The Great West Brunswick Goat Walk

goat pennant

Thursday morning, 6:55am – Bob The Goat trots into our goat-deprived lives, thanks to the power of good old fashioned broadcast radio. In all the excitement, I almost forget my commitment to the West Brunswick Sculpture Triennial. I’m supposed to make a pennant to commemorate the festival!

Friday night, 10:30pm – at Kylie and Damien’s place, Lisa and I set up a little fuzzy-felt sheltered pennant-making workshop. With sharp scissors flashing, the corner of my tongue sticking out of the side of my mouth, and the help of some stinky craft glue, I put together the goaty pennant you see hanging proudly alongside its buddies in the photo above. (The reverse side says, simply, BOB).

(I was quite pleased with this craftily constructed artwork, especially given that I only began making it just before midnight, and after consuming a few glasses of a very good wine Damien cracked open. However, I cannot take all the credit – a big shout out to this website, from which I pinched the basic goat-face formula…)

Saturday afternoon, 3:30pm – under the hanging pennants, at 135 Union Street, West Brunswick, a tribe of goat enthusiasts gather expectantly to await Bob’s arrival. We’re about to start the Great West Brunswick Goat Walk!

His owners, Steph and Tim from Sugargum Farm, dropped him off in a mini-float. Bob had already been to another job – a mobile children’s farm gig in Toorak. Steph and Tim were amazingly easy-going about Bob, compared to the other nervous goat owners I had talked with. They were sure Bob would be just fine. Tim unloaded Bob from the float, shook my hand firmly and briefly, and drove straight back to Tullamarine for his Saturday afternoon beer.

In preparation for Bob’s visit, I had considered getting in a few snacks (carrots, apples etc). But after consulting this website, I figured he would fend for himself pretty well. And indeed, Bob settled in very quickly, plunging his face into the long lush green unkempt grass around Bianca’s backyard compost bin. At the rate he was going, I calculated it would only take a day or two to bring the whole yard back to a tidy cropped lawn.

bob and Toine

Bob’s lead – a handsome red rope – was very quickly wrested from my grasp by an eight year old boy called Toine (his name is pronounced like “Twahn”, and is short for Antoine). No harm letting the youngster have a hold, I thought. Might as well share the goat around, eh? It’s not every day that a kid gets to spend time with an animal. But for the rest of the day, I found myself, more or less, a sidekick in my own art event. Boy and goat were practically inseparable. This unpredictable development was too cute, and too wonderful. How could I intervene?

I let them be. Toine, at first, let Bob have too much freedom. At one point I heard someone saying “You’ve gotta show him who’s boss!”, as Bob munched into some of Bianca’s prize succulents. Pretty soon, though, Toine got the hang of it, and off we went.

Here are some reflections on the Great West Brunswick Goat Walk.

Walking with a goat in the city is slow. This is because Bob was constantly on the lookout for snacks as he went along.

Perhaps top of Bob’s list of preferred foods were roses. He LOVED roses, and miraculously managed to tear the leaves from the stems without stabbing his tongue on the thorns. We evaded trouble from various neighbours, who might have been miffed to see their roses munched by a goat so excited he raised himself up on his hind legs:

bob munching roses

He also seemed to enjoy olives, and delicately manipulated the flesh before spitting out the pip:

bob eats olives

The following two photos are perhaps the most typical of Bob’s bread-and-butter culinary delights: fleshy leaves from overhanging trees:

bob eating leaves from a tree

bob eating leaves watched by simone and bianca

A human eye would perhaps have missed these fallen fruits and a stray rotting apple core which attracted Bob’s hungry attention:

bob eats fallen fruit

Bob’s gruffling for edibles was contagious. We all began to study his appetites, scanning the environment for things which might please his palate. Thus, while our goat was blissfully immersed in the lush greenery alongside the railway line, Stuart spotted a ten dollar note. It was duly passed over to Toine, who we agreed was the most hardworking of us all. Here he is receiving his cash handout:

ten dollar find

Walking a goat through the city suburb makes people happy. Having a goat along gives humans the excuse to talk to each other. It’s just too silly and delightful.

People with dogs are compelled to either stop and talk, or pull their mutt far far away. For some reason, dogs go nuts over goats. They spot them from across the street and it’s like some kind of hard-wiring inside their little doggy heads goes “snap!”. They don’t know how to react (probably most of them have never seen a goat before) but they’re definitely fascinated and bothered by goats. Here’s one nice dog owner we saw on the corner of Union and Grantham (note how nonchalant Bob is about the whole thing):

lady with dog on corner of grantham

We also met a lot of people on bikes, and people with children. I guess having a bike allows you to stop and talk. Car drivers, by contrast, tended to just rubberneck as they cruised by (one yobbo yelled out “show us yer goat!” from his wound-down window).

