Gene Sings Lit­tle Goat Songs To His Friend


Mar­i­lyn Car­nell grew up in the small South­west Mis­souri Ozark town of Pineville. She and her sis­ter Zella knew just about ev­ery­one in the town of seven hun­dred or so peo­ple and many of the res­i­dents were, in some way, re­lated. There were grand­dad and grandma Bunch and all of the Car­nell’s.

The homes, in many ways, re­flected the views and per­son­al­i­ties of those liv­ing there. There were no streets lined with cookie-cut­ter houses. Each house was unique, and so too were the peo­ple liv­ing in them.

Take Cousin Gene for in­stance. Mar­i­lyn’s cousin, Gene Bunch, loved quar­ter horses. He owned 25 or so acres on Big Sugar Creek not far from town and loved to raise and ride the horses he so lov­ingly cared for. How­ever, Gene didn’t earn a liv­ing rais­ing horses. He had an of­fice on the square just across from the court­house in Pineville where he of­fered bail bond and real es­tate ser­vices.

Although Gene was not large in stature, he was known as some­one who was nor­mally im­pec­ca­bly at­tired. He was of­ten seen wav­ing to friends and rel­a­tives as he drove around town in his freshly washed pea-green-colored Cadil­lac. Gene viewed the Cadil­lac not only as a state­ment of his per­son­al­ity but also as a busi­ness ne­ces­sity. After all, in the real es­tate game im­age was im­por­tant.

Some folks pur­posely kept their con­ver­sa­tions with Gene brief. You see, Gene was in the real es­tate sell­ing busi­ness and, at some point in the con­ver­sa­tion, he would men­tion a nicely main­tained house or a beau­ti­ful par­cel of land that was for sale. To put it suc­cinctly, he had the “gift of gab.”

As Mar­i­lyn re­calls, it was in 1978 or maybe 1979 when Cousin Gene ac­quired the goat. You see, Gene thought, for what­ever rea­son, that his horses were lonely and he heard that goats made good com­pan­ions for lonely horses. So, Gene looked for and found a goat for sale. After some ne­go­ti­a­tions, a price was agreed upon and the hairy, grey-colored goat was in­tro­duced to the horses roam­ing in the pas­ture on the Big Sugar Creek ranch.

Days and weeks and months passed and, as Gene went about his daily chores at the ranch, it be­came ap­par­ent that the goat found Gene’s com­pany far more fetch­ing than that of the horses. It seemed that wher­ever Gene hap­pened to go, so too went that goat. Gene, in no fash­ion dis­cour­aged the goat’s at­trac­tion to him and may have even been some­what flat­tered by the goat’s pref­er­ence to be with him more so than the horses.

Gene’s shiny Cadil­lac was in need of ser­vice, so an ap­point­ment was made at the lo­cal garage to have the car looked at. A means of trans­porta­tion was very im­por­tant to Gene and he was as­sured by the re­pair shop’s owner that a “loaner car” would be pro­vided. “It won’t be no Cadil­lac, but it’ll get you where you want to go,” the owner said.

Gene dropped off the Cadil­lac and, as he stood out­side the build­ing await­ing the ar­rival of his car, and through a maze of smoke, he heard the sound of what must have been some sort of en­gine. Then, and through the smoke and dust, a car came to rest just feet from him. It may have been the most of­fen­sive look­ing and sound­ing car he had ever seen. The paint was faded and peel­ing and the en­gine un­doubt­edly burned just about as much oil as gaso­line, cre­at­ing a cloud of smoke that em­anated from what was left of the tailpipe. That may have been the sole sav­ing grace as the cloud of black­ened smoke at times hid the car from view. No mat­ter, Gene knew the in­con­ve­nience would last no longer than a day or so and he kept re­mind­ing him­self of that as he drove away.

The jalopy was parked at the ranch while Gene com­pleted his daily chores and was all the while ac­com­pa­nied by that amorous goat. As the early morn­ing hours passed the crav­ing for a good and hot cup of cof­fee came over the rancher, so he washed up and got be­hind the wheel of that old Chevy.

