Sven and I Will Never Be Friends, or A Goat by Any Name is Still Just a Goat

In case you haven’t heard, this is the “Year of the Goat” in Sister Bay. Yes, soon goats will be everywhere in my hometown, at least small stuffed ones and an assortment of wooden ones decorated by local artists. We even have a mascot, of sorts, named Sven.

The festivities kicked off several weeks ago with a Roofing of the Goats Parade, wherein goats were to march down the street from the corner where my bookstore is located to Al Johnson’s Swedish Restaurant and Butik, where they would be “roofed.” As those who attended already know, just before the parade was to start it began to rain and quickly changed to snow (heavy wet snow) as the temperature plummeted.

The inclement weather resulted in an assortment of people, several holding shivering baby goats, huddled in front of the entrance to the bookstore under my almost microscopic overhang. This would probably have been acceptable, if not for the fact that when they finally left I discovered a large quantity of goat droppings on my front stoop. Folks, I just don’t like goats.

But this is just the latest reason for my dislike of goats. While I don’t remember ever liking goats (although my mother assured me that for a while I did), one of my earliest memories is of a goat and it happens to be one of my most traumatic memories.

Back when my father was a professor at Carthage College (still in Carthage, Illinois, at the time), and before either of my sisters was born, my mother liked to take me along to a neighbor’s house where I was allowed the privilege of feeding a bottle to a baby goat the neighbors owned. Apparently (again according to my mother), I loved feeding this goat, and we became great friends.

After months of feeding the young goat, he/she became a big young goat that I no longer needed to feed, but I would still spend time with while my mother chatted with the neighbors. So one day, I brought my treasured stuffed animal lamb – Lambie – to meet my friend the goat. While my mother visited I held my Lambie up to the fence so the goat could sniff it.

[Okay, you probably know where this is going, but my therapists through the years have encouraged me to tell the story in order to come to terms with the event.]

Before I realized what was happening, the goat seized one of Lambie’s legs in its mouth and pulled my beloved stuffed animal through the fence. Before the first scream exited my mouth, one leg was devoured. I began to cry and scream as the second and third legs were consumed. By now, my mother had heard my cries and she came racing across the lawn as the last leg was calmly gnashed in the vile goat’s teeth.

As my mother reached my side, all I could do was wail and point as the goat calmly ripped the head off Lambie and swallowed it whole – including the eyes. This final act of carnage was the last image I had of Lambie as my mother hurried me away.

I was a little more than 2 years of age when this savagery occurred but, as you can no doubt tell, the trauma has never left me. Much of what has gone wrong in my life I blame on the deep emotional scars this savagery has left on my psyche.

As I mentioned earlier, because of my alcoholism – and before that, my father’s alcoholism – I have seen quite a few therapists with all manner of degrees through the years. With one notable exception, I haven’t had much use for these therapists – they just never seemed to help and I could usually see where they were going well before we got there.

Since we all tend to have a picture of therapists with a rather stoic visage, that only smile before or after a session, it might surprise you to learn that I have actually been able to get several therapists to look at me and roll their eyes. In each case, it went something like this:

Therapist:  Steve, today I’d like to talk about your father. How do you feel about him?

Me:  I think I’d like to talk about my Lambie.

Therapist:  Your what?

Me:  My Lambie. My stuffed lamb that was eaten by a goat right in front of my eyes!

Therapist:  I really don’t think your stuffed animal is relevant.

Me:  I have nightmares!

Therapist:  [rolls his/her eyes]

Me:  I just can’t see you any more! You don’t take my feelings seriously.

Maybe a few of you, my loyal readers, are currently seeing therapists that you would rather not see. If this is the case, feel free to memorize the traumatic events of my Lambie’s consumption by a goat and use them as your own. Maybe you, too, can make your therapist’s eyes roll.

And finally, in the interest of full disclosure and in order to close out this week’s column, I will share one more story. A few weeks after I moved to Chicago in November of 1980, some of my co-workers at Kroch’s & Brentano’s bookstore invited me to join them after work for dinner in Greek Town. Never having had Greek food I asked for suggestions and several of my new friends quickly opined that the goat kabobs were fantastic.

Once again, you probably think you know where I am going with the story:  Steve finds redemption years after the traumatic death of his beloved stuff animal by consuming the animal that was the perpetrator of the crime. It would make a great story, I agree, but to be honest … that night I ate lamb.