Your Second-Cousin Darnell and the Goat

The other day, I saw this photo of a scapegoat, and it reminded me of your second-cousin Darnell and his pet goat Jonathan.

It’s not surprising that Darnell would have a goat as a pet, although I think at first it was more of a business proposition.

Darnell seemed to think that the goat would be a zero-energy lawnmowing system for him, but he forgot about the residue that the goat would leave behind, not to mention the plain orneriness of goats in general. You can dress them up with big sunglasses, Hawaiian shirts, and hats, but down deep they are still goats.

We all got a good laugh out of it the first time that Darnell brought the goat by the Slice of Heaven 24-Hour Pie Shop and Driving Range, thinking I might want to pay for the Jonathan’s lawn-chewing services, but I did not want the goat anywhere near my turf.

Sue Ten felt much the same way, although she did fall prey to the unfortunate idea that Jonathan could work as a bouncer for payday parties. Unfortunately, the goat did not have a lot of discretion about who to bounce and who to retain, so that idea was short-lived but memorable.

Jonathan pretty much stays home these days, in his little shed under the big ficus by Darnell’s doublewide off Highway 441. I know Darnell would like to move to Pancho Villas closer to us, but they have a pretty well enforced no-goats rule, made all the stronger by the property manager who was one of the fools who picked up Darnell and Jonathan when they were hitchhiking to work at The Swing Barn.

Most reasonable people would not stop to pick up a man and a goat walking by the side of the road unless they were driving a pick-up truck or maybe an animal-control van. At least, I hope they would not stop, especially once they saw that the man in question was indeed your second-cousin Darnell.

I think you were away when this happened, so you may not know why so many people now will not pick up Darnell under any circumstances.

Typically, the scenario went like this. A friend of Darnell’s would see him and Jonathan strolling down the side of the road, and would roll to a stop to shout out “Hey.” Darnell would lean over to chat through the open window, being just as charming and pleasant as ever, talking about everything and anything except where he was going or why he had a goat with him.

Eventually, the driver would make the standard error in judgment and ask where they were headed. “Oh, just down to The Swing Barn,” Darnell would say. “Oh, look at the time. We’re a little late and Sue Ten will be really ticked off. Jonathan’s her new bouncer.”

The driver would take the bait, no matter that Sue Ten had already told Darnell in no uncertain terms that Jonathan was goat-non-grata, and Darnell would open the back door to let Jonathan clamber in.

“Now that goat’s not going to do anything, is he?” asked the driver.

“Oh, no,” said Darnell.

The merry crew would take off, and within a matter of seconds, Jonathan would put his horns up and back through the headliner, take a bite out of the driver’s padded neck rest, and/or discharge an impressive supply of pungent pellets and more on the back seat.

Come with me now as we listen for the sound of squealing brakes as the driver evicts his passengers and then flees the scene.

Of course, Darnell by then is all the closer to his destination, and it’s a rare driver who will file a claim for goat damage when he has to admit he was the fool who let the goat into the car in the first place.

My favorite story about Darnell and Jonathan though took place when Darnell was partying in the old Parker place, an abandoned two-story house that had long since lost its paint, windows, and doors, replacing all with moss and spiderwebs.

One rainy day, Darnell had decided that it was too wet outside for Jonathan, so he took the goat upstairs and tied his lead to an old bedstead, the kind that the Mummy might have used for afternoon naps, and Darnell headed over here for a pie of strawberry-rhubarb pie and a vanilla milkshake. Before long, he got into a gin rummy game, and then decided to hit a few balls, and he was coasting along pretty well before someone asked about Jonathan, the way most people might say, “How’s the wife and kids?”

Darnell jumped up and headed back down the road to the house. He told me later that he could hear Jonathan bleating long before he could see the goat, hanging out of the second-story window, “holding on by his tippy-toes,” as Darnell put it.

I do wish someone had been there with a camera. I know none of us have ever seen Darnell move as fast as he did that day, swooping up the stairs to Jonathan’s rescue. I don’t know about you, but I do not want to even think about their joyous reunion.

Needless to say, Jonathan is now a first-floor only sort of goat, his hitchhiking days are over, and he does not even have a job. But does Darnell still love him? You bet. Loyalty is one of your second-cousin Darnell’s strong points, as much as it scares us all, just a little bit.