Glanc­ing into the rearview mir­ror Gene al­most laughed at the sight of the black smoke that seemed to fol­low the car. But there, through that bil­low­ing black cloud, some­thing was mov­ing. As the brakes squealed, Gene brought the car to a stop and there, through all that smoke, he caught sight of the goat run­ning to­ward him.

It was ap­par­ent that the goat wanted to be with him, so Gene reached over the front seat and opened the rear pas­sen­ger’s side door. He re­ally didn’t be­lieve that the goat would get into the rear seat of the car, but that’s ex­actly what that goat did. He, calmly and with pur­pose, ca­su­ally climbed onto the back seat.

“OK, we’ll both go to Shangri-La and get a cup of cof­fee.” Shangri-La was a lo­cal restau­rant near the town of An­der­son. It was a place where peo­ple could find good food, es­pe­cially home­made French fries, at rea­son­able prices and, most of all, it was a place where lo­cal res­i­dents could find good con­ver­sa­tion while they en­joyed a hot cup of cof­fee.

Cousin Gene parked that wreck of a car in front of the café.

“Now, I sup­pose you think you’re go­ing in­side with me. Well, why not?”

Gene ex­ited the old car, opened the rear door and watched as the goat climbed out. As the duo walked through the café’s front door and even be­fore reach­ing a va­cant chair, Gene “mat­ter of factly” said, “cof­fee please.” “Com­ing right up, and what about your friend there” the wait­ress an­swered. “Noth­ing for him thanks.”

Now, peo­ple in this area of the Ozarks had seen just about ev­ery­thing there was to see but a goat rid­ing in a car, then com­ing into a restau­rant, well that was some­thing new.

“Say, Gene, do you know that a dan­ged goat got out of your car and fol­lowed you in­side?”

As the man seated by the café’s win­dow waited for a re­sponse, Gene calmly replied. “Sure do. He likes to go places with me, and I sing lit­tle goat songs to him.”

Well, sir, one might think that there was an abun­dance of ob­vi­ous ques­tions which might be asked but to the in­quis­i­tive man, only one came to mind.

“What in the heck is a lit­tle goat song?”

Gene only smiled as he raised the cup to his lips and took a sip. “Just songs the goat likes to hear, that’s all.”

Much to Gene’s amaze­ment not much more was made of the goat ac­com­pa­ny­ing him into the café.

Gene didn’t stay long at the café and soon he and the back-seat goat left on their way back to the ranch. It was no more than a minute or so that the smok­ing heap of a car caught the at­ten­tion of Mis­souri State Trooper Merle Gra­ham who ra­dioed in his ob­ser­va­tions.

The trooper ad­vised that he was fol­low­ing a car of un­known make and color that was on fire. The ve­hi­cle, at least as far as he could tell, was oc­cu­pied by two men. The trooper stated that he was go­ing to pull the car over and pro­vide as­sis­tance to the two oc­cu­pants.

With flash­ing lights and siren wail­ing, Gra­ham even­tu­ally con­vinced the driver of the car to pull to the side of the road. The trooper hur­riedly threw open his door and through the black smoke ran to the driver’s side door of the car fully ex­pect­ing to pull two semi-con­scious men to safety. How­ever, and to his great sur­prise, there rolling down the car door’s win­dow sat a man known to him, Gene Bunch. Gra­ham glanced to­ward the rear seat and found that the ob­ject he be­lieved to be a man with fa­cial hair was in­deed a hairy goat.

“What for God’s sake are you do­ing driv­ing a car that looks like it’s on fire, and why is there a goat sit­ting on the back­seat of your car?”

“Well,” Gene replied, “my Cadil­lac’s in the shop and, as for the goat, well, he likes to spend time with me and I sing lit­tle goat songs to him.”

Ob­vi­ously an­noyed, the trooper said, “Lis­ten here; you get this piece of junk off the road and get that goat out of this here car.”

With that be­ing said, Trooper Gra­ham walked away from the win­dow. “Yes sir, Merle; right away.” Gene drove to the ranch and, at least as far as any­one knows, that was the last time he and the goat ever rode to­gether. After all, Gene cer­tainly would not have al­lowed the goat to sit on the rear seat of his shiny Cadil­lac. Or would he?

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