Here are some bike-riders (who joined us for part of our walk), with a baby in the same shot:

bikes on albert street
[click on this one to see it bigger. The lady holding the young cherub in this photo told us she runs a vintage clothing boutique on Victoria Street, called This Law.]

Here’s another nice bike shot. I like how Bob’s face just peeks into the right hand corner of the photo, just visible enough to delight the passing cyclists:
bob and cyclists
[click on the picture to see it bigger]

The lady biker pictured below almost wet her pants with excitement when she saw Bob. She went all “goo-goo ga-ga, aren’t you just the sweetest little thing, let me take you home, oh I LOVE you Bob” and so on and on and on… completely unselfconsciously in the middle of the street, tickling him under the chin and kissing him all over his furry face:

gushing lady

It was all too much for poor old Bob. He had to have a sit down rest after that.

Which only drew more attention, this time from the old-timers who began to emerge from their houses to see what was going on. Here below you have Joe, the former mayor of Moreland (left), and his neighbour George. Joe and George are from Italy and Greece, respectively. Both neighbours had had goat connections back in their old countries, but very few encounters since coming to Australia.

joe and george

Seeing as Joe used to be in local government, I asked him about the legality of keeping goats in backyards. He didn’t think it should be a problem. You might not even need to register them as a pet. Unless you had a whole lot of them, there’s probably no reason the council needed to know. (Prospective suburban goat-owners, please don’t take this as law. Do some proper research! Note that these are only the Saturday arvo musings of a former mayor, unreliably reported by me.)

On Stuart’s urging, we swung by the Union Hotel on the way home. Patrons spilled out of the pub and onto the grassy verge. We navigated through a swathe of young girls playing ring a ring a rosie. Half of them wanted to ride on Bob’s back, the other half looked very nervous indeed. Bob made a bee-line for someone’s potato wedges and tomato sauce. Sure, these folks might have already been half-soused, but Bob’s passing cracked them up:

bob outside the union hotel

Back at 135 Union, the launch of the Sculpture Triennial was in full swing. With his coterie of humans in tow, Bob passed triumphantly under his custom pennant and made a grand entrance. We set him up in the corner of the back yard where he munched some more grass, and delighted the ladies with tales of his adventures in the streets of West Brunswick…

bob back at the triennial backyard

…and, finally, took a well-earned rest:

bob resting

Here is a map of our walk (click to see it bigger).

map of goat walk

We had originally intended to visit all the sites of the West Brunswick Sculpture Triennial, but by the time we got to Ocular Lab – less than half way – nearly two hours had passed. Bob was hot and tired. Lisa gave him a drink from her water bottle…

lisa giving bob a drink

… and we decided to take a shorter route home.

Walking with a goat is slow, careful, mindful work. There is plenty of time to chat, and to see the streets with a finer-grained level of attention. Thanks to all the Grufflers who came along for all or part of the walk: Toine, Lisa, Stuart, Anna, Simone, Bianca, Daniel, Terri, Lily and her friend, Sarah, and Oscar, and all those we met en route (and thanks to Stuart who took a lot of these photos). I look forward to hearing your side of the story: there are a million things I have left out of this brief account…

26 thoughts on “The Great West Brunswick Goat Walk

  1. Steph @ Sugargumfarm

    Lucas, Well, What can I say! Except a big congratulations to you in achieving and enjoying your Goaty Walk with Bob. He really is very special to Nikki & I his adopted mum!

    You got the street and residents of West Brunswick to “Stop & Smell The Roses” at least for a little while in their soooo busy lives.

    Animals do that to us! In my experience the most hyper of children on entering our animal farm and seated to cuddled an animal settle so quickly and quietly enjoying only the “joy” that an animal bring which is outside of domestic pets like cats and dogs!

    Goat’s are not unruely! They are just unpredictable but I can say the same for Horses which we have classified as domesticated.

    They are flight animals, and grass is everywhere (well usually) so they do not have to PLAN to get a meal like a predator would, so their 1st line of defence is to run!!!!! Making them unpredicatble!

    I have so enjoyed this experience, and will follow you with your projects. Please keep in touch, where to next, “Artistic Riding” as it was known back then for the 1920 Olympic Games in Antwerp (now it’s called Equestrian Vaulting) and is only a World Cup Sport.

