There once lived a flock of goats on the highlands.
The flock belonged to Old Izzy, a wise goatherd who probably looked like a billy goat himself, with his long, wrinkly face and wispy white beard. But do not let his wizened, weather-beaten appearance fool you. Old Izzy tended to his goats daily for as long as he could remember. He could easily navigate the heights and slopes with his flock, yodeling at the top of his lungs without breaking a sweat.
Or so he told me. I would advise not to question his claims and just take his word for it. Let the old man have his moment of accolade.
They would graze in the hills throughout the day, only returning to the pen at sunset. The mountain air was cool and crisp, with fresh streams and soft meadows to munch and meander through. Such was the serene life of a goat.
However, if one were to immerse oneself deeper into goat life, one might be surprised to find that the identity of goat-ness was a complex matter that one ought not to -- absolutely should not! -- be kidding around with.
Old Izzy said I was causing convoluting confusion with that last statement. He was kind enough to let me tell the tale, though it would have been nice if he could cut me some slack with how I use my words. The early rises to follow him goat herding up the highlands have made me sleep deprived and grumpy. For all I knew, he might read through this draft and change things up anyway.
You see, there were three major groups within goat society. They were the Streaks, Speckles and Spots. There was supposedly a fourth group called the Solids, but they were about as rare as unicorn rams. Some goats might argue that Solids simply did not exist. That they were a mere socio-political construct of elitist herds. An unrealistic expectation passed down from nanny to kid that every goat secretly and not-so secretly aspired to become.
Let us not ruminate on this too much, though one might suspect that the “Solids Superiority Complex” would have an interesting effect on how a goat regarded itself. More on that later.
The Streaks prided themselves in having coats most closely resembling that of the much desired Solids. Their stripes were largely, evenly distributed and pleasing to the eyes. I have been informed that Streaks had fleece which blended aesthetically with horns and hooves, consisting of respectable, high-quality colour combinations like ash, chestnut or olive. And yes, they insisted that each of those colours mentioned were unique and it would be a travesty to mistake one for the other!
The Speckles would disagree vehemently and call the Streaks’ bluff, for surely their coats were more solid, at least from a distance! Speckles argued that the tiny, poppy seed-like flecks they had accentuated their fleece, giving them more “volume” and “depth”. They had no need for frivolous, airy fairy terms for colour. Theirs were the down-to-earth richness of chocolate earth, dark coal and even white snow. The Speckles scorned the pretentiousness of the Streaks and their painted-on stripes, but interestingly both groups grudgingly agreed on one thing: They were definitely lucky not to be born with Spots.
Old Izzy gave a resigned sigh and motioned his hand for me to fetch his staff. I realised how weary he actually looked, now that he was leaning on it for support. He has signaled me to continue.
The Spots were the lowliest and most despised of the three goat groups. They had fleece peppered with random blotches of varying size and colour. Sometimes the spots were hidden, like under one’s belly or the inner side of one’s leg, but more often than not they can be found in the most undignified of places like under the tail, on the nose or ears. These goats were obviously the most un-solid of goats and thus were shunned by the others for their marks of shame.
The irony of it all, though, was that a goat could neither choose nor change its coat.
One simply could not choose to be born with the colour or pattern of one’s coat. And throughout a goat’s lifetime, the only real change would be to the coat length and thickness during the regular shearing sessions arranged by Old Izzy for the harvesting of fibre.
To Old Izzy, all his goats were equal and distinct, each coat a unique masterpiece to the individual. And he loved and cared for his goats regardless of their coats or any of their other physical attributes, for that matter.
Frankly as far as I was aware, not every goat subscribed to the Solids Superiority Complex. One would find most of them gazing peacefully side by side in the fields. The kids would be energetically playing rough and tumble with their striped and spotted friends, while the seniors slept by the gentle brooks without a care for any danger or discrimination. Goats had other priorities like chewing cud and napping in the sun, after all.
Yet time and time again, Old Izzy has had to break up many fights and scuffles regarding coat differences between a minority of silly goats. Young kids comparing and crying over spots and speckles needed to be comforted, reassured, reminded that they still belonged to the herd and were under the care of Old Izzy in spite of their differences.
If only the Solids Superiority Complex could be fully abolished and removed from the mindset of goats! It would help the herd live together more harmoniously and united in the diversity. Plus I would imagine that it would save Old Izzy much headache and grief too. I reckoned that as long as there were a few good goats willing to change their mindset about this and ensure that the next generations inherit the truth about the beauty of diversity, there would always be hope that the ideas of goat-ness would become more sincere and simplified.
Old Izzy might have something to add later on. But for now, let this be a reminder to us all: Please do not be silly goats.
After all, are we not all merely having different coloured coats?