We were a small family. Each summer in the mid-1960s four generations of us, arriving with our various camping rigs and from different directions, gathered for a weekend in the mountains. We’d catch up on the news, share familiar meals, sit around the fire drinks in hand and reminisce, celebrating our family memories. A favorite ritual was teasing Aunt Eleanor into telling us about the time she shot the goat.
This particular year, 1967, we met south of Jackson Hole at a Forest Service campground near Pinedale. Billy Penton, a family friend who was living in Pinedale, joined us one evening. I hadn’t seen him since we were teenagers in Lander in the ‘50s.
Even the children knew the context of the goat story. It had occurred many years before when Aunt Eleanor and Uncle Pete were farming just north of Lander. A neighboring ranch family had gone on vacation and asked Pete and Eleanor to take care of their kids’ pet kid.
The young goat was incorrigible. It raided the garden. It climbed on vehicles. It wiggled its way into every structure on the ranch. And finally, it broke into the house.
Here’s how Aunt Eleanor retold the story that day near Pinedale:
“I’d been in town shopping. When I carried my groceries to the back door, I saw a hole had been punched through the screen.
“I searched through the house. Every house plant had been nipped off at dirt level.
“When I got to our bedroom, the goat was standing in the middle of our bed. He looked me in the eye, said ‘baaaaa,’ and crapped.
“I grabbed him by a leg, dragged him to the back door, and threw him outside. Then I grabbed the .22 by the door and shot him. Got him right between the eyes.”
“But Mom,” a cousin objected on cue, “You never shot a gun before in your life. And that was Dad’s gun from the slaughterhouse. It didn’t even have any sights.”
“I don’t care. I hit the little shit right between the eyes.”
We laughed, enjoying the familiar, oft told tale. But Billy Penton, our visitor, was quiet. Then he chuckled, rubbed his chin, and said, “Me and my brother Bobby always wondered what happened to that damn goat.”
Photo: Pinedale and the “backside” of our home mountains, the Wind Rivers.
Quote from a story by Don M Ricks (A ranger at Death Canyon – Grand Teton National Park)
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