Billy Goat Blanche: The Story of How My parents Acquired a New Kid
The 1st Roadside Rest Area
In the early 50's when there were only six kids and cars would go about 40 MPH, we could all ride together inside the car. We were just kids and we could still fit into a very small area. We were packed in like sardines but still it wasn't until a couple years later that we started to ride two or three at a time in the trunk. That actually, as it turned out, was the best place to ride. We would have the trunk lid propped up with a stick and two or three lucky kids would sit with a blanket over us. Now that was a fun way to ride and it was way better than shotgun!
Thankfully, Dad was tuned into the cramped conditions in the car and pulled over quite often and the whole bunch spilled out of the car like a bunch of circus clowns. Mom and dad were in good spirits as the roadside interlude provided both fresh air and an opportunity to stretch. Looking back on this scene, I think we invented the first roadside rest area. I gotta' wonder now, but my dad always picked a spot to pull over that was lucky. Like near a stream where we could wash our hands and get a drink. Or near a field of corn where we might borrow a couple of ears of corn, or a couple of tomatoes. Did you ever eat raw corn, sweet, just picked out of the field? I tell you this much, it kept a passel of kids quiet for a couple of hours. First eatin' then sleepin'.
No Ridin' the Boards for Me
Orrrrrr-Reeee-gone as we called it was our destination. We would head out on an annual trek that was not less impressive than crossing Donners Pass or landing on the moon. This adventure took persistence, patience, and a will of steel. The drive was a trip that today would take 4 or 5 hours, but back in those days the roads weren't so good, the only highways were long and winding and took twice as long. This drive, with no stops would take about 10 hours. But with roadside bail outs and other emergency stops, it came to a little more than 14 hours. I was still in a bit of a twisted state because I had broken both of my legs that summer and had my legs attached to a bar for about 4 weeks. My back was still bothering me and I both dreaded the drive and was excited to go.
One thing that modern cars do not have that I think is a real shame is running boards. No cars have 'em anymore. I tell you they can come in handy. My parents had a DeSoto once with running boards and they saved us a lot of runnin' and catchin' up. That old DeSoto never would start on its own. It took at least 4 kids to get it goin'. Two on each side could push that DeSoto pretty much anyplace. Mom would sit in the pilot 's seat and yell for us to go faster, and she would pop the clutch at about 5 miles an hour and off the DeSoto would roar and all four kids would jump on the running boards and ride there for a little while 'til she got warmed up, only a couple of miles or so. The succeeding starts for the day only took a small push. But it was so fun to ride the running boards that mom would let us ride 'em home sometimes, it was only about 4 miles from town.
There would be no ridin' on the runnin' board for me this time. We used to take turns ridin' the boards, this was usually exciting and dangerous and meant to be a thrill and a challenge. Both parents laughed and thought it was good sport and made us take turns. Sometimes in and out of the window and hangin' on for dear life. But my legs were just still too weak for ridin' the boards.
Grandfather and his Golden Smile
This discomfort, crowding, and endless hours of pushin' and shovin' and getting settled and re-settled were for a very good reason. We were going to visit our grandpa, and that was worth it. He had the biggest grin in the world. And when he saw us, his grin was so wide that you could see some of his teeth were gold. He didn't seem to be laughing really, but it was definitely a grin or maybe just a hint of something else, the term Cheshire comes to mind. Of course, there was the possibility of over taxing his septic system and maybe breaking a couple of windows or other mischief. I know he was happy to see us and I think he was happy to see us go, too. Anyway the main thing that I remember him for is that huge grin and those gold teeth glinting in the sun.
Now my grandpa was a humorous soul and thought it would be quite funny to give us a goat named Blanche. He went out to my uncle's ranch to get her. That goat had a wide eyed stare that somehow conveyed mischief at every turn. She seemed oblivious to all except potential escape routes and possible food. She was constantly chewing something and gravitating toward any item that looked like it could be eaten. Blanche must have got into some bad stuff because she had horrible breath that smelled like sour milk. And if you ever notice, when they go to the bathroom, that they drop pellets? They poop like rabbits for some reason. I wonder how they do that?
