Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Just Like Johnny

Last weekend in Greens Fork we celebrated Johnny Ringo Days. That’s right folks, one of the West’s wildest gun-slingers was born right here in this (now) sleepy town. While I’d like to tell you he learned to be tough the same way we did, out in a pasture playing chicken with a bull, I’m pretty sure those infamous boys of the rangy plains acquired their pistol tricks somewhere west of the Mississippi.  

(I’d like to think) Ringo and I have a lot things in common. 
  • We both spent our primitive years in Greens Fork. He moved West and never came home. I moved East...And returned. 
  • He got his kicks out of shooting a pistol and rustling cattle. I get my kicks out of shooting a camera and looking at cattle. 
  • He kept company like Wyatt Earp. I keep company like Katie Thomas. 
  • He rode a horse into town packing heat, I ride a Focus into town with a 6th generation feral dog in the passenger seat. 

Let's not fool anyone. We’re basically brother and sister. 

Can you imagine walking out of the old general store, minding your own business, and coming face to face with someone as mean and ready to fight as Johnny boy (I can call him that; he’s six feet under somewhere in Arizona)?

I can. 
It happened to me once. 
I got home late one Thursday night last summer. It was late-season and I had spent the evening around a bonfire with friends, catching up and enjoying one of the last reasonable nights of the year. I turned my car around in the driveway to find Copernicus, the neighbor goat, in my yard. I parked on the street, set my purse on the trunk, and called the friendly old pet. 

He met me on the street. 

I put my hand in his collar and began leading him down the street just few yards to his driveway. Copernicus was not impressed. Before I knew it he turned around, I lost my grip and...... 
Wait, did I mention Copernicus wasn’t a pygmy goat? 

Cappy (pet name) was a full size billy goat. The family didn’t want a dog like everyone else; they wanted a goat. I remember the first time I saw Cappy, long before I knew who he was. I was home from Washington, DC and sitting in the Greens Fork diner having breakfast with Dad and Luke after feeding cows. I saw a goat walk by the diner window; I rubbed my eyes and wondered if anyone one else had seen what I did?! Dad and Luke agreed; there was a goat walking up the highway. Funny thing about small towns; Dixie can be a gypsy for approximately 17 minutes before someone reports a “dog running down the street...Wait! My son said it was a fox!”. ‘Ol Copernicus could roam all over town, as long as he made it back to his pen by sundown. Have you ever seen a full-size goat roaming town in the middle of the day? No? Well, you haven’t been to Greens Fork. 

Back to the modern day street fight.....
I lost my grip on that old goat and he bucked me with his horns right into the thigh. I was shocked. “Cappy! You jerk!,” I scorned, fairly certain I heard the goat laugh. Before I knew it, the goat was on his hind legs pawing in the air at me. I’m almost embarrassed to say, I was petrified. I grabbed ahold of his collar once again and tried to pet him and calm him down. That didn't work. With out warning, Cappy rammed his horns into my abdomen twice. It was a really horrible feeling. I knew exactly why he did it; he was farm animal who had been domesticated for a couple years. He found a way out of his elaborate pen and felt a little rambunctious. 
He put his head down and started pawing at the ground; I was at the point where I really felt like I was going to be sick because of the pain, and I knew he meant business.  He rammed towards me; before he broke more skin, I grabbed that goat’s horns and gave this head the toughest twist I could give it. 

My only thought, “If I the middle of Greens Fork.....during a street fight.......with a GOAT......I'm going to be really, realllllly ticked...”
The super snap to the neck didn’t work...didn’t tug hard enough. 
Cappy came back with a vengeance. Like an idiot, I ran to the nearest street light and stood against it. Cappy reared up on two legs and penned me again the wooden light pole. All I could see where his sharp hooves coming right at me. I ducked and ran to my car and grabbed my phone from the purse. I called the goat’s owner, who happened to be working nights then. He thought I was prank calling him when I said I was in the middle of Maple Street and scared that Cappy was going to kill me. While Cappy was still nailing my legs with his horns, I screamed out the names of my closest neighbors, trying to wake them. They slept through the whole deal. 

Within minutes, Cappy’s “mom” came out of her house and down the driveway screaming, “ Copernicus!! Come here right now!!” And just like that, that mean-as-a-snake old goat lowered his head and walked calmly down the street to his driveway. She unlatched his pen and he went and laid down. 
It didn’t take long for my sympathetic neighbor to feel feel really bad about the street fight that had just taken place. She was a little confused in the beginning, but as soon as I showed her my abdomen and legs, she was furious. 
Within a week, Greens Fork was one less resident/goat. He didn’t die. He went to a farm in the country. 
There are very few times in my life I felt like I was legitimately in danger. One was leaving an event in Washington, DC, walking home across the city alone and having a strange encounter; one was getting my rental car stuck on a wet gravel road/path just 25 miles west of Nowhere, Wyoming with nothing but a camera  and cell phone with out service; and one involved a mangy goat with horns the size of elephant tusks in Greens Fork, Indiana.

I learned one thing that night. Just like Johnny Ringo, if you want to acquire the reputation of a real, rough outlaw, you've got to be fearless and prepared to face anything, anywhere, anytime....Goats included. 

I'm barely prepared for the trash man, who comes to town every Tuesday at 7:03 a.m. on the dot. And I've never been much of a fighter. 


  1. This is hilarious and I must say you and Ringo keep excellent company haha!

  2. Laughed out LOUD reading this at work! Hilarious. I'd have loved to see you trying to beat up a GOAT in the middle of the street :)

  3. While reading this I was picturing the whole fight going on!!! I can say that I have never seen a goat walking down the street, but my best friend growing up had a pygmy goat that was their pet...I remember it in the breezeway in the winter, we would ride our bikes to town and he would come with, and best of all he would get on the bus in the morning with us. Holly and I were just at a benefit and her bus driver was there...he came up and was reminding us how he remembers having to chase "Spud" off the bus!!! LOVE small town living!!!