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"The Bloated Goat"

Most of you folks have heard me say that I was
headed for The Goat. Maybe itís time I
explained just what that means.

In the early days it was known as the "station"
to folks around here.  It began as a gas station
and progressed into a 1950's version of a
Mini-Mart. It was started by a young man just
fresh back from battles in the Pacific in WWII
and his brand new wife Sadie. That Sadie was one
good looking woman and had a head of hair as red
as a Wyoming sunset.

Back then, what with roads and cars being what
they were, this gas station and the outhouses next
to it looked real inviting to weary travelers.

Sadie and her husband did one other thing, and it
was the smartest thing they ever did.

They got a liquor license.

In Wyoming there is a limit on the number of liquor
licenses a county can have. I guess it is determined
by population of the county or something. What cost
them the price of a license back then is worth a
fortune now, as it takes durn near an act of
congress to get one today.

Now the owners of those big motels and fancy
restaurants will dang near kill for any license
that comes available. If you ainít got a liquor
license soís you can serve drinks in
one of those places, you ainít got squat!

Sadie and her husband didnít do much with the
license but serve beer. They werenít the bar
tender kind of folks; but they hung onto that
license, just in case things changed. Well
things did change and that is for sure.

About this time Sadieís husband dropped dead and
left her with that gas station and not much else.

Well there is one thing that Sadie ainít and that
is a quitter! She just kept on running that
place and made it into a going concern.  It was
40 miles to town in any direction so she started
stocking up on a few groceries and essentials.

She made a deal with some of the wives from the
neighboring ranches to sell their butter and eggs.
She picked up a little extra cash from that.

For a while there was a whole crop of kids in the
50's and early 60's in the area, as a result
of all those soldiers coming home.

This was about the time I was in high school.  In
this part of the country things are so spread out
that there were small feeder busses that gathered
the kids from the surrounding ranches and brought
them to the station. There they changed to a 40
passenger bus and went on to school.

In good weather my "feeder" bus was a station
wagon belonging to one of the ranchers even further
from the highway than me. When the weather got
tough, he switched the car for a war surplus Jeep
with a metal top. It wouldnít hold all of us at one
time, so he would drop a few of us off at the
station and then go get the rest. When everyone was
there, we would ride the big bus 30 miles to school.

After school the big bus would drop us off and we
would sit at the station until it was our turn on
the feeder bus.  We would each buy a bottle of Coke
and a bag of Planters peanuts and dump the peanuts
in the Coke.

Any of you ever do that?

Have you tried it recently?

I donít know what I saw in that practice
for the life of me!

Well all those "war babies" grew up, but they didnít
stay in these parts, so today there are very few
kids around. Cars and roads have improved and you
can get to town and to a grocery store and back in
a couple of hours instead of a whole day. The need
for a convenience store in the area just faded away.

Then the EPA came along and told Sadie that she
would have to spend $5000.00 to test to
see if her underground gas tanks were leaking.

She said to hell with that.. She wasnít selling a
$100.00 of gas a month anymore and she
just had the pumps and tanks taken out.

Well sir.. Sadie was just about out of business,
but she still had that liquor license, and she
wasnít whupped yet.

She renovated the place and put a small bar in
the front of the building where the store and
station had been and enlarged her living
quarters in the rear of the building.

There is a counter with 4 stools and a couple
of tables and a pool table. There is a juke box
in the corner and that is about it.

The juke box has songs on it like The Wayward
Wind by Gogi Grant and Your Cheatiní Heart by
Hank Williams. There is an "Out of Order" sign
on it, but all it needs is to be plugged in.

Her customers grew up before people had to have
a guitar twanging, and a drum thumping
in their ear to be able to think.

The place is old and run down, and dark and
quiet. Sadie always greets everyone with
"Come on in and set a spell!"

When you walk in you feel like you just took
your boots off and put on your favorite sweater.

Iím not sure if Sadie has ever served a mixed
drink or cocktail in all the years she has been
there. If she has, she had to look in a book to
find out how to make it.

It was about this time that a feller that used to
come out to these parts during hunting season took
a shine to Sadie or at least that is what he said.

He started bringing her flowers and candy an all
that stuff, and telling her she should turn
the bar into a sportsmanís club.

He had all kinds of fancy ideas, and he would show
her how to do it. It would be a discreet place
where his friends could bring their girlfriends
and her business would increase tremendously.

