Friday, February 8, 2008

Das Gefoulenschmeller

More on the Levingston's goats
by Ken Harris

Kids, nursing and otherwise, were a fairly common occurrence in the Levingston back yard. To keep their nannies fresh, the Levingstons at one time kept a billy goat, or, as they call them in Germany, ein gefoulenschmeller. Billy goats have a universally bad reputation which they richly deserve. They are depraved and beyond smelly. The females, naturally, adore them. But no one else does, not even the goat breeders who apostrophize them as necessary evils.

One day Sweet William escaped from the Levingston yard and began to consume the neighborhood shrubs. No one else was around and so, against my better judgment, I managed to ignore Sweet William’s foul odor and grabbed him by his horns. I soon found that I was not going to drag that goat anywhere. If I pulled, he pulled harder. Finally, it occurred to me to push. I pushed and he pushed harder. I let him push me all the way into his goat pen where he belonged. Leaving him with his adoring nannies, I spent the next hour failing to scrub goat musk off my hands. I carried the smell with me for a couple of days. Goat musk would make a useful substitute for ambergris should there ever become a world shortage of this dubious commodity.

Needless to say, Sweet William was not my favorite person in the neighborhood. But one cold winter morning I saw something that wrung even my calloused withers. Sweet William had a cold.

It was a January morning, early, and it gets cold in Southern California. Not Minnesota cold, but cold enough to preclude nude sunbathing. Sweet William had found a sunny spot against a shed wall in the Levingston’s back yard and was trying to pretend it was warm. His hair jutted out. His back was hunched. His eyes were swollen almost shut. His runny nose defied description.

My heart went out to Sweet William, but from a distance. I wasn’t getting any closer to that smelly thing than I had to.

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