. They also were not as contained so they were not so easily caught. The boys of course took off undetected, and the patrons and night watchman spent some time rounding the agitated goats up and getting them back into the pen outside.
I am sure there was little doubt who did it, but once again proof wasn’t there and probably the patrons laughed at the ingenuity of the boys. They did accomplish their goal to do something new and different that year. Even though one of the culprits conveniently forgot it, the others have not. I am sure they still grin when they see goats or think of Halloween.
I am sure my husband, now the “outed” prankster grandpa, had his true nature revealed to our grand kids in this legacy story. Now they too can “trick” without guilt during the holiday. After all, that is their grandpa’s legacy for Halloween.
SOME OF THE CULPRITS (WHICH SHALL REMAIN UN-NAMED) ARE PICTURED BELOW.
Jack Grubbs (brother of Herman) Joyce (wife and tattle-tale) and Max Thomas in the Simmering cafe, Billings Oklahoma where this story may well have been shared.