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BILLY, WHO GREW TO BE an enormous white goat, was a tiny kid when he was given to my youngest brother. He was so small that my brother and I used to carry him around in our arms just as we would carry a baby, a puppy or a kitten.
Billy was brought from a livery stable where the owner kept goats along with his horses. I have never heard the reason, but I know that people frequently keep these animals together, perhaps to keep each other company.
Billy began to grow very fast and soon began to display some temper. This was fun to us at first, and we liked to see his hair stand erectly down his spine when he became angry. Since we were the youngest children, we took the goat for our special charge. After a few months’ growth, he began to butt at objects. To accelerate this ability, we held his horns daily and pushed against him to test his strength. He would push and maul and try to get the best of us. Later, to our regret, his strength seemed to triple, and he would knock us down almost at will.
I remember him knocking me down one Easter Monday as I went into the yard dressed in my new gingham dress. It was a terrible catastrophe for me, but I had helped to bring it on myself. I was a sight as I dragged myself up out of the mud. Another funny episode was the time he ran between my sister’s legs causing her to be perched precariously on his back. Around the yard he flew at a maddening pace with my frightened sister screaming. Get me off of him! Get me off of him! Someone grabbed a broom from the kitchen and rushed after Billy. A few good hard whacks across his rump served to delay his speed until she was able to descend from her perilous perch, frightened but unharmed.
One day he ran across the street and nonchalantly entered the open door of a neighbor’s house. He walked around rather quietly until he saw himself in the mirror. Thinking he was another goat, he became furious and began to charge wildly around. The occupant discovered Billy, became frightened, and ran out calling loudly for us to come and get the goat.
On this particular day, Billy had been behaving in what we thought was an ugly manner. My younger brother and I decided to punish him. We planned to make him stand on his hind legs with his front feet on top of his house. Billy’s house, which was build by my older brother, was under our enormous mulberry tree which provided Billy with shade in the summertime. The tree was very tall, but there were some lower limbs that made it easy for us to climb, so we climbed it daily.
My younger brother would usually ascend the tree first, and I would always call out the admonition for him not to go too high. I would follow him because I considered myself to be his protector.
My brother and I were playing up in the tree when we decided how we would punish Billy. Since I was the oldest, I slid down a few limbs until I could reach down and grasp Billy’s rope. Then I climbed back up to my perch and began to haul in the rope. As the rope shortened, Billy had moved nearer to his house, and then he had to stand on his hind legs. I continued to pull until I had him in the desired position with his front feet on top of his house.
Love, Rose Leary. Plum Thickets and Field Daisies: A Memoir. Charlotte, NC: Public Library of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, 1996