A Goat will Eat Anything
My mother was delighted because as she
put it, “A goat will eat anything, and it will give us a lot of
milk.” Hooray, mom! We now would have to drink goat's milk but
first we would have to figure out how get it out of her. I never did
become a good goat milk drinker, but I did my share of pulling on
those teets to get it. I was never able to figure out why a goat
has only two bags of milk and a cow has four bags. It is obvious
that a cow is twice as good as a goat. But a goat is what we had. And by the time my mom told the story, it became the goat ranch!
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Butch Loses a Head Butting Contest
Of course, this had grandpa laughing for a week. Telling us how we would benefit from having a goat and what it would do to add to our family. The first thing that happened was I put a rope on the goat to try to control it. That worked in the tall grass where the goat could chew all day. But in other areas it didn't go so well. The goat would use his head to take ramming punches at us kids knocking us down plenty. Butch decided that he would give the goat a taste of his own medicine and lowered his head and took off at a run and rammed his head into the goat. The goat's head was made of very sturdy bone and proved to be too much for Butch's attack and even seemed to enjoy it to the extent that we had to drag him out of harm's way until he came to. When he came to his senses again, we had to hold him back to keep him from tangling up with that goat again. And it was a girl, too.
The next thing that happened was the goat ate the rope I used and when finished went off to seek greener pastures. My grandpa got a call that the goat was over at the neighbors and was eating the roof off their house. We took off and found that darn goat had climbed on top of their car and was able to jump on the porch and then on the roof and was indeed eating some of the shingles off the roof. We had to chase her around until we collared her and put another rope on her and led her to my grandpa's wide golden smile.
The Journey Home is Foul
Then after a very short two weeks we were to head home. We all loaded into the car, like the sardine family that we were and then on top of us, was that damned goat. I asked my dad to put the goat on the running board, but he said no, it might fall off. Well I rode on the running board a lot of times without falling off and if that goat could jump on a roof top, then he sure could sit on a running board. But nooooo. The goat had to ride on us. Not us on her, we might hurt her. It was her on us. Most of the time Blanche wanted to have her head out the window and took every opportunity to find something to eat, or tried to eat something that we would rather have kept in one piece. That darned goat seemed to especially like to eat children's clothing and made every effort to chew a piece out of our kid clothes. And Lord, the roadside rest and recoup stops were like a bunch of keystone cops, getting out of the tight quarters and chasing a goat through cucumber patches and corn rows. Farmers used shotguns back then and we came face to face with a couple of them.
The worst part of the journey though was sitting under a goat who chewed and farted continuously and even a couple of times decided to relieve herself on my feet. I was in such a twisted state most of the trip, I could hardly stand when we stopped. I smelled, I was stiff, and hated goats, most particularly Blanche.
We got in late and my dad just tied Blanche to the bumper of the car for the night. But the miracle happened for me then. I realized that even if my legs hurt and I did stink, and I was so uncomfortable, that my back was twisted back to normal! The goat had fixed my back and I never had trouble with it again.
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Another Kid Messes Up
Needless to say, we all slept in that next morning. My dad was the first to rise, I heard him making his coffee. Then the next thing I heard was my dad using his best litany of poppa words. Those are words that we all knew, of course, but Dad was the only one allowed to use them. In the house anyway. I heard, ***********, Son of a *****, That's why your father always has that ***** grin. That goat is gonna die.” Of course, we all piled out of the house.
Blanche had not eaten through her tether, instead, she had in her hunger, started in on the car and had completely eaten the top off of the car. Remember that in some of those old cars, the roof was made of canvass and wood. And it was completely gone. Nothing at all was left of the canvass and wood covering, and a few pieces of the seat had been chewed apart. My folks drove that car for quite a spell after that, I think they were embarrassed but we thought we were riding in a convertible.
Blanche was brought into the family anyway, you can't just get rid of a kid that messes up.