Friday, January 4, 2008

Chauncey the 9th Ward Goat

Posted By on Fri, Jan 4, 2008 at 10:29 PM

On Christmas, we allow our goat to come inside the house. To Chauncey (Gardener, that is, named for Peter Sellers’ butler character in Being There, and because Chauncey is literally our gardener), Christmas means colored paper moving through the complex factory of his rumen guts. After we’ve torn open presents, he trots in on his little black high-heels and eats the wrapping, shreds it across the hardwood floors until the living-room bespeaks a much more abundant celebration than actually occurred.

We don’t live on a farm, but rather, in the Bywater, back by the Naval Base. Especially near train tracks, it is legal to have a goat in the city (you’ve probably seen sweet Evangeline in her diamond collar on Kerelec St, herding her Marigny dog pack). Not that we bothered to check the laws before purchasing Chauncey from a West Bank goat farm; no one in Bywater would ever bother us over such a thing. Maybe that’ll change after they build that cruise ship terminal back here…

Regardless, no one could have any real cause to complain. Chauncey is calmer and more self-posessed than a dog. He would never wake the neighbors. Not to mention he doesn’t get fleas, doesn’t beg for food and, living outside, doesn’t need my permission to poop. Contrary to goat lore, Chauncey is not destructive; paper is the only inorganic material he eats. And plastic bags. And cigarette butts. But in general, he is smarter and more refined even than most goats. He especially likes to be out in the world.

This Christmas day, we walked Chauncey in the Quarter, where his mind remained so fixated on food-browsing he seemed completely oblivious to the fake antlers we’d strapped to his head (the farm hacked off and cauterized his real ones at birth). Not much edible vegetation for Chauncey in the Quarter, still he sometimes needs just to trot around, enjoying mild social commotions and the sidewalk sun.

Of course it would be ignorant to take a goat into the Quarter and expect to avoid explaining ourselves to every passing human. But the same questions over and over do get so tiring. Though hard for strangers to relate, after bottle-raising Chauncey from one-week-old (back when he lived in a cardboard box and I could hold him in one hand), and after evacuating Katrina with him, and after watching him eat three Christmases worth of wrapping paper, I do now often forget how weird it seems, and I lose patience with the stares and the questions. Walking Chauncey sometimes gives me empathy for poor Brad and Angelina. “Wow, that’s something you don’t see every day!” a tourist will joke, to which we answer coldly, “Actually, yes it is,” and keep walking – directly into the next person, who repeats exactly the same line. Or else, “Now that’s a funny looking dog!” Ha, ha. ZZZzzz...

Luckily though, on this holiday outing, we were allowed to replace all standard detailed answers with Christmas lies. For example:

“Oh my God! What is that!?”

“A reindeer,” we'd say, smiling, but still walking.

“No, it’s not,” they'd realize. “It’s a goat. Does he live in your house? Where does he live?”

“The North Pole.”

“Oh, c’mon. Where did you get it?”

It? Him. Santa brought him.”

“No, seriously," they'd shout ahead to us. "What does he eat?”

“Wrapping paper.” And despite this one honest answer, here they would give up, allowing our odd family our Christmas peace.

Follow these URLs to read Chauncey's hilarious history, and his tumultuous evacuation from Katrina:

- pt. 1: http://www.houstonpress.com/Issues/2005-09-22/news/news.html pt. 2: http://kitchensinkmag.com/sectionlayout.php?mainsection=sexfoodgod&story=outhere

- pt. 3: http://www.houstonpress.com/Issues/2005-10-06/news/news.html

- pt. 4: http://houstonpress.com/Issues/2005-11-03/news/news2.html

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