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Goats in the Mist
Outdoors Outpost
Wednesday, August 1, 2012 • Posted August 1, 2012

During the late 1960s, a zoologist named Dian Fossey decided to spend the rest of her life studying primates in the mountains of Rwanda. As I understand it, it was either that or become a White House reporter for the Washington times. So, pretty much a toss-up.

Dian lived in the jungle over there in Rwanda, sort of like the crew of the SS Minnow after their three hour tour, with no phone, no lights, no motorcar, not a single lux-u-ry. She evidently was on a first name basis with the gorillas, so she was pretty chapped when she found out poachers were killing them for their hides and such. Which is perfectly understandable. I’d be mad if someone was killing my friends, too.

The Rwandan government didn’t really care, so Dian started her own war against the poachers, burning down their villages and stuff like that. Surprisingly, they didn’t just pack up and leave. Dian was found murdered in December 1985, and the case is still open.

You may have seen the 1988 movie about Dian and her gorillas, called ‘Gorillas in the Mist,’ starring Sigourney Weaver as Dian, or maybe one of the gorillas. I can’t remember, since I never saw the show. ‘Alien’ had come out in 1979, with Sigourney in it, and I was afraid the primates would be even scarier, so I took a pass on ‘Gorillas.’

Anyway, if you’re like me, and missed that movie, you may have a chance to redeem yourself before long. In mid-July, a fellow named Coty Creighton was hiking in the Wasatch Mountains near Ogden, Utah, which is about 40 miles north of Salt Lake City, and noticed a batch of mountain goats on Lomond Peak. One of the goats was lagging way behind the others, like it was crippled or something. So Coty fished his binoculars out of his backpack to see if he couldn’t tell what was wrong with the goat.

Well, what was wrong with the goat was that it wasn’t a goat, it was a people. It was a man dressed in a white suit and heavy white gloves, and a cloth mask with eye-holes cut out of it, and paper mache horns. It was a home-made goat suit. Or something. So Coty hid behind a tree and started taking pictures.

The goat man was about 200 yards away from Coty, and when he noticed he wasn’t alone, according to Coty, “He kind of slouched down, like he was getting nervous or was feeling really self-conscious. He actually got off his hands and knees and sat on the hill for several minutes until he thought I was gone.” But then, who wouldn’t? Whenever I’m galavanting around in a goat suit, and someone notices, I always feel a little self-conscious. Don’t you?

When this story first hit the news, I was thinking it must have been a really slow news day, or else something like this would never have been mentioned. It’s not like the guy was dressed up like bigfoot or something, as if he was trying to pull a shenanigan and make people think a critter existed when it really didn’t. Pretending to be a goat, an animal that’s pretty common for the area, is definitely strange, but hardly news-worthy.

So I filed a copy of the story in my ‘ideas’ file, just in case I, personally, had a slow news day sometime, and really needed something to write about. I figured I’d never pull it out.And then, a few days later, the Outdoor Hub or the Outdoor Wire or some other outdoor news service ran another story about the Goat Man. It seems the authorities in Utah are looking for the guy, and want to talk to him. I guess July is a pretty dull month for them, too.

Phil Douglass, of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Goat Man Sightings, told a reporter that the Goat Man wasn’t doing anything illegal, but they wanted to make sure he realized that what he was doing was dangerous. I imagine they’re also curious as to why a guy would go to all the trouble to impersonate a goat, and what he hoped to accomplish, if anything.

The guy might be a hunter, and in anticipation of drawing one of 60 goat permits that will be issued soon, he wanted to see if wearing a goat suit would get him close enough to get a good shot at a billy. Or he might be a zoologist, like Dian Fossey, and just wants to develop a rapport with the goats, so he can steal their bananas. Or he might just be as nutty as a peanut field. We may never know.

I’m thinking they really need to make a movie about this guy, with Brad Pitt playing Coty, and Tom Cruise playing the goat man. They could probably get George Clooney to play Phil, and he could catch Tom Cruise and arrest him for trying to convert the goats to scientology. They could call it ‘Mission Improbable: The Men Who Stare at Goats, and the Goats Who Stare Back.’

I’ll let you know if anything else happens in this saga. The only thing I know for sure right now is that the goats, they don’t care . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who once bit a goat on the leg. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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