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The Halloween Goat

Halloween was a big event in Morgan County Ohio when I was a kid. There were actually two nights involved, one called Halloween and the night immediately preceding it called beggar’s night. On beggar’s night, all the kids from ages 3 to about 23 (the latter being some of the older high school boys) would walk the streets of Malta and McConnelsville or the surrounding countryside with large bags soliciting candy, apples, and other such treats from the local citizens. No one ever thought about putting razor blades or other harmful stuff in the treats. Actually no one really considered melted Ex-lax formed into a chocolate treat to be harmful, particularly in small quantities. These treats were usually distributed to a select group of annoying older “beggars”.

If a citizen didn’t respond to the door knock or if the treat was deemed to be inadequate on beggar’s night, dreadful things befell that citizen the next night, Halloween. The pranks were relatively harmless. Once my good friend Lurch put a big paper bag full of very soft cow manure on our math teacher’s front porch, set the bag on fire knocked on the door, and ran like hell. Mr. McNutt opened the door, saw the fire, and with panicked instinct, stomped until the fire was out. The next he invited the math class to his house to scrub his porch and clean his shoes.

In some cases Halloween was just used as an excuse to get even with an unpopular person for grievances that had accumulated over the course of the past year. A case in point. My step dad was the chief of police of Malta. He was also the entire police force and not a particularly popular person with the high school group.

My final year in high school had been an especially trying one for a number of my classmates. Some had been arrested for going just a tiny bit faster than the posted speed limit (which was pathetically slow) or not coming to a complete dead stop at a stop sign or driving after visiting Rastus Clodfelter’s, the local bootlegger, place of business. Some of my compatriots had their entire life’s savings (somewhere between $10 and $15) wiped out just paying fines. Halloween was payback time.

Wyatt Earp, as my step dad was widely known, spent every Halloween on patrol. He started about dark and stayed out until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning to make sure that the kids couldn’t have quite as much fun as they would have liked. On the night in question a group of the older boys (I was not included) found a rather large and somewhat cantankerous billy goat with a magnificent set of horns. At midnight or somewhere thereabouts the goat was delivered to our house. I was upstairs asleep and since the goat came in on the ground floor I was undisturbed.

As I’m sure you are aware, goats are an omnivorous lot (they eat everything) and they don’t smell particularly good. Both of these features came into play that Halloween.

Our house was large with living room, dining room, and kitchen toward the front part of the house and my parents’ bedroom toward the back of the house. The goat started in the living room, generally called the front room. He ate the potted plants and started on the arm of sofa. Apparently it was not to his likening so he moved on to the dining room. He pooped all over the floor and then jumped/climbed up onto the dining table. As you know goats are good jumpers/climbers. He was king of the mountain; lord of all he surveyed until he noticed the other large goat on the other end of the table. Technically it was not another goat but goats generally don’t understand about mirrors and reflections and such. The goat considered the mere presence of the other goat a challenge that could not be ignored. He reared back and charged the interloper intending to clash horns and give the stranger a real Excedrin headache. All he got for his effort was a headache of his own and the beginning of seven years bad luck (the broken mirror, you know).

The sound of breaking glass awakened my mother who assumed Wyatt was home and, as was pretty common for him, had broken something. She got out of bed and operating with only the light from the streetlight coming in the window went to see what was going on. She went through the kitchen into the dining room. It seemed peculiarly aromatic. “Sheriff,” she said, (she always called him sheriff) “you smell like you’re on the sixth day of your five-day deodorant pad.”

The goat already annoyed by the suspected presence of the other goat and with a headache to boot, took grave exception to this slight and decided to take on mom. Big mistake. He charged mom who stepped gracefully aside and as the goat passed she grabbed his horns and actually mounted the critter. She used the horns as a guidance system and aimed the goat toward the kitchen. As he went through the door she twisted the horns and ran him into the huge cast iron stove face first. Another headache for Mr. Goat. Sitting on top of the big stove was a large cast iron skillet which mom grabbed and swung with uncommon force for a woman so small. Headache number three.

About this time Wyatt did come home. He started through the front room and heard the fracas in the kitchen. He assumed the house was being burgled and as any good cop would do he drew his firearm and started for the kitchen on a dead run. On his way through the dinning room he discovered just how slippery goat poop could be on a hardwood floor. When he hit the floor flat on his back the firearm discharged and took out most of mom’s favorite chandelier.

In the meantime mom had completely subdued the goat and upon hearing a gun shot in the next room surmised she was going to have to deal with another intruder. Adrenaline pumping, skillet in hand, and madder than hell, she headed for the dining room. Wyatt saw her coming and yelled “Don’t worry mother, I’m here to protect you.” Under the circumstances he should have thought of something better to say.

As the story ends, the goat was reunited with his rightful owner but was never comfortable around women again; Wyatt suffered as only a husband can suffer at the hands of an offended wife; and the perpetrating goat-nappers, whose identities Wyatt never discovered, are to this day enjoying the Halloween of the cop and the goat.