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July 4, 1969...the year of the goat
Dee McLelland new

We had a couple of goats as pets when I was 10 years old. Correction, we thought we had pet goats, our father had the July 4th BBQ menu.

My two brothers and sister were excited when our father showed up at our home a few days before July 4th with two white and brown goats. We walked them around the yard by their rope leashes and even fed them carrots. I think my brother Lynn was the most excited and seemed to really take a liking to them.

I believe in his 9-year old mind he would one day train the goats to do tricks and possibly even take a ride on them when they were bigger. Unfortunately, their size was absolutely perfect for what my father had in mind.

On Thursday, July 3 my father returned home from working the midnight shift at the local paper mill where he was a supervisor and proceeded in his familiar routine when having a long holiday weekend to start taste testing Budweiser. It was only a few hours later he was in the backyard at a makeshift table and only minutes later we lost one of our “pet” goats.

We were absolutely distraught. As crazy as we know our world today is, think about 1969 and the things we saw.

America would be launching astronauts in just a few days heading to the moon and in fact on July 20 Neal Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would step foot on the lunar surface, and here in our backyard our father was slaughtering goats for an old fashioned Alabama July 4th BBQ. That’s quite the difference!

As our father’s Budweiser “tasting” continued, his pace and initiative slowed. He went inside for a nap after working overnight and said he would return to finish his BBQ prep work. A few hours later he stepped into the backyard to continue his “tasting” and his culinary set up.

The remaining goat was gone.

The small rope which had been attached to its neck was still tied to the tree in the yard, but the goat had vanished. Our father yelled with anger and summoned all four of us.

“Find the goat, or it’s whippings for everyone,” he said. We were accustomed to such whippings and to be honest, that was part of parenting in the 1960’s, or at least it was in our house. I might go a little farther and say sometimes we certainly deserved it.

We started searching the neighborhood on our bikes and our father, ever the entertainer when he was doing his “tasting,” called the local radio station telling everyone to be on the lookout for the goat. Soon we had expanded the search to other neighborhoods and even local people were looking for the goat. The radio station started getting calls about “goat sightings.”

“Last seen on Wingard Street, the goat was spotted in Mrs. Thigpen’s garden,” the radio stations DJ reported and a gentleman yelled from his car as he searched for the goat. Another man in his car passed and said, “He’s in the junk yard!”

We turned and sped away. Many years later I recalled this crazy hunt when watching the all-time classic movie E.T. Our bike ride was exactly what the boys did in trying to save E.T. except we were looking for a goat, not helping an alien escape.

We rounded the gate at the junk yard and there stood the goat on top of a burned out VW Bug. He stared at us, we stared at him and we could hear the cars closing in.

Lynn yelled, “Run Baby Goat!”

The goat bounded a small fence into a thick brush of woods and weeds, never to be seen again although the search continued by area folks, more as fun than actually finding the goat.

We never revealed to our father that Lynn had indeed released the goat and ruined his goat BBQ. He managed to feed all his friends with one, hamburgers and hot dogs completed his menu.

The whipping was worth every minute of it.

If you see me, say “Hey!”

Dee McLelland is the Publisher of the Coastal Courier and the Bryan County News. He can be reached at or 876-0156.

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