Friday, January 30, 2009

The Goat. (For Christy Heitger)

Growing up in suburban New York, I guess my school staff was worried about us kids being too far removed from our food sources. For educational purposes, one afternoon they brought a few farm animals onto school property for us to see and feel and think about how they were processed into the unrecognizable items in the grocery store. Okay, I don’t remember that last part specifically, but I’m sure that was the underlying message.

By the wise old age of seven, I had already been on several long road trips from New York to Ohio and Michigan and seen my share of open country and factory farms. To me, the animals were just cute. I liked the little billy goat best. He was the cutest. And since I already knew all about farm animals I had no fear and went right up to that little billy goat and patted his neck with confidence.

The goat, for his part, was too busy munching on the Dixson School lawn to even acknowledge my presence, never mind that of dozens of other squirrelly second-graders swarming around him. As he bent his neck down to reach the grass, I bent down to better scratch him between the ears.

Now I’m not entirely sure why my mouth was open. Was my nose stuffed up? Was I whispering sweet nothings to my new friend? Was I lulled into a moronic stupor by this riveting experience? I guess it doesn’t really matter. What matters is that all of a sudden, someone startled the billy goat and he threw back his head with an indignant bleat.

At that moment, one of his cute little (and obviously surgically sterile) billy goat horns went right through the roof of my open mouth.

I must have screamed, though I don’t remember it. The only striking visual image that remains is a view of my red wind-breaker with the Camp Koinonia patch covered in dark red-brown stains as some grownup held my hand and rushed me into the building.

I also remember the taste of blood. In my subsequent years as a biology geek, no one ever had to convince me that human blood was full of iron. And as much as I’ve enjoyed Anne Rice and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I just don’t get that vampire thing. Yeesh. Blecch.

The miracle of miracles was that I didn’t need stitches. According to the pediatrician (and again, I have absolutely zero memory of getting from the head start nurse’s office to the clinic) the goat horn had made a “clean” wound right between the hard and soft palettes. My treatment was to consist of eating all the popsicles I wanted until the cut healed. I don’t think they even gave me a tetanus booster.

My beautiful red wind-breaker with the Koinonia patch never came clean. But other than that, no permanent damage was done and the story has gone down in Fergus family history as the single most bizarre accident story ever. I even still think billy-goats are cute.

But I keep my distance.


  1. Wow, that is one wild, crazy story. Kooky. Bizarre. Only you Rebekah. :)


  2. Wow. I know the story, but appreciated reading it again with the 30 years later perspective.