    I soooo can see you walking down the streets of Brunswick with our Big Black & White Clydesdale Cosmo or perhaps a miniature donkey or 2.

    X Steph….

    Reply
  2. lauren

    you were in the hood and i had no idea! and the goat walk is awesome – although i think my favourite part is easily that map. it’s a gorgeous piece of work – nice one on those penants.. i did love them so.

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  3. Nikki

    What can i say LOL bloody awesome!! Go Bob!! such a pissa! so glad you got to get your goat… and nearly eat it too 😛 Looks like he had a hard but fun filled day!!

    So glad he ended up with Steph.. he was more of a hit than the horse!!

    Awesome job, thanks for taking care of him… both of you…

    Goodluck for the future Lucas xoxox

    Nikki

    Reply
  4. Lucas Post author

    Nikki, your comment made me laugh. “Go Bob!! such a pissa!” – reminded me that I had forgotten to post this great photo – which shows Bob’s uncontrollable bladder. Doesn’t even break his stride!

    bobs wee trail

    Reply
  5. Dad (Ihlein)

    Hmmm, pretty interesting that. I can recall my Dad often directing us to “stop acting the goat.” I wonder what he meant, we weren’t eating roses, wedges and tomato sauce, grapevines or olive trees, or peeing all over the footpath without missing a beat. A bit of subtle fatherly guidance, maybe to do with enjoying oneself too much?
    I love my Mum’s favourite goat story – was about her great uncles (as I recall, living together under the same outback roof) who did not believe in the security of banks, such that early 1900’s they had amassed a considerable sum in banknotes (I can’t recall the amount, but probably somewhere around the equivalent in today’s dollars of $100k) which they stored in the bed mattress in their bush hut. They took off onetime for a month or too of manual work (lumping wheat in the outback?) and while they were away, their goats got into the bush hut and ate the lot – mattress and cash. Maybe the details are not exact, but the end result is not disputed. Go goats!!

    Reply
  6. Aunty Sharon (Ihlein)

    Great goat story Lucas and sounds like a good way to meet the locals. Here is an excerpt from Nana Mary’s recollections about the Hillston goats:

    The Madden bachelor brothers, Sylvester and paddy, lived on a property called ‘The Sand Hills’. The house had once been the family home. It was the neighbouring property to the Burgess family. Syl, as we all knew him, was a smart dresser, watch chains and all. Also a real gentleman. As a young chap, he had learnt to step dance and was always asked at local functions to give a step or two.

    Syl went into town most Saturdays and always had a few beers at the local pub, sometimes a few too many. One Saturday my family had been to Hillston to purchase our goods. Dad came across Syl, a bit ‘under the weather’, so he loaded him on board and took him home to his place. I sat in the back seat with Syl and every now and then he would tell me what a lovely girl I was!

    One such Saturday, when syl had been drinking at the local, and had more than his quota, some fellow sold him several pedigree goats. Next morning, Syl had no recollection of the transaction, until a motor-truck pulled up at the house, and unloaded the goats. Anyone who has ever had anything to do with goats, knows how destructive they can be. The Madden residence was so old, it was also minus a few windows. The place was aptly named ‘The Sand Hills’, as over the years the sand had blown and piled up against the window openings. The goats had free access, and came and went as they pleased. One of the old men had a big roll of notes (money) which just disappeared. They were sure they had not been robbed, and came to the conclusion that the goats had eaten it. It was never found.

    My last memory of Syl Madden was at my kitchen tea on 16th March 1943 when he was encouraged to entertain with a bit of step-dancing. As a kitchen tea gift, he gave me a pair of amber cut-glass salad servers, and I still have one of the pair to this day.

    Reply
  7. Lucas Post author

    thanks Dad and Aunty Sharon. Great to find out we have some goats in our very own family tree! Hilarious that uncle Syl purchased the goats while under the influence. The vendor must have convinced him that it would be a good idea somehow…

    Reply
  8. Sarah crowEST

    That was the most pleasurable walk I have taken since arriving in Melbourne. Bob’s speed is my speed. Good work Lucas and thank you for such a sweet experience. Sarah.

    Reply
  9. Sylvea

    I don’t know much about art but this has to be one of the most original ideas ever. If you make it an annual event, next year do Hope St – plenty of characters along there that would appreciate a visit from Bob!

