I have mentioned a few times in my social media Writer’s Musings series that I try to always take a daily walk of around 3-4 miles at a nearby park. I do this for both the physical exercise and also the mental exercise in that it allows me to get away from my writing so my brain can kick things around in the background as I listen to fantasy football podcasts or classic vinyl rock.
The park is 180-acres and has, among many things, six miles of walking trails made up of gravel paths, dirt paths, and asphalt; canoe launches; and even some parks for the pooches. I have walked these trails for four years and thought I have seen everything. A lightning strike fifty yards away from me by a fast-moving storm (yeah, I hightailed it outa there that day). A police chase with multiple cruisers across the main field. Even a wedding minibus! Complete with bride, groom, and officiant.
But nothing in my wildest imagination prepared me for what happened this day during my daily walk. And I mean – nothing.
My walk started off routinely and as I neared the property’s decorative farmhouse, I saw a billy goat walking with what appeared to be thick sticks or rods sticking up past both sides of his head. There were some people nearby but keeping their distance as the billy goat trotted around. I kept going and saw him walking down toward the bridge behind an older gentleman. Seeing that the billy goat was with the man, I assumed the sticks must have been part of some kind collar that this man had on his pet goat, so I pressed on.
When I was on my second lap of three and neared the farmhouse again, I saw two people working on removing what I could now tell was a V-shaped thick stick from the billy goat’s throat while two others held him still and kept him calm. After the group removed the stick (thus releasing the billy goat) it was now clear that the goat must have jumped through a fence and brought part of the fence with him. The billy goat was pleased to have been released and moved up and away from the parking lot. Me seeing that the goat was fine, continued my walk behind the farmhouse’s bridge and mentally worked out some plot holes.
Coming off the bridge and onto gravel, I peeked back over my shoulder to make sure runners or bikers weren’t coming up fast. All clear.
I walked maybe ten paces and then I heard the sound of gravel crunching behind me. Cue the Spidey Senses.
I threw a quick look over my shoulder and nothing was there. After another five steps, I heard the crunching noise again. This time I looked over both shoulders – again, nothing.
Very strange because I knew I heard something. A few more paces and there’s that sound again. I looked back over my shoulder but this time I also angled my gaze downward. And…
The billy goat was five feet behind me and keeping pace!
It startled the petunias out of me! I picked up the pace and cut hard across the path to the right side in an effort to get out of his way. After all, goats butt, right?
I peeked back. He was still there, three feet behind me, and keeping pace. I hit another gear, now basically race-walking, and serpentining across the path to both see if he was actually following me, and also to give him a moving target if he was sizing my butt up to—butt.
Side note – “serpentine” comes up in the hilarious In-Laws starring Alan Arkin as a dentist and Peter Falk as “a CIA agent.” Check it out. Now – back to the story.
Okay, that billy goat was definitely following me because he zigged with my zig and he zagged with my zag. I walked another twenty yards, constantly looking back, and I mean, constantly. After about 20-30 yards, he stopped in the path and looked around. This was my chance!
I kept on trucking, hoping to create enough separation for him to lose interest in me. I’m chugging along when I heard a galloping sound. Over my shoulder I spied the billy goat running toward me. Here it comes – he’s going to butt me into next Tuesday. I jumped sideways as he passed well to my left and stops five feet in front of me.
He stood there, waiting for me. He wasn’t going to butt me. He was catching up to me.
This is when I realized he just wanted to follow me.
I continued on my walk, still hotfooting it though just in case he got other ideas, with an occasional look back. Each time I approached people with dogs, I raised my arms and said “he’s not mine and I don’t know what he’ll do so please hold tight on your dog’s leash.” At times I could hear him panting behind me – he sounded just like a dog. Easily thirty people asked me if he was my pet goat. One lady stopped her car in the middle of the street as we were walking to ask me, “Is he your pet?” Each time I said I never saw him before, the person asking the question was shocked. “Really?!”
Toward the end of my third lap, and after Billy had followed me for two miles, periodically galloping to catch up, I neared one of the guys who removed the stick from his throat. I stopped, and so did Billy. I told the guy my concerns about Billy needing water as he rolled with laughter that Billy was following me. He told me they all tried to get him to the creek but he was too skittish and wouldn’t follow. As we talked, Billy patiently waited. The guy told me if I could get Billy to follow me, the canoe launches a half mile back were flooded and Billy could walk right up to the creek for a drink. I laughed and said, “Trust me, he’ll follow me.”
I took off back toward the canoe launches, with Billy right behind me, as the guy howled in laughter behind us. Back across the main field we went, with countless stares as my pet goat followed dutifully behind me. We got down to the launches, which thankfully were away from people and cars. The launches were indeed flooded out so Billy could easily access the creek. But he didn’t. He just stood by my side looking around.
I splashed my hand in the water. Nothing.
We walked back and forth along the water’s edge, me splashing the water with a stick. Nope, no interest. So, not only can you lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. Apparently, the same applies to billy goats.
After ten minutes of standing around, he finally bent and took a few sips of water. We stood around some more, just a guy and his friend hanging out. I was hoping he would drink some more, but I guess those sips were enough. I didn’t want to leave because I knew he would start following me again, and bringing him home was obviously not an option.
Suddenly he started bleating loudly like he was calling for his owner. He came up to me and sniffed my leg, putting his nose right onto my leg almost like a little kiss. We stood around for another few minutes and he slowly wandered along the creek, stopping every ten or fifteen feet and looking back at me. When he was far enough off, I left—hoping he was in a good place with water and away from the cars, dogs and people in the park.
Later, my wife checked on a neighborhood web site and apparently Billy gets out frequently and the V-shaped stick around his neck was put there to keep him from getting out. Nice try.
Since then, I have thought quite a bit about Billy. During a ninety-minute span and almost three miles, we truly became best friends. What started out as me thinking he was after me, turned out to be he just wanted to enjoy some quality time together. He picked me to be his selected savior, and I have never felt more honored.
So remember this – things aren’t always what they seem, and inspiration is everywhere.