My mom and stepfather, George, received Rufus as a wedding gift.
This billy goat had more pages than Tolstoy at his windiest. His sire had been Ennobled by the American Boer Goat Association, meaning he conformed to the physical standards for the breed and had performed well at prestigious shows. But that wasn’t all. In addition to his own performance, Rufus’ sire had produced several offspring that also performed well at these shows. Individual merit isn’t enough. The whole bloodline is assessed. “Just like in real life,” explained my mom.
When Rufus joined my mom’s herd, he instantly improved the quality of the kids. Because of the dairy influence in the herd, many of the kids didn’t bulk up enough to fetch a very high price at market. At least they didn’t before my parents got Rufus. His babies were big and beautiful, and so, too, was the price my parents were able to get for them.
But over time, things soured.
“He was a good goat who went bad,” my mom said. “He was sweet and lovely originally. He became asshole-y as he got older.”
It is in a male herd animal’s nature to be territorial. Like some men, their sense of masculinity is derived from the number of females available to them. They guard this sense of masculinity. They fight for it. And with a goat Rufus’ size — 300 pounds — this was bad news. If my mom needed to take one of the does away from the herd for kidding or to administer medical treatment, Rufus saw this as taking the doe away from him. And so, my mom became Rufus’ enemy.
What you’ve seen in cartoons with billy goats charging like battering rams toward their opponents isn’t entirely accurate. They aren’t that fast. They don’t need to be.
“He was an inexorable force, but it wasn’t like a ricochet rabbit sort of thing. He just put his head down, stepped forward and did not back down,” my mom said.
His first attack was in December 2010. George wanted to get rid of him then and there, but my mom couldn’t bear to part with him. He was so beautiful, and his babies did so well at market.
So, she armed herself with a broom. That broom became a 2 x 4. That 2 x 4 became a Hot Shot stun gun. That Hot Shot became a buggy whip.
Rufus knew he was no match for the buggy whip, which could deliver fast, stinging sensations from a great distance, but this acknowledgment did not mean defeat. It only heightened his loathing.
“He would shoot you hateful, baleful looks over his shoulder,” my mom said.
And he was plotting his revenge. My mom said it wasn’t uncommon to see him sharpening his big, curved horns by rubbing them on the slats of metal gates. At one point, his zeal for sharpening his horns was so great that he bent one of the fences.
For months Rufus bided his time. Then, opportunity struck.
A spring flood had washed away a section of fence in our field, and an open gate had liberated the herd. George called my mom at work and told her she needed to hurry down and help him pen everyone back up.
While George herded the goats with the tractor, my mom filled their feed bins and manned the gate. When the last goat was in, she set to tying it shut with several knots of bailing twine. That is where Rufus saw his chance.
“He approached me with his head down and walked into me like a bulldozer,” my mom said.
Jerking his head around, he snaked a horn around the back of her thigh and dug in. My mom grabbed him by the horns to keep him from goring her again. Enraged, Rufus shoved his head into her, pushed her to the ground and started crushing her with his horns. It was at this point my mom realized that he intended to kill her.
George, who usually wears a pistol on his hip, leaped from the tractor and ran toward Rufus and my mom, firing a few shots into the ground in hopes of scaring Rufus off.
“The goat didn’t even flinch,” my mom said.
George ran to the gate, shooting at the knotted mess of bailing twine with which my mom had secured the gate only minutes before. Then he ran to Rufus and my mom and fired another shot into the ground, this time by Rufus’ head. That was enough to frighten him off.
The doctor at the emergency room said my mom didn’t have any major injuries, but even before she got there the area between her hip and knee had turned black. In a week’s time, her entire right leg had swollen and blackened. She also had considerable bruising on the small of her back, where she had landed on a rock.
At this point, my mom conceded that it was time to let go of the goat. George went out to the barn with his pistol and fired 10 9mm hollow points into the goat.
“The third one killed him, but I shot him seven more times because I was pissed off,” George said.
Rufus was laid to rest in a far flung corner of the farm, where the coyotes and buzzards did their work.
This is all that remains today.