The goat, the drunk and Jane

2013-02-05 00:00

IN the early eighties, 7 000 sheep and goats were slaughtered per day at Cato Ridge abattoir. More than 90% of these were sourced from outside our province. Today, fortunately, most of the mutton consumed in KZN originates from smaller abattoirs in the sheep-production areas. Goats are different. Our province is full of them. Most are only transient visitors from the Eastern Cape, Karoo, Northern Cape and Namibia en route to stews, curries and potjies in Isipingo, Stanger and Dannhauser. Traders like to sell them within two weeks. Any longer and they fall prey to heartwater, pneumonia, coccidia and theft, among other maladies. Those that do not end up in pies, however, can be seen grazing the valleys and verges from Manguzi to Matatiele. And most KZN residents will have an anecdote concerning the antics of these appealing creatures in their repertoire of memories. Like the report in The Witness a little while ago. A Ford Fiesta hatchback was stopped on the road to Nongoma. The driver and two human passengers shared the vehicle with 10 goats, three on the back seat with one of the passengers, seven in the rear of the hatch. The men, it is alleged, could not explain the presence of the animals. Maybe they were just friends on their way to the local, to have a couple of drinks and to ruminate with their mates.

The following story also concerns a member of the caprine persuasion.

Jane is a well-known fixture in one of the original vet clinics in Pietermaritzburg. She has many anecdotes that she does not hesitate to share.

The ladies’ room is situated next to the entrance of the veterinary clinic, the inspiration, I assume, of an architect who either had come last in his class or who had a distorted sense of humour. On one occasion, Jane felt the need to powder her nose, so she left her desk behind the computer in the reception area and ambled down the passageway. As she approached the door to the loo, an unexpected commotion just outside the clinic diverted her attention. A big black billy goat, an obviously reluctant patient, was being forced towards the doorway by his insistent owner, a thin and feeble individual about half the size of his charge. The man was trying his best to entice the animal into the building, first by pulling, then by pushing, then both at the same time. Jane gallantly held the door open, offering him words of encouragement. After a while, his persistence paid off and the goat was eventually forced into the entrance passageway. There they stood, the goat bleating his indignation, the human swaying from side to side, sweat pouring from his ebony brow, an affliction, she could smell, that resulted more from an excessive indulgence of the shebeen’s finest than from over-exertion. The goat, too, looked worse for wear. His long claws were curled and warped, evidence of his advanced age. They were reminiscent of the polished heels worn by the ladies of the night who frequented the streetlights in the verge outside and who walked with the same uncomfortable and unnatural gait. Satisfied that the drunk would be able to slide the patient along the red polished floor to the consulting room just the other side of the toilet, Jane considered her job complete. She opened the door to the ladies’ room, entered and gently closed it again.

Serenity descended. But her personal space was suddenly interrupted, however, as the door was violently opened and the doorway filled with the form of the goat preceding the sweating body who was once again trying his best to propel him in a forward motion, like a dung beetle behind an elephant turd. He was obviously firm of belief that this little room was where the doctor would examine the patient.

In relating the story, Jane told me that the quiet room was momentarily filled with huffing, puffing and bleating. To this, after a time during which she took stock of the situation, a high-pitched shriek was dramatically added, a noise of such pitch and volume that the corpses in the morgue in the funeral parlour up the road may have momentarily moved, possibly thinking twice about their peaceful realm of eternity.

The invaders were speedily evicted from the cubicle.

I have it on good authority that no harm came to the goat. I am not so sure about the drunk.

• The author is a practising vet with a passion for his profession and a giggle in his heart.

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