Turns out he fancied himself quite a taxidermist
among other things, and one day he showed up with
a full mounted buck antelope standing by a bunch
of cactus. He told Sadie it was the start of
THEIR sportsmanís bar.

Well, I think Sadie saw through that dude
from the very git go!
She took one look at that antelope and said
"Jeezus, that looks just like a bloated goat!"

That let the air out that feller in a hurry.
He took off outta there like a scalded cat,
and never came back.

Sadie lugged that antelope over and put it right
in the front window where everybody that drove
by could see it. Then she hand painted a sign
with a likeness of that antelope on it
and lettered in "THE BLOATED GOAT SALOON".

She got some of the fellers to take down the old
Texaco sign off the pole out front. They put up
that sign she had painted...
and she was back in business.

Now I wouldnít say that there was a rush of
people cramming into the place. In fact, I
donít reckon there are more than 10 days in
a year when there is more than 5 people in
The Goat at a time.

Oh, a few stop in for a beer on their way
home during hunting season, and maybe a
few of the custom combiners stop in for a
beer after supper during harvest time,
but they donít stay long. Mostly it is
just a few old timers from the surrounding
ranches that come in for a snort and some
company for a while after supper.

I guess you could say I am one of those
regulars, although they refer to me as
the "kid".  Hell, Iím pushing up pretty
hard against 60 years old ...
and Iím still the "kid"!!!

Now like I said before, Sadie was a damn
fine looking redhead, but she is like the
rest of us that hang out at The Goat. We
have a lot of hard miles on us and we
might be settling just a mite.

She is kinda like a mother hen to them
fellers that come into The Goat. She
clucks and worries and nurses them along
like they was her own.

One thing about it, those fellers are a
different breed of cat. If anyone was to
say something against Sadie or hurt her,
they would kill him and bury him in a real
deep post hole in a heart beat.

Every year for as long as I can remember,
Sadie has fixed Thanksgiving and Christmas
dinner for her boys. It is about the only
time that you will see those fellers all
cleaned up, slicked back...
 and shiny all at one time.

I canít begin to tell you how blessed I
felt the first time Sadie asked me if I
wanted to come to dinner. I about swallered
my heart that day I can tell you for sure.
That is the closest thing to family them
fellers and me have and it is a time that
we all look forward to.

One thing Sadie loves is a picnic. I can
tell you that going out, sitting in the
grass and the sun and eating another lunch
is not much of a thrill to a cowboy, but
on the 4th of July those ol boys show up
at The Goat, load Sadie and a lunch into
the truck and head for the crick.

If Sadie likes a picnic, then By Gawd,
Sadie is gonna get a picnic!!!

The one thing that Sadie knows is that
the day she wants to quit all this business,
all she has to do is put that liquor license
up for sale. In a matter of days, she will
have all the money she ever needs
for the rest of her life.

I sure hope that donít happen too soon, as
it will leave an awful hole in a lot of
lives around here.

Now Ol Iggy is a regular at The Goat. He is
one of the last of the real old time cowboys
left in this part of the country and he has
been around these parts as long as most of
the rocks.

He is a couple of inches over 6 foot without
his hat and must weigh about 230 pounds. He
has a long grey beard and he wears his hair
down over his ears and collar. He says he
wears them that way to improve his overall
sex appeal!!! He hasnít decided if the slight
paunch he is developing is from too much beer,
or if he is just settling a little bit.

Iggy has done a little bit of a lot of things.
He rode with and knew a lot of the old timers
that first settled in this part of the country.
He rode with the good ones and probably some
of the bad ones too.

Sadie says he was a lawman for a while, but
Iggy donít talk much about that.

Fabian, (Iíll tell you more about him
in a minute) says that Iggy still has
the pistol he carried for many years
in his bed roll and he still practices
with it, and cleans it every month.

Fabian says Iggy is one of the last of the
old pistoleros and you wouldnít want to
mess with him even today. He told me there
are 3 notches on the back strap of that old
Colt of Iggyís, but it wouldnít do to ask
about a thing like that..

I guess Iggy has known Sadie the longest
of all the fellers that come into The Goat
and he calls her Twink.

I asked her about that one time, and she just
grinned and said, " Just never you mind!"
and poured me another drink.

I mentioned Fabian a minute ago. His full
name is Fabian Baca. He come up to this
country from Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
as a kid and never left.

