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The Goat Whisperer

By Neal Beard  
[email protected]

Daniel Sullivan, a 19th century Irishman, devised a humane method of taming wild, vicious, and traumatized horses. The horse is to be treated with respect, gentleness, and firmness, but never violence.

The subject was amplified in Nicolas Evans’ 1995 novel, Horse Whisperer. In 1998 the book was made into a Robert Redford movie, in which Sullivan’s techniques were used. Much has now been written about this system of horse training.

However, until now, nothing has been written about gentling a goat. I write with some authority, in that, I may be the only person in the world – or even in Bill Arp – to have known and observed a goat whisperer at work.

In 1950 we had neighbors, briefly, with a boy my age. He was lean as a greyhound and tough as a pine knot. He was called Monk Eye. He had been dazzled by the trained horses at the circus, and had ambitions to train one himself.

They couldn’t afford a horse; his daddy was too sick to keep a job. He suffered from an ailment caused by over exposure – to a pint bottle.

One Saturday Monk Eye’s daddy went careening down Big A road in his ratty old truck. He said he was going to get some medicine for his headache.

Hours later, he slid the rattletrap to a stop next to the woodpile, where Monk Eye and I were playing king of the mountain. In the back of the truck he had a big, bad, belligerent billy goat.

The old man got out and started blubbering, as only one afflicted with over exposure can. He squalled, "Monk Eye I know you been wantin’ a hoss, but I been bad sick and ain’t been able to buy you one, but I done taken the money I been saving for medicine and bought you this heah goat." The truth was he had won the goat in a poker game.

Monk Eye named the goat Gulliver. The next afternoon, I went to check on my noxious neighbor. He said, "I already got him so tame I don’t have to tie him. Now, watch this I’m gonna’ learn him to kneel like them circus horses."

He got on his knees in front of Gulliver, tapped him on the knee with a stick and said with authority, "kneel boy, kneel." The goat arched his neck, reared up on his hind legs, lowered his head, and assaulted Monk Eye. He butted him in the head slamming him onto his back. Dazed, he clambered to his hands and knees just as the goat executed a sneaky rear attack, skidding him onto his face. He attempted to get up again; he made it to his knees when the hostile goat walloped him in the belly, knocking the breath out of him. Gulliver gored the pitiful, pile of pulverized boy, several more times, bleated, and stalked off. School was over.

Blood oozed from Monk Eye’s flattop; an array of angry red blotches promised a kaleidoscope of color when the bruises ripened.

From my perch atop the truck, I recommended that he try again. He wheezed in a breath, his chin trembled and he whispered, "I ain’t never gonna’ try to learn’ him nothin’ else, cause he ain’t got no sense."

Had Gulliver only known Mr. Sullivan’s methods, he might have been more respectful, gentle, and less violent in training Monk Eye.

Copyright 2007 Neal Beard


Neal BeardI'm a retired pastor, living in Douglasville, Georgia. I write a  column for a local monthly magazine. The magazine is The Chapel Hill News and Views. It has a circulation of 40,000. The column is called Local Lore. My column is history/humor about Bill Arp, the rural northwest Georgia community where I grew up in the 40s and 50s. 

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