Beware of Goat (And So Much More)

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Would that Van-Goat-the-Statuary were all any of us needed to beware of at this moment.

One of my bffs down South once told me a story that will stay with me forever. It happened way back in the day when she was still in college in her twenties, and working part-time at a clever little retail store down in Mississippi. I’ve forgotten some of the details, but suffice it to say, she reported to work one afternoon all in a dither about some injustice she had suffered that day at school, and while she opined, the charming and very Southern store owner listened attentively. When my friend finished, the store owner merely quipped, “Well, they obviously haven’t had the advantages.”

In the more than two decades of our friendship when I was still living in Knoxville, that expression came up all the time in conversation when we were trying to rationalize away the behavior of some vexing so-and-so: They must not have had the advantages. It always made us giggle; we still do, only it’s on FaceTime now and not in person.

How anybody’s advantages look is up to you to imagine, and I suspect they must look all kinds of different to different folks. Here is a truth, though: The Chef and I live in a lovely little Vermont hamlet of people, many of whom most decidedly haven’t had the advantages. Some seem unfazed by whatever their condition, navigating through life in apparent contentment; but I suspect life is rawther more challenging for others. I’ve often thought I would make a good life coach—helping people who have not had the advantages understand why the local convenience store is a less-than-optimal primary destination for grocery shopping, or why a steady diet of beer and cigarettes is…wanting, or why you should expect to be judged poorly when you wear your pajamas out in public. Those kinds of things.

Before you get your dander up and decide to holler at me for not understanding the complexities of people, and being too judge-y myself, hold your horses. I’ve long been a student of anthropology, even hold a degree in it; I spent hours upon hours as an undergraduate ’pologying, you know, anthros. In that world, being judge-y is sometimes called ethnocentricity. I know there are all kinds of reasons that lead to poor decision making. And one person’s beer and cigarettes is another’s, what? Pasta primavera? Anyway, that’s the kind of unbiased approach you’re encouraged to take when you study anthropology.

A few days ago, though, I had a close encounter with a person who most definitely hasn’t had the advantages. It was early morning (really early) and Scout-the-Goldapeake-Retriever and I were taking a quick trot through town. I saw a fellow on the other side of the street carefully pulling on his shirt while he continued walking so as not to set himself ablaze with his lit cigarette. He wore cargoes and flip-flops on the lower half of his person and was moving along more or less in parallel with us (we are pretty slow). He shouted ‘Good morning!’ from across the street. I gave him a peremptory ‘Mornin’ right back, and hoped that would be the end of it. (Funny how few people seem to understand you’re not in a position to chat when you’re running, but that doesn’t seem to dissuade many in these parts.)

Anyway, it was not the end of it, and here is how the rest of it went:

Guy: Beautiful dog.

Me: <mumbling> Thanks. <picking up pace, wanting this to be over now>

Guy: Beautiful day, beautiful people, beautiful life.

Me: <please let this be over>

Guy: Tell you something, though. I won’t get that COVID vaccine, no sir.

Me: <running faster now>

Guy: They haven’t tested that thing on animals, not rats or mice, not nothin’—they went straight to f*ckin’ people, pardon my language.

Me: -_______-

Guy: I have two beautiful daughters. No f*ckin’ way am I lettin’ em have that vaccine.

Me: <speechless>

Guy: Have a nice day!

Me: <relieved, still mumbling> You, too.

Guy: Thank you.

I don’t know if the guy was mental, or just misinformed. I don’t think I could life-coach a person who views the world through his lens, though; might be able to help him with word choice. I imagine my great-grandmother Grace would square her shoulders and opine to him fearlessly, you don’t have the sense God gave a Billy goat. So to speak.

has more sense than a Billy goat

Actually, she would not have said that in so many words, but might have leaned on another favorite expression involving brains and toilet paper, which is a tad vulgar for me to share right here; she would make herself understood.

I believe one Charles Dickens would completely understand my friend’s references to the so-called advantages.

This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.

— from A Christmas Carol

As I was saying, we have so much more to beware of right now than mere Goat.

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