    Reply
  10. Bec

    This is so great!
    It reminded me a bit of walking home from school in the mornings with Matilda (age 3, human child, not goat). She doesn’t stop to eat but she stops about every three steps to pick up interesting rocks, gravel, leaves, caterpillars, snails, old bottle tops (ew), flowers and coins … and anything else spied from her level. So … maybe that’s why young children are called ‘kids’??
    Loved the family goat stories. 🙂

    Reply
  11. Jo Law

    What style, Lucas! And a goat named Bob (I don’t think there is a better name for the creature). There are a few goats down this way acting as organic lawn mowers.

    It is fascinating that we are all so fascinated by animals out in public. I recently saw a girl taking her cat for a walk. In Hong Kong, old bird fanciers take their birds to yum-cha. There was that deer who went into Wollongong city last year. And this woman in Tokyo was taking her chicken for a day out: http://www.photonicsmedia.net/tokyo-file/229

    Reply
  12. Lucas Post author

    Bec – yes, remember Jono (when he was only 3 years old)? we used to call him “tweezer fingers” – he would be constantly scouring the floor for all manner of horrid items. He liked especially cigarette butts, I recall!

    Jo – that is one crazy chickenwoman. She’s even dressed like a newly hatched chick. She posed for that photo?! What was her thing?

    Sylvea – thanks for your great encouragements! where is hope street? How did you stumble across the goat walk on this blog?

    Reply
  13. Sylvea

    It was in The Sunday Age “M” supplement for April 5th, on the Reviews page under Visual Arts. Not a section I would usually read, but seeing “West Brunswick” in the heading caught my eye – I am passionate about my quirky little suburb! The reviewer, Penny Modra, describes West Brunswick as a “profoundly odd place”! She even used one of your photos, I still have it if you want me to mail it to you.

    Hope Street runs parallel with Union St but a few blocks further north, between Victoria and Albion. It starts at Sydney Rd and runs down to the freeway. It has it’s own bus, The Hope St Bus Line, and all it does all day is drive up and down the street taking people to Sydney Rd, even though the Street is really narrow and only 2km long! There are dedicated bus stops but everybody ignores them and you just flag down the bus or hop off wherever you like, which epitimses the sense of community the street has. It was also featured in the SBS series “Kick” as the street where the main characters lived.

    I definitely think you should make it an annual event!

    Sylvea

    Reply
  14. Lucas Post author

    thanks sylvea
    i would love to see that article, i hadn’t heard that it was featured in the age. how exciting!

    i would love to do the goat walk again, and come down your street. i wish we had spoken before i went on the walk, i would definitely have come! but i guess this is how we find things out!

    bob’s owner, steph, was very happy for him to participate, so i am sure we could do the walk again. i would love to.

    cheers and thanks so much for getting in touch.

    Lucas

    Reply
  15. Sylvea

    Wow – you came all the way down from NSW to walk a goat around the suburb – that is random (to use a Jamie King expression)!

    Reply
  16. Jo Law

    We saw the chicken lady in Kitanomaru, near the palace. It is also where the major national galleries and museums are. Maybe she was going to an exhibition opening or going to meet the emperor.

    We were walking behind her. At first Redmond thought she was carrying a small dog. I had a look and thought it was a chicken. But it seemed so unbelievable that someone would take a chicken out for a day that we didn’t believe it for a while. We eventually caught up with her and Redmond asked whether he could take a photograph. She was happy enough to have her photo taken. (Having 2 chickens now, I am amazed how she could keep the chicken so calm and collected in such a busy place.)

    Reply
  17. Maja

    I love this story lucas!
    Next time you take bob out, i’d love to hear about it as i’d love to bring my boys out to join in the walk (providing we don’t loose them in this battle with the council).
    thanks for the cheer me up!

    Reply
  18. Tanya

    this story brought tears to my eyes & shows what wonderful things can be done to develop a sense of community in a neighbourhood….I hope Bob rises again for another goat walk.

    Reply
  19. Lucas Post author

    thanks Tanya, yes, I suppose the next “triennial” will be in 2012. Bob’s mum did say she’d be delighted for him to walk again, so watch this space!

    Reply
  20. UrbanGreenSpace

    Lucas,
    Legendary stuff! I have been sitting reading and laughing out loud the whole way through.
    What a fantastic perf piece. Remarkable how you made everyone stop, talk and think, and how it made you all more attuned to the environment. All stuff I am thinking for my enterprise AND using a goat as a mascot!
    Well done. Let me know if you need a hand doing it again – perhaps for Sydney Bienale 😉

    Reply
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