Howdy Hornswogglers, welcome to the fifty-forth headbutt of HACK. If you’ve made it this far, don’t Pan my puns until you’ve read this one…
This week’s story is for the children. And like all good children’s stories, it has a deeper meaning. Namely, the philosophy of freedom. So cuddle up and read this fable to your kids. Don’t forget to check for comprehension! I’ve included some standards-based questions below. Also, I’m looking for an illustrator. Job requirements: Must enjoy drawing goats. If you can also draw cats then I’ll keep you around for the next book…
Kentucky Hill: Book 1
Nary A Goat Shall Be Free
No one paid much attention to the goats. Their pen was on the other side of the barn and could not be seen from the house. Each morning Old Lady Alma gave them fresh hay and water, said a few kind words and left. She never noticed the dent in the black wooden fence, or the fact that is was slowly getting bigger each day.
Names are not something that goats usually give themselves. Alma called the big black one Barney and the brown one Obi-Jo. Realizing that they would be forced to spend their remaining days together inside this pen, they eventually started calling each other their given names.
“Now look here Barney,” said Obi-Jo in a trembling voice, “I don’t think this is a good idea. There are more constructive ways to deal with your anger.”
Never before had Obi-Jo seen his companion so worked up. Barney just ignored Obi-Jo’s pleas. He kicked his hooves into the dust, tilted his horns forward, and charged straight at the fence. He’d been doing it every single day for the last three weeks.
“No more, please!” shouted Obi-Jo.
Not giving a notice to the plea, Barney inspected the dent. The wood was split and thin. Only a few more hits, he thought as he trotted slowly back to where Obi-Jo was standing. He saw the goat’s concerned eyes, the willingness to help. It disgusted him.
No matter how many times Barney tried to explain the concept of freedom to Obi-Jo, the dumb brown goat just didn’t get it. Obi-Jo would always say such ridiculous things like, “But we always have fresh hay!” and “We’re safe here!” The poor creature just didn’t understand that they were prisoners, that there was a whole world out there, a world that it was his Pan-given right to freely explore.
Noticing that Barney was taking a long time to walk back from the fence, Obi-Jo’s mind began to wander. What could he say to convince his friend to give up this futile pursuit of breaking out? Barney spoke constantly of traveling to other farms and meeting new animals, of finding his hornmate and raising some kids of his own. Why couldn’t he just be happy with everything as it was? They had a human who took care of them. They always had food. They had their own space and plenty of time to daydream. What was so bad about that? Then Obi-Jo started thinking of the thing that scared him most to think about. What if his friend succeeded in breaking the fence? What would he do then? Barney’s gruff voice startled him out of reverie.
“Next time I hit that fence, be ready. This is going to be the one that finally busts us out.”
Nearly in a state of panic, Obi-Jo did not reply. His rectangular eyes met Barney’s wild gaze and he simply nodded. Once again Barney kicked and ran. With a loud CRACK the fence split, leaving a sizable gap. Barney was on the other side, shaking his head.
“Now let’s go!” he shouted.
None of Obi-Jo’s hooves budged. He clearly feared the other side and did not want to leave his home. However, he did not think that he could be happy anywhere without his friend. So he took one trembling step at a time and followed his friend. Barney gave him an encouraging tap of the horns.
“North of here there is another farm,” said Barney, “I heard the old lady mention it a few times. We’ll go there first and see what we find.”
“North?” asked Obi-Jo. “What does that mean?”
“North is a direction, dimwit. Don’t you pay attention when the humans talk?”
“No, I just like looking at them. Did you know that their eyes are round?”
“North, South, East and West are the four carnal directions,” Barney explained, “We just have to figure out which way is North.”
“No way we’re going to know that Barney! That’s human stuff. Shouldn’t we just sniff around for something familiar?”
“Now why didn’t I think of that?” Barney grinned, “OK kid, let’s explore!”
Next to the barn was another giant structure. Barney explained that it’s called a “house,” and that they should avoid going there. So instead they sniffed their way forward, stopping to nibble on the grass. Obi-Jo noticed that so far nothing was new. Even though things looked a little different from outside the pen, the grass still tasted the same and there were no other animals in sight.
