Son of a Motherless Goat


**After discovering yesterday a new phrase for frustrating moments–“Oh, mother of pearl!”–a dear friend of mine told me about another phrase that is equally amusing:  “Son of a motherless goat!”  She wondered what might possibly be the origin for such a phrase, and I wondered, too.  Wondered so much that the wondering developed into a story.  🙂  Here you have it!**
Once upon a time, in a village nestled against lush moutains in a distant land, there lived a family of goats. Not just any family of goats, mind you. This particular family was known for miles around for their exceptional four-part harmony yodeling. But they did not start out famous — they had very normal roots, much like any other family of goats. The farmer who owned them–Farmer Todd– originally kept them for their milk (the two does) and as companions to the does (the two bucks).

Then one day as he was finishing his work, Farmer Todd heard the family yodeling together in the meadow. The sound was so sweet and beautiful, it brought tears to eyes of the weathered man. Soon he was listening to their haunting song every evening as the sun slipped below the horizon, its last rays glancing off the horns of the beasts. News of the goats’ special talent spread, and soon villagers from near and far would converge on Farmer Todd’s meadow for the nightly concert.

It was during these concerts–the goats seemingly unaware of the villagers’ presence–that the people began to take notice of the goats lustrous hair. The light slipping from the sky each evening cast a most unusual and thereby tantalizing sheen on the long, smooth hair. The locks of the does especially glistened in the twilight, their narrow and smooth flanks catching the glow of the departing light like shimmering diamonds.

The fashionable wife of a tanner and fur dealer was particularly mesmerized by the goats’ hair. Each night she attended the concerts to stare at their glittering pelts, and each night she returned to her home with greed burrowing deeper into her heart.

One night after gazing upon the goats with longing, she could take it no longer. She decided she must have a coat of the does’ pelts. She hurried home, devising a scheme to convince her husband to make one for her. She knew Farmer Todd would never sell her the goats–he clearly valued them above all of his livestock–so she must procure the pelts another way…

By the time she arrived home, her scheme was in place. “Husband,” she said to a large man smoking in a rocking chair. “Farmer Todd tells me his does have taken sick. He does not think they will last through the winter. He thought perhaps you might like their pelts? He will charge you nothing. He says the illness has likely affected the quality of their hair and you won’t be able to fetch much for them.” She bent to remove her boots but watched her husband’s reaction out of the corner of her eye.

The tanner took his pipe from his mouth and placed his big hands on his knees. His mouth pursed in thought. “Those are his prize does? For Farmer to charge nothing must mean those pelts will be pretty diseased. Can’t see much use for them.”

The wife relaxed and smiled to herself — just the reaction she was hoping for from her husband. She fiddled with the fringe of her scarf. “I am sure you are right. I suppose that means you won’t be able to make a cent off of them.” She pulled her scarf tightly around her shoulders. “Brr, this winter looks to be a bitter one. My flower bed has been frosted over this past week. I feel it in my bones these nights, too, don’t you?” She shivered for effect.

A light dawned in the tanner’s eyes. “Say, I could make you a coat out of those pelts! It won’t cost us a thing and you will keep warm all winter.”

The wife did not have to feign her delight. “Oh, what a wonderful idea!” She threw her arms around the man, practically quivering with victory. “You can pick up the does at noon tomorrow while Farmer is eating his meal. He does not want to be present…he was very close to them.”

So the next day the tanner picked up the two does and they met their untimely demise that night. At last the wife had her coat and she wore it all that winter with pride. Because of the coat’s unusual color-changing nature–and her admonition to her husband never to speak to Farmer Todd about the sensitive subject–no one was ever the wiser to the origin of the coat. As far as the villagers were concerned, the does had simply vanished.

It was a very sad day for the goat family, now reduced to two bucks. They yodeled all that night until they were hoarse, their song aching and mournful. They mourned the loss of their harmony, and they mourned the loss of their order. In goat culture, the females are the dominants, bringing order and discipline to a herd. With their does gone, the bucks felt lost and they became wild, untameable beasts.

Farmer Todd could do nothing with them, especially the son. He would often wander away, wreaking havoc on a neighbor’s flower bed or butting heads with the other livestock. Eventually Farmer bought more does, hoping that their presence would soothe the young buck. But it was not the same. The does did not yodel. They were much more interested in munching wild flowers and grooming themselves.

After awhile, the young goat’s grief abated a little, and he met a young doe he rather liked. In time they had a son–Billy–but from birth he possessed the same restless nature as his father. His mother, too, did not spend much time with him, preferring instead to socialize with the other does. Billy grew up unsupervised and reckless, a menace to the entire village.

A very rainy and muddy day, Billy was especially naughty, cranky that he had been excluded by a herd of young bucks from play fighting. To make matters worse, the rain was dripping in his eyes and he could scarcely see where he was going, making his favorite game–ledge-hopping–impossible.

Grouchy and all but blind, he plowed down a dirt road weaving through the village. He was so pre-occupied with his anger and discomfort that he did not see the advancing farmer, colliding head-on with both the shouting man and his cart of produce. Fruit and timber flew through the air, the farmer following suit in a clumsy somersault. Billy shook his head as if to clear it, a gored apple slinging juice from his horn.

The farmer righted himself and turned his livid, flushed face towards Billy. “Son of a motherless goat!” he shouted, pummeling the air with his fists. “Son. Of. A. Motherless. Goat!” He spat again. Billy, startled and deeply offended at the reminder of his father’s loss, galloped away at full speed, leaving the farmer to scream insults into the rain.

News of Billy’s latest bad behavior spread, and the phrase “son of a motherless goat” became popular for use in any and all frustrating siuations. Billy, sadly, did not reform his ways, but instead became an example for young does and bucks everywhere of how NOT to behave. And to this day, the goat community strives to build a reputation of being well-behaved and pleasant creatures. No one–not even goats–like to be the butt of an angry oath.

The End.

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2 thoughts on “Son of a Motherless Goat

  1. (My other comments are on fb.)

    ps– I remembered another phrase that a different friend from college used to say (usually exclamatory rather than during frustration): “oh, my lanta!” It was hysterically funny each and every time.

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