18 Oct 2005
How familiar are you with the smell of goat? I mean, have you ever smelled a wild goat?
When I was in my early twenties, I went away for Easter to the great goat race in Lightning Ridge. My grandparents were living on an opal mine in Lightning Ridge at the time seeking fortune in the elusive black opal. (Did they find it? Of course not but it didn't stop them trying - living on the pension - for about 15 years - but I digress as usual).
Now what they do at Lightning Ridge at Easter has to be seen to be believed. They close off the main road, they put a microphone, a case of beer in an esky and a blackboard on the back of a ute. A rough young local with a three day growth stands on the back of the ute in a pair of faded jeans, a blue bonds singlet and an akubra with a beer in one hand and a microphone in the other.
A caravan of travelling goat racers has come to town, with their sulkies and their goats parked in little trails all through the side streets (like all three side streets). Apparently there is a goat racing circuit in the outback, and these people travel from meet to meet a bit like a circus. Actually it is quite a circus really.
So, they have a blackboard written up for each race. And what they do instead of having a tab or a track bookmaker is the guy with the beer and the mike auctions off each goat in the race. Bidding starts slowly at 11:00am, but by 1:00pm the beer has loosened everyone up, and groups of louts from the city, bemused Japanese tourists, local lawn bowlers and other flotsam and jetsam from all walks of life bid in a lively fashion on every single goat. Our family group (we have come from far and wide and there are about 10 of us) bid about $500 on a goat in the third. I can't remember how they divvy up the winnings - some goes to charity, some to the owner and some to the jockey and some to the winner? I guess it's a bit like that.
Anyhow, the goats are harnessed up to little sulkies (I kid you not) and little tiny skinny boys dressed in parrotlike flashes of irridescent satin sit in the sulkies and race these goats down the main road. Naturally enough the goats have neither skill nor understanding of what is going on, they weave precariously toward the gutters and even jump onto the pathways on occasions. I did not see a goat run in a straight line all day.
Anyway, during these proceedings my dad and I went for a little walk to check out the form of the goats in the side streets. Dad says "come here, I want to show you something. Can you smell that?" And there it was, wafting like an evil acrid vile potion from a cauldron - the smell of racing goat. If you don't know what I'm talking about then consider yourself lucky.
Not only that, goats are supremely stupid. They can be standing on a car eating from an overhead tree and they don't even know what they're standing on. And those evil yellow eyes. Goats really freak me out actually.
They say the smell of silk is the smell of money. If that's true then the smell of goat must be the smell of stupidity.
Since that day, my nose has been the most sensitive goat detector on this planet.
A few years later my sister and I were riding little hired motorbikes around the perimiter of a Greek Island called Paros (what a life I've led - if you knew me now you would never have thunk it). We stopped atop a high hill to admire the azure Meditteranean, the impossibly blue sky, the olive groves and the whitewashed churches with the cobalt roofs. Suddenly, like a lightning bolt I smelled it! "There's a goat around here somewhere" I said. We looked. No goat. We got back on our little bikes and around the corner, about 500m away was a single stinky goat. My sister motions to me with a pointed finger over her head. "Your are sure some goatometer" she joked later.
I distinctly remember my first experience with goat cheese. I ordered a goat cheese salad in a brasserie and as soon as I took one mouthful, the taste reminded me of the smell of goat so much I had to wash it down with too much chardonnay. It's not that I really don't like goat cheese, it's just it tastes like the smell of goat. And what is the idea of rolling it in vine ash (but I digress yet again).
Other people have openly admitted to having no idea what I'm talking about. I say to them "get thee too the great goat races at Lightning Ridge".
Which brings me to one of my favourite things, mohair. I love me some mohair. But you know, mohair comes from a goat. You're not going to believe this: As I was blocking the Daisy Meadow Scarf from fiddlesticks knitting which I knitted from the Kaalund Expressions in Finch colourway - the smell of goat was almost overpowering. I made my husband come into the room. "This mohair smells like wild goat!" I tell him. He backs away. It is the most distinctive smell, and far less pleasant than the smell of silk.
Anyhow I blocked it. And, like the yarn harlot says, I could not resist going back in there and moving a pin. And going back in there and moving another pin later. And that side is just not right, move another pin. And another pin. And stretch that little bit out to the left and move another pin. I shut the door. And every time I walked past it in the last two days I've been saying to myself. MADAM, STEP AWAY FROM THE GOAT.