Bennie is an excellent woodworker. Always the stickler for detail, he handcrafts some very nice articles. But one of his first attempts at building could have made him swear off of the art. Here is how he describes it:
The billy goat wagon was a great experience. I was about age 10 at the time. I decided it would be fun to build a wagon for the billy goats to pull. I could hook them up to the wagon and haul all kind of things. Remember, these were the “big” goats – I mean BIG. I got Flapper (a farm hand and friend) to help me with my project. Granddaddy was a very skilled craftsman and always gave me much valuable advice on many projects. He had even cut down a plow stock for me when I was about 9 so I could help plow the fields. I fell for that one! Anyway, this is a project I wanted to do all by myself, with my assistant Flapper. Flapper was mainly a gofer and holder. He wasn’t very skilled either.
The goat cart was going to be my premier project. The completion of the cart took several weeks. I gathered lumber, wheels, axles, nails, wire, leather, rope and many miscellaneous items. It was not a project of just going to Home Depot, getting a shopping cart and gathering everything. First, there was no Home Depot and even if there had been, there was no money to buy anything. I spent days gathering and hustling parts; anything I thought would be useful. I would find an item, take it to Granddaddy and ask him if I could have it for my goat wagon. Most of the time, he would say yes. I think he would say yes on some items that he would had rather have kept and I know it was difficult for him to give up some of the items. It must have been because of his living through the great depression in the 1930’s.
I never thought about a pattern for the wagon. With Flapper’s help, I finally had enough materials to start building the wagon. Everything had to be done with hand tools. I had a hand saw, hack saw, hammer