Nevertheless, something eventually changed. The huge field of grass ended and the two goats stood next to a new type of ground they did not recognize. It was smoother and when Obi-Jo tapped it with his foot it was hard like the floor of the barn they slept in. Barney wanted to go forward. He argued that the grass was greener on the other side, so they could continue looking for North and the other barn. Obi-Jo said that Barney was only playing with words and guessing about what he didn’t know for sure. This outraged Barney, who called Obi-Jo “just one of the sheep.” Obi-Jo, though usually slow to anger, took great offense at the remark. He told Barney that no matter what they found on the other side that Barney would never be happy, that he couldn’t even be content in his own pen. Barney yelled back that the reason Obi-Jo thinks the pen is so great is because he’s too afraid to believe anything else. He said that living in the pen would make them die younger with no good reason or purpose. On and on they went, arguing back and forth.
Neither of them noticed how dark it became. Barney had said many hurtful things that he would not take back. Obi-Jo had said many spiteful things that he could not take back. Barney was secretly frightened about crossing to the other side alone. He didn’t want to admit it because doing so would’ve make him look weak. Obi-Jo didn’t want to look weak by giving in to Barney and following him.
Nevertheless, they turned their backs on each other. Finally, in frustration Obi-Jo stated that he was going back to the barn. Barney said that was the smartest thing he’d ever heard him say and turned to look at the new ground. It was gone. Not gone, but it was too dark to see. Barney looked back toward the barn. It too was lost in the darkness. But he kept walking.
Not more than a few seconds passed when Barney saw a bright light and Obi-Jo heard a frightening sound. He knew instinctively that his friend was in trouble, but he could not reach him. Finally he decided that Barney’s life was more important, even if meant that he would have to meet the same fate as his friend. He plunged back into the darkness. Suddenly he felt a sharp sting on his butt, like the bite of a horsefly, and blackness closed in around him.
Nothing seemed any different when Obi-Jo opened his rectangular eyes. There was Barney, excitedly talking and kicking his hind legs as usual. He was inside the barn and there was fresh hay everywhere.
“New! It was all so new!” exclaimed Barney, “I saw this white light, and then these strange beings lifted me off the ground, took me far away where they fixed me. The last thing I remember is seeing the old lady. Then I woke up here!”
“None of that makes any sense, but I’m still glad to see you Barney.”
Next Obi-Jo made Barney tell him the story over again, this time going slow and adding details. Both agreed it was some kind of miracle blessing from the god Pan. Barney seemed so shaken by the experience that he didn’t even notice the repaired fence. Obi-Jo suggested that they lock horns more often. His reasoning was that if they let out their aggression playfully, they could avoid another fight like the one that almost got them killed. Barney was impressed with the new game. It sounded pretty simple. They would lock horns and try different moves until one was able to pin the other to the ground. However, when Obi-Jo suggested that they choose different names and pretend to be other animals, Barney just looked at him and said,
“Naaa-aaa-aa-ah son, that’s out.”
1) Define the word nary. (Vocabulary)
2) What is odd about the beginning of every paragraph? (Drawing Conclusions)
3) What sport do the goats play at the end of the story? What sport does Barney object to playing? (Making Inferences)
4) What shape are goat’s pupils? (Literal Comprehension)
5) Who is Pan? (Literal Comprehension) Why is he important to Barney and Obi-Jo? Use examples from the story to support your answer. (Making Inferences, Drawing Conclusions)
6) What mistake does Barney make when he tells Obi-Jo about the four carnal directions? (Vocabulary)
7) In the last line of the story, “Naaa-aaa-aa-ah” is an example of… (Parts of Speech)
A) onomatopoeia B) a pun C) both A and B D) neither A nor B
8) How many puns can you count in this story? (Parts of Speech)
9) What do you think happened to Barney after Obi-Jo left him? How did the goats make it back into the barn? (Making Inferences, Summarizing)
10) Explain the meaning of the idiom “The grass is greener on the other side” and how it relates to the story. (Interpretation)
11) Which goat do you think had the stronger argument, Barney or Obi-Joe? Explain your reasoning with details and examples from the story. (Reflection)
‘Nary A Goat Shall Be Free’ originally published in Heroes and Hierophants, © 2010 iUniverse Press.
Towel Boy is not as horny as Goatboy.