Story time with Uncle Knuckles: The Goat That Ate Sean’s Hand
I don’t know why they puts goats in petting zoos, do you? Goats are really creepy-looking animals. They’re kind of skeletal, covered with boney bumps, they’ve got demon eyes, and they’re always jerking around as if their own personal invisible devil is jabbing them with a sharpened flaming stick. Yeh, let’s throw our children into a cage with hyperactive, scary-looking animals. Good idea.
But back when we were a young couple and we had a six-year-old boy who loved barnyard animals, we took a trip to the Berlin zoo, where they have a petting zoo filled with all kinds of cute little fluffy animal babies. Most of them were in small pens, but the large, open area in the middle was filled with chickens and ducks and goats and other seemingly harmless livestock. Sean wanted to pet them all.
At first, the animals had absolutely no interest in us. When we walked up to them to pet them, they walked away, not like they were afraid of us, but like they had something better to do. They were completely indifferent to being petted. Then one of us spotted a coin-operated feed dispenser and figured maybe we could catch the attention of a few animals if we had some yummy green pellets to feed them. We led Sean over to the machine, showed him how to cup his hands under the chute, dropped ten pfennig into the slot, and turned the handle.
And that’s when the goats attacked.
Cranking the handle on that machine was like ringing a dinner bell. When we turned around, every single goat in the petting zoo was rushing us like stoned teenagers trying to trample each other to get to the stage at a rock concert. I tried to keep Sean calm by casually encouraging him to offer the goats his handful of food pellets.
Big mistake. Bigger even than the idea of buying the pellets in the first place. Every one of those goats wanted to eat every pellet in Sean’s outstretched hand, and the goat that sucked Sean’s entire hand into his mouth was the winner. Sean freaked and tried to pull his hand out of there, but the goat wasn’t letting go until he was sure he got all the feed out of Sean’s hand. One of us tried to help Sean pull his hand free while the other swatted at the goat, as if that was going to discourage it. Meanwhile, every other goat was climbing over the one that was eating Sean’s hand.
When the goat was finally satisfied he got the kibble he could get out of Sean, he let go and went looking for another victim. Sean’s arm was just fine, no blood, no broken skin, but I was afraid it would take years of therapy and a keg of Zoloft to put this behind him. Parents worry that everything’s going to screw up their first kid. But it didn’t. He’s normal, or as close to normal as to make me look neurotic, which is not a very high bar to clear, now that I think about it. Sorry, Sean. I’ll come up with a better metric next time I tell this story.