Pictures from Senegal

Sunday, October 3

The Goatfather

Let me preface by saying that Peace Corps Senegal issues a quarterly newspaper called the Sabaar that laces news about volunteer projects and successes with wildly humorous articles in order to maintain sanity. The following is one of said hilarious articles that were unfortunately not credited to anyone- otherwise I would’ve asked said person for permission to publish. It should also be mentioned that this passage is most relevant to agricultural volunteers living in villages where credibility of work depends on ability to grow. None-the-less, I surmise that a good read will be had by all.

The Goatfather;
The Four Levels of Peace Corps Goat Hatred

It is with grudging respect that I present the four levels of my hatred of goats I have reached during my Peace Corps service. Chapeau (hat) to you my tasty, horned friends- like the venerable Don Barzini, you are worth foes.

Pre-Service Training (or SED Business program) Naïveté:

Think Michael Corleone at his sister’s wedding in his clean-cut army uniform. He seems so innocent, so different from the rest of the family. After all, baby goats are so cute and the adults seem harmless. One finds it difficult to believe everything veteran volunteers say at PST while digging a hunk of delicious meat out of a bowl of Maffe…

Level 1: Irritation

At Connie’s wedding, Pauli pinches Clemenza’s cheek and tells him he looks “terrif” on the dance floor. Clemenza tells him to shut up and do his job. Little does he know that Pauli is plotting Vito’s death and the family’s fall.

One reaches the first level during the first few months at site when Pauli rubs his back against h millet fences and bleats with surprising vigor at all hours of the day and night. One also can’t help noticing that he lifts his tail up exposing his money-maker. A crazy voice in the back of the mind wonders if this isn’t somehow deliberate, and if maybe he is more than an annoying minion.

Level 2: Declaration of Hostilities

AT the end of their tense meeting, Vito Corleone shakes Virgils Sollozzo’s hand, wishes him luck with a cold smile and adds, “…especially since my interests don’t conflict with yours.” Shortly after, Vito and the heretofore indomitable Luca Brazzi are shot and the veil of civility is lifted.

The goat’s declaration of hostility is just as subtle. All seems well- sure, he’s ugly and rubs his butt on your fence- then you wake up one morning and your peppinere (baby tree growth in a sac) and the entire women’s garden is gone, and the somewhat fatter goats are nowhere to be found. You and all of your button-men are at the mattresses from that day forward, and that four-legged Sallazzo can never again rub his back on your millet fence without the fear of the swift vengeance of the shovel from the o her side…

Level 3: Defeat

“Look at how they massacred my boy.”

Barbed wire chain link fences, cinder blocks, scarecrows, dogs- nothing can stop them. They climb your walls, dig under your fences, bribe your gendarmes (police). You wonder if your counterpart is not a wartime consigliere. Your six year old Carlo Rizzi leaves the garden door open. Then you take a drive…

Level: 4 Insanity and Desperate Measures

This is when you begin to talk to the goats and threaten them (in English or a local language). You realize how insolent the goats’ eyes are. They leave small, oval shaped reminders of their decisive, climactic victory at your doorstep. Then, as the camera zooms into your cold, lifeless face ever so slowly, you devise a bold, desperate plan…

Level 5: The Level I Have Not Yet Reached

This level is reserved for Peter Treut, the Michael Coleone of Peace Corps Senegal. He told me two stories of decisive action- one his own and the other belonging to an old volunteer whose name I forgot but who was surely a Don in his day. Peter was digging a latrine when an insolent goat began jumping in and out of the hole, laughing in Peter’s face. Peter waited until that goat had left and covered the hole with millet stock. Then, sitting cross-legged, Pulaar stick in hand, he watched mercilessly as the loathsome goat tumbled horns first with a satisfying bleat of agony.

But the name of the hero of this greatest tale of vengeance is lost to history. One day returning from the fields, machete in hand, he witnessed the wanton destruction of his peppinere at the teeth of a wily goat. In a fit of rage, he cut the goat’s throat on the spot and paid the owner later. I can only hope that he emulated the tragic Santino by dropping the money on the ground as he walked away.

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