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’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:
He also seemed to enjoy olives, and delicately manipulated the flesh before spitting out the pip:
The following two photos are perhaps the most typical of Bob’s bread-and-butter culinary delights: fleshy leaves from overhanging trees:
A human eye would perhaps have missed these fallen fruits and a stray rotting apple core which attracted Bob’s hungry attention:
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:
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):
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:
[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.]
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:
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.
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:
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…
…and, finally, took a well-earned rest:
Here is a map of our walk (click to see it bigger).
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…
… 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…