Celebrity Goat Runner

When called upon to serve their fellow man, serious humorists never hesitate. Bob Hope performed shows for military overseas. Dave Barry rode with The World Famous Lawn Rangers precision lawnmower drill team in an inaugural parade. So, when my friend asked me to risk life and limb as the Celebrity Goat Runner at a 4-H Fair, I, too, answered the call.

I made one small stipulation. A former friend once conned me into throwing the first cow chip in a Sunday school competition. I since have sworn off all related activities, unless they involve changing my grandchildren’s diapers.

Still, I worried when my friend mentioned the word “maze.” I get lost in my driveway. So, I begged her to pair me with a goat with a good sense of direction. Or a GPS hung around its neck.

She promised I would not navigate a maze. Instead, the goat and I would run an obstacle course.

This was supposed to reassure me?

Visions of scaling rock walls with a goat tied to my back haunted me. I thought of Goat Gladiators. Would the goat scale the Ferris wheel with me tied to his back?

I told myself to get real. The last time I checked, goats weren’t allowed on Ferris wheels. Besides, most people don’t go to the fair to watch a goat obstacle course run. Sparse crowds attending the dishcloth-folding demonstrations encouraged me.

Sure enough, only a few hundred came. So what, if my name as Celebrity Pygmy Goat Runner echoed for miles over the fair’s loudspeaker?

But the course didn’t look bad. Helpful hints from my fellow goat handlers gave me hope.

“Lift the leash,” one little girl advised. Then, “If he still won’t go, lift his tail.”

Hmmm. I’d worn white Capris. …

I was introduced to Toby, a black-haired, wise-looking pygmy goat who bore a distinct resemblance to a former teacher. Thankfully, Toby, like Mr. P., was hornless. Unlike Mr. P., he did not keep the peace, but clashed with two young whippersnappers in the group. But Toby had made no attempt to knock me onto my butt. So far.

Of course, I went first.

“4-H-ers,” said the announcer, “please watch our Celebrity Runner carefully so you’ll know exactly what to do.”

Not good. Especially when Toby decided God did not make him a hurdler. I demonstrated. My athletic ability didn’t impress him. I politely requested he move. One step, please?

He not so politely declared he wouldn’t.

Finally, I lost it and said his nanny wore combat boots. He said, actually, his mother ate combat boots. Toby devoured my shoelaces to emphasize the point.

Finally, I yanked him along. He dug his hooves into the ground and skied halfway through the course like a motorboat-powered beauty.

Toby was not required to make a basket using a NERF ball and a toy shovel. Why me? Perhaps my lack of basketball prowess won me a smidgen of his sympathy. For the rest of the course, he refrained from balking, butting and making derogatory comments about my mother. Or maybe Toby decided cooperation with this loser was the quickest way to end the agony. Together, we wove in and out of the orange cones with style — finishing 23rd out of 23.

Afterward, a different friend (where do I get these friends?) told me he’d never met a celebrity goat. Did I get his autograph? What was it like?

He was getting all excited about nothing. I told him, “When you get to know them, they’re just regular people.”

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever met a celebrity goat, up close and personal?

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