He works on the JR with Iggy and
they go back a mighty lot of years.

Iggy will tell you that Fabian is the best
he ever saw with a rope. Back in the old days
the hands always had a string of horses in the
remuda, and all of them could wrangle and rope
their own rides for the day, but they would
rather tell Fabian which horse they wanted and
then watch the master at work.

Now wrangling cow horses is kind of a game.
It is more of ceremony between horses and
men than anything else.

In the cool of the morning those horses are
feeling a might froggy and cutting up and
kicking and running like they are plumb wild.

When Fabian would pick out the horse he wanted
and flip a loop out, there ainít any way
that horse wasnít gonna get caught.

As soon as that pony felt that loop go around
his neck, he would stop and never even take
the slack out of the rope.

When he had been a colt and the first couple of
times he was roped he might have raised ol
Billy Hell, but then he learned what was what,
and that the fun part of being a horse started
when his rider threw a saddle on him ...
and they went to work.

The horse would walk up to Fabian and stand
there calmly. Fabian would take the loop off
and the cowhand would put a bridle on the pony
and they would start their day.  Fabian would
shake out another loop and do it over again and
the hands would watch an artist at work.

Fabian and Iggy are both in the same boat.
There ainít as much horse work as there use to
be on ranches today. It has all become mechanized
and technical, and those two just ainít
much into that kind of crap.

They are getting long in the tooth and pretty
stove up, but there ainít another man in Wyoming
that thinks "cow" like those two and that is why
the boss keeps them on.

They know what a critter is gonna do before it
does, and they can read if a critter is sick
and have a cure for it better than most of them
high priced vets from town.

Another of the regulars at The Goat is Jim
Darnell. He grew up in Thibadeaux, Mississippi.
He is a little guy with a mischievous grin.
Between his southern drawl and his dry sense of
humor, you may not figger what he said ...
until a couple of days later.

You can be out in the pasture and doing something,
and suddenly it will dawn on you what Jim meant.
I know somebody is gonna decide Iím crazy one of
these days. Theyíll come up on me, and find me
standing alone out there on the prairie...
just dying laughing.

They wonít understand what is going on. They are
liable to put me in one of those white wrap-around
jackets and haul me off to a rubber room in the
Hoo Hoo Hotel for the rest of my days.

Jim went to college and became a teacher, but after
a couple of years, his feet started itching and he
went to work on an oil rig and spent the next 30
years doing that all over the world.

He works over at the Pitchfork. He never was a
cowhand, but there isnít anything he canít make or
fix if itís broke. A feller like him is worth a
fortune when its 40 miles to the nearest partís house.

We lost a good ol buddy not too long ago. His name
was John. He came up to these parts from Texas. He
had been a welder most of his life, but the fumes
and gasses from that welding got to his lungs and
he had to quit. He had him a little cow outfit...
over east a ways.

He drifted in here one day and just kind fit in
without much fuss. He was a big ol boy with a
heart and belly laugh as big as the outdoors,
and you just couldnít dislike that feller even
if you tried.

Every time he walked into The Goat he would
holler out to Sadie, "Hello Darliní!"

She would say "Shush, you fool, what are people
gonna think?" and grin like a mule eating cactus.

He was sick from the first day he came into The
Goat, but he never let it get him down. He always
was up to some devilment of some kind and he
brought a lot of sunshine into the place.

Well he got sick enough that he had to check into
the VA hospital and he never came out.

We had kind of a party for him after he crossed
the divide.  We all went outside and watched the
sun set over the mountains and drank one more round
in his honor. Adios Amigo.
Weíll ride the trails together again one day!

All of us at The Goat have lost friends over the
years, and we just kinda know that is the way of
things. I reckon we will all get back together
someday in another bar on down the line. Just
recently there has been a new feller coming into
The Goat. His name is Hank.
Sadie calls him "Hankie".

He says he is from up north somewhere. He is
retired and just roaming around looking at some
country that he ainít never seen before. Seems
like he's gonna fit in pretty good with the rest
of the fellers. He will even buy a round once
in a while and is durned easy to beat in poker.

Well, I guess you can see that The Goat ainít
really very exciting or fancy. It is just a
place where an old hand like me can go ...
to chat with good friends.

It just donít get any better than that.

See ya down the trail!!

© 2003 Chip Harding

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