Mon | Aug 2, 2021

Garth Rattray | A short goat story

Published:Monday | July 22, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Born into a very rural community that hardly anyone knew, Little Billy felt that he was destined for much greater things. The other children always seemed to be two steps behind him, and all the elders did was chew their cuds and graze all day. Little Billy was longing to escape the ordinary life and launch out on a much larger scale.

He left for brighter lights and soon encountered others of his ilk. Now, in the big city, he could watch, learn and grow. He made full use of his opportunities and widened his knowledge. He learnt how to approach others of different herds and patterned their habits. Soon, he could chew cud as they did and practised how to bleat, grunt and snort as they.

He honed his skills and discovered that it is wise to lead smaller herds before moving on to larger, more complicated herds and then slowly work his way upwards. He became adept at butting heads with others. He instinctively knew how to win head-butting battles without harm to himself. He became well respected as he moved from strength to strength.

In a relatively short time, Billy grew and made a name for himself. He became known as a goat of no mean order, an exceptional goat. He was seen as one who respected and practised traditional goat beliefs; this made him sought after as a leader and a goat with an air of authority and honesty.


Billy was a problem-solver who found his niche in leading small herds in need of guidance and organising. Only he knew the full extent of his aspirations to join the most powerful and influential herd of the time. It came as a surprise to many when Billy was absorbed into that dominant herd. Now, he was given control over several smaller herds within the bigger herd and he loved it.Wherever any goat looked, there was Billy profiling and bleating, constantly communicating the thoughts and wishes of the bigger herd and the big rams.

Billy was dutiful, and the more he worked, the more he concretised his place in the big herd, and the more he was seen as an impeccable goat. Perhaps Billy even aspired towards leadership in the big herd, but no one knew for sure.

All the herds needed food. Many of them fed themselves, but some herds were raised in such rough pastures that they were socialised into being constantly led, taken care of and fed. Those herds didn’t do much thinking for themselves. And, even when they genuinely believed that they were coming up with their own thoughts and plans for their future, they were being manipulated by leadership goats, like Billy, who were designated to do the thinking and planning for them.

Although some claimed that Billy had a reputation for bleating disrespectfully at his underlings, everyone else believed that he was an uncommon goat and rose above the unethical practices that come with inter-herd competition for scarce grain, grass and hay.

Some were therefore shocked at his occasional hyperbolic and derogative bleating about the other large herd. They saw this as a bad sign. They thought that Billy was only in it to serve, but now they weren’t so sure.

Sadly, Billy faltered badly and ended up appearing like other dishonourable and untrustworthy goats.

Where had Billy’s belief in the traditional ways fled? Some thought that perhaps he was overwhelmed by the lure of power and sought to gather ill-gotten feed for himself. But several wondered if perhaps the ill-gotten feed was meant to be shared among the larger herd and that Billy was only a scapegoat. Herds on both sides of the fence yearn for the truth.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and