TALES FROM THE SOUTH: Save Yourself
“I run in God's name. Let the world stand back and wonder.” Eric Liddell, “Chariots of Fire”
There was a goat in the parking lot when I returned from lunch … a small white goat with a red collar.
My first reaction was disbelief. I looked around to see if there were any witnesses. An elderly black man was backed up to his sedan on the driver’s side his eyes wide and fearful. Thank God I’m not crazy, I thought, although if I were, he was right there with me.
The goat was frantically galloping, its little horned head looking straight ahead like it was running a timed race. I wondered if in his mind he was running in slow motion with the “Chariots of Fire” theme playing in the background. I couldn’t bear the thought of him running into the busy road and getting killed, but I knew my limitations. If I am anything, I am realistic. I could never have caught the creature in my heels. Actually, I could never have caught the creature in sneakers or hiking boots for that matter. So I decided to go into the office and get help.
I walked down the flight of stairs at a fairly good clip for me. “There’s a goat in the parking lot,” I said, panting. “Call somebody.” The dispatcher stopped in mid-“I hate my husband” sentence, and looked up at me. “What?” I repeated the simple sentence, just then realizing how it must sound to someone who had not just witnessed the running little beast. At this odd time, I remembered the movie “Funny Farm,” where Chevy Chase’s new dog jumped out of his vehicle and ran away the minute he brought him home. They would see him at various times, just running through the woods.
“Damn it, give me the radio … Base to 100,” I said. “Go base.” “There is a goat in the east parking lot south bound to Montgomery Ward TBA.” A long pause. “Ten-nine?” came an incredulous voice, meaning basically, “Tell me again — are you crazy?”
With some snickering detected behind me, I answered crossly, “What’s your 20?” Meaning, “Where are you?” With a false cheerfulness, he replied, “Ooh, on my way to you!” I met him in the parking lot, where the little goat had made the corner and was running the length of the mall, westbound this time.
The officer quickly stopped smirking and summonsed the other security vehicle. He had dispatch call Animal Control. The maintenance crew also came running — with radio transmission like that, you had to come running. The lead maintenance guy was on his way home, but made a u-turn and quickly returned to the property. Two flashing security Blazers, one maintenance pick-up and a late model Ford Escort finally corralled the goat, rallying around like the “Crocodile Hunter” team. His gait never slowed. His orbit just became smaller to accommodate the intrusion.
When the Animal Control person arrived, he brought out the tranquilizer gun, aimed, and after a first dart did not even phase it, pulled the trigger a second time. The goat kept running. What discipline, I thought. Professional athletes should have such focus. After running a few more seconds, the goat fell over on its side in mid-stride like the Tasmanian devil at the end of a spinning fit. No slowing down until the fall … exhausted. The troops just looked at each other as the kind Animal Control officer lifted the limp little body into his vehicle.
“He’s going to be okay, you know,” the lead security officer said, looking right at me. “He belongs to somebody. Why are you always cryin’ about something?”
I made myself think positive thoughts about the goat’s outcome. I wondered if he was somebody’s “perfect gift,” who knew himself well enough to know that he couldn’t conform to the domesticated life and chose not to burden the new owner with his idiosyncrasies. With a name like Seneca … or Holden. Maybe he decided to make a run for it, then realizing his mistake, didn’t have the guts to pull a “Thelma and Louise” onto University Avenue. Had he always dreamed of the big escape? Was he paving the way for some of his buddies from his support group who, like him, felt stifled in their lives? Was he running toward a treasure buried under a tree just for him when he was freed as in “Shawshank Redemption?” Had he suffered an affliction that was just lifted and was pulling a “Forrest Gump” fresh-out-of-leg-braces run? Maybe he just made a bad mistake on a whim and was practically purring now (if goats purr), safe in his little air-conditioned house with electricity and cable, flipping the light switch on and off with his nose, settling back for an evening of “Everybody Loves Raymond” reruns.
Later that evening, I went on a double date to see “The Horse Whisperer” at the Cinema 150. As we passed the mall parking lot, I said, “There was a goat on that parking lot today … a white goat with a little red collar … just running.” My date laughed. “Lay off the wine,” he said. I didn’t bother to elaborate. He was not goat story-worthy.
The Animal Control officer called us the following week. The goat belonged to an elderly woman, who sobbed with happiness when she collected “Snowflake” from them. I like to think if I ever met her, she would tell me she has a purring goat that thinks the old guy on “Raymond” is hilarious.
As an official sponsor, along with Laman Public Library, of "Tales from the South," a radio program taped each Tuesday at Starving Artist Cafe in North Little Rock, Ark., featuring southerners telling their own true stories, AY brings you this monthly feature of highlights from "Tales from the South." The program is broadcast Thursdays at 7 p.m. on KUAR (FM89.1) in central Arkansas. You can find it streaming online at kuar.org; or listen along with 140 million European listeners on World Radio Network Sundays at 9 a.m. at wrn.org. For more information, log onto talesfromthesouth.com.
Leslie Hitt lives in Fayetteville, Ark., where she works for the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Northwest in Student Services and Faculty Development.
Her background includes accounting, video production, mall leasing and higher education. She is working on a sitcom screenplay about the shopping mall world, as well as continuing to write about a life that is too rich to be fiction.