December 14, 1987 and January 10, 1988
Upon entering Niger and the Sahel region south of the Sahara, the trip leader announced that we would spend a few days in Agadez and roast a goat on a spit. After several weeks of canned and freeze-dried meals, with little in the way of fresh food, this was to be a celebration.
The goat was purchased at the local market and led back to camp. Someone dubbed her Lizzie, and she was the center of attention for awhile. Dennis even received a birthday message from her to the effect that, as today was the first day of the rest of his life and the last day of hers, she'd gladly trade places.
Everyone in the campground was invited to the feast. We enjoyed it so much that when we reached Bangui in the Central African Republic, the leader decided to do it again.
But whereas Lizzie had been quiet, good-natured and cooperative, Henrietta was not. She seemed to know that her days were numbered in single digits and she didn't fancy departing without making her presence felt.
The night before the scheduled feast, she was tied under the truck. There were a number of other goats in the neighborhood. Whenever one of them bleated, it set off a chorus that took 30 minutes to an hour to abate. Things worsened as the night progressed. Henrietta had an ear-splitting bleat that made sleep impossible.
Angry noises and curses issued from tents all over the campground.
I was sleeping in the truck that night ("guarding"—a job Dennis detested). I finally decided to get up and try to calm Henrietta down. As soon as I petted and talked to her, she quieted, and the neighborhood goats followed suit. Snores gradually began emanating from some of the tents and Henrietta laid down.
I went to bed and enjoyed another half hour's sleep before the bleating started again. Henrietta calmed when I went outside but started bleating immediately when I left. I tried to return to bed several times, but she was incorrigible. It looked as though I would get no sleep in any case, but perhaps if I stayed near her, someone else might enjoy a little rest. I took my rollmat and sleeping bag outside. I'd pet Henrietta until she wandered off to graze, then doze until she commenced with the noise. She would invariably quiet down when touched.
The next morning, she was tied a short distance from the fire, where she went on and on with her ear-splitting screams.
"Believe me, I'm going to kill that goat!" shouted Steen. (He did.)
"She just likes to be close to people," I said.
"Don't worry, Henrietta," said Martin. "In a few hours, you'll be closer to people than you ever thought possible."
We survived the ordeal. Henrietta didn't. She did accomplish one thing. We didn't roast any more goats.
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