Tony Deyal | Goat to hell and back
Growing up in the early fifties in a country village in Trinidad, I knew that on cold mornings, or just for the fun of it, some of the young male goats would try to follow in the footsteps of their fathers and become more than a trifle ‘rambunctious’. However, about a month ago, The Gleaner’s STAR featured a story by Simone Morgan-Lindo about Clarendon’s most feared goat, who is so vicious that he has become a battering ram. According to its owner, Richard ‘Slashy Dread’ Joseph, the malefactor, named ‘Checka’, had “bucked down”, or butted, more people than he could keep a check on. In fact, Slashy Dread so dreads Checka that he has decided to rid himself of the offending animal because of its increasing viciousness. He complained, “The last couple a time mi take mi eye off him, and like him watch me and realise, him buck mi straight dung a grung, so mi kinda a get fraid of him … . Right now, people fraid a da goat yah more than gunman in the community.” Fortunately for Slashy, he and his goat have not yet been charged for aiding and abutting.
Wherever I’ve lived in the Caribbean, I have always loved and enjoyed the sight of the goats heading out in the early morning, beating a familiar path along the side of the roads, even the highways, making a beeline for their favourite feeding ground and returning in the late evening sunset to the comfort and safety of their homes. I suppose this is why a group of goats is called a ‘trip’. Early in my life, I got tripped up by goats twice, once in what was sheer comedy and the other a tragedy which, almost 70 years later, still haunts me. We were in Standard One of elementary school, and our teacher wrote the names of several animals on the blackboard and told us we would have to write down what their young were called. While he sat behind his desk caressing his leather strap, my friend Brewster, with whom I shared a desk, kept asking me the answers for dog, cat, and even duck, all of which I knew. Then we came to ‘goat’, and I had no clue. So it was my turn to get Brewster to pull his weight. I nudged him with my elbow and said, my hand blocking my mouth, “Ent you have a little goat home, Brewster? What you does call it?” He told me, and we both wrote down the answer: ‘Meggie’. The teacher blamed me and not Brewster and, in addition to making me the scapegoat, gave me three lashes and had the older kids laughing at me.
The second goat encounter that affected me most and kept me from creating any kind of bond with animals was when my father brought home a baby goat one September and said it was a pet for me. I really loved and took care of the little Meggie, or, as I had learnt by then, ‘kid’. We were really two kids together, and I checked him out every morning before I left for school and immediately upon my return. Then Christmas came. The day before Christmas Eve, what we jokingly called ‘Christmas Adam’, I saw my Uncle Jacket sharpening a cutlass, and when I asked him what he was doing, he said he had to cut some firewood. Then, early the next day, when they thought I was asleep, he and my father took out my adorable pet and, cutlass ready, were about to add him to the Christmas lunch menu. I cried, quarrelled, begged, raged, and sobbed for hours and days, but this had no effect on the cruel adults. It is why I never had another pet, and, except for once in Jamaica when I inadvertently consumed some curry goat thinking it was beef, I never ate goat again. It is also in Jamaica that I saw two cartoons that captured my dilemma. One making it clear, “Goats entering these premises will be curried” (adding, “Pig will jerk”) and another with a goat on a hot-tin roof saying, “Go curry yuh muddah, mi nah come down till after Christmas.”
PART OF THE LANGUAGE
Unfortunately, that goat and I are a minority. Goat meat is not only a staple, delicacy, and even an aphrodisiac in Jamaica but also part of the language, or what are called ‘proverbs’. Throughout the Caribbean, we know that “what sweet in goat mouth will sour” in his rear end, or, put another way, “wa sweet Nanny goat a go run im belly”. Comparing the greed of goats with humans, we are warned, “If goat did know di size ah him b***y-hold him wouldn’ swallow mango seed.” Lack of respect for those who plummet from grace or high office is covered by, “When cotton tree fall down, Nanny goat jump over him.” We also know, “What the goat does, the kid follows”, “Same knife tick sheep, tick goat”, and, one that is pretty common in meaning but adapted to the different regional dialects, “You renk (smell) like goat rope,” or just “goat” without the rope.
While some visitors who can’t understand the language think that Jamaicans talk a lot of tripe, they then find out that Jamaicans eat even more than they talk. However, Jamaicans are not alone in their love for what we call ‘goat guts’, which, to be honest, takes a lot of guts to eat, especially if you witnessed the preparations. While their curry goat is considered superb and the best in the Caribbean, the country is more famous for its mannish, or goat, water. A song by Jamaican Pluto Shervington called Ram Goat Liver deals with the key ingredient in mannish water (a delicacy that supposedly makes men high) and positions the dish within the context of Jamaican goat usage: “Ram goat liver good fi mek mannish water/Billy goat teeth mek earring for you daughter/ Curried goat lunch put de bite in your bark/ It mek you daughter… it mek your daughter walk and talk.”
I am certain that some Jamaican men might be considering the additional fillip that a goat like Checka, overflowing with hormonal energy, would add to the already potent mannish water. However, the goat’s owner, Slashy Dread’, has other intentions for the immediate future of the ‘mannish’ goat. He has put the 100lb Checka up for sale at J$130,000 (about US$900) but may have to slash his prices because so far, there have been no takers despite his boast, “A tief can tame a dog and him cold up, but not dis goat at all. Is a badman goat, so di big-head pitbull dem is no match for him.” Given Checka’s chequered career, he’s not kidding.
Tony Deyal was last seen asking, where in his account book does Slashy Dread keep his list of people demanding money for being ‘bucked’ by Checka? The ram-page. This column is dedicated to Errol M. Evans, a loyal Jamaica Gleaner reader and fan of my column. Thanks for the support. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org