The Goat

In honor of Halloween, here’s a story about the only demon I’ve ever met.

On my first day of PST, a goat stuck its head through the window of my host mom’s house.

It was brown, rather larger than a large dog, and its horns curved toward each other instead of straight back. My host mom’s daughter-in-law, who had come to help with morning chores, fed it a piece of candy. She gave me a piece of candy as well, and when I turned toward the window, the goat had reared up and put its front hooves on the sill. I fed it the candy anyway.

This was my only positive experience with the goat.

We walked out of the house into the хашаа, and the goat ran toward me. I dodged out of the way before it could headbutt me. It came at me again, and my host sister, laughing, grabbed it by the horns to redirect it. She smacked it with the wooden stick she was holding, and — for the time being — the goat left me alone.

It had decided, however, that I was its new toy.

Every time the goat saw me after that, it attacked me. I would dodge out of the way, or grab it by the horns and swing it around the way my host sister had, but apparently this was part of the fun; it wagged its stubby little tail and came right back at me. If it saw me with other Americans, it would mark them as targets too.

Once the goat followed me to the neighborhood park and attacked me right outside the gate. I wrestled it by the horns for a solid five minutes while the kids in the park laughed. Finally a couple of teenage boys grabbed it so that I could escape; the goat wrestled with them until a herd of cows wandered over and distracted it.

I asked my host mom once why the goat always attacked me, but not my ten-year-old host sister. “Чамд хартай,” she informed me, grinning. It loves you.

One weekday evening I was having a quiet dinner with my host mom. Somebody called her on the phone, and she stood and went over to the window while she talked. Suddenly she started shouting. “Ирина! Ямаа, ямаа!” Renee! The goat, the goat!

I’d left my ger door open. I ran into the ger and found the goat happily munching on a cupful of sugar I’d left out for my morning tea. I wrestled it out, grabbed the cup, closed my door, and fled back into the house.

I put the cup away and resumed my meal, but not ten minutes later the goat was at it again. I removed it again, this time making sure I’d closed the door completely.

When I came back in, my host mom smiled and drew her finger across her throat.

Yeah, I thought, I could kill him, too.

My host mom’s friend and neighbor stopped by shortly after. She looked out the window, and then she shouted. I looked out and caught the goat tugging on the string I used to tie the ger door open in nice weather — sneaking his way back in to see if he could find the sugar.

With the neighbor’s help, I tied the door closed and settled in for a quiet evening. But then three boys came into the yard and started chasing the goat around. My mother watched, laughing, and shouted advice until they subdued it: One grabbed it by the horns, the other by the back legs, and they wheelbarrowed it out of the хашаа.

Again my host mother looked at me, smiled, and drew her finger across her throat.

One of my sitemates reported a goat slaughter in a nearby хашаа that night. I never had problems with the demon goat again.

6 thoughts on “The Goat”

    1. Definitely a good thing. Dog training isn’t really a thing here, so most Mongolians are scared of dogs. They tend to come in two varieties: neighborhood strays/half-tame хашаа dogs that are basically friendly, but scared to approach because they’ve had a lot of stones thrown at them; and vicious guard dogs that are (usually, hopefully) tied up behind a fence.

      1. My friend Annika, who was also in the Peace Corps in Mongolia, actually came home with a dog.
        She has always been a dog lover, and I guess she encountered one of the friendly-but-scared type when it was still young enough to salvage.

        I hadn’t realized just how surprising that was . . . but her determination to bring it home with her makes a lot more sense now!

        1. Hah. There are nice dogs here as well as the scaredy type 🙂 We had a puppy following us around at my training site, and I have one friend who seems to attract a pack of dogs wherever he goes. (His constantly feeding them might have something to do with it.) Younger dogs tend to be a little more approachable, though I haven’t had any success making a canine friend out in Bayan Ulgii. 🙂

          (I forgot you had a friend who was here! Do you happen to know which aimag she was in or what year she came?)

  1. Ha – I love the goat story!
    Especially because we actually have goats . . . and let’s just say that if I knew how to slaughter a goat quickly and mercifully, there might have been a casualty at this point 😉

    We have two big goats and two little ones. The one that reminds me of your story is the big boy. He isn’t *bad*, as such, but he’s big, and playful, and a goat . . . and goat playful can definitely be problematic from a human standpoint.

    That, and goats are pretty destructive if they get where they don’t belong – which they are *just* smart enough to manage now and again.
    Sigh 🙂

    Anyway, I had to laugh when I read your story. Apparently goats are the same the world over . . . .

    1. Yeah. Despite the rather morbid ending, and while it was nice to finally be able to get around town without any hoofed harassment, I had a certain fondness for the goat 😛 I’m pretty sure he was just…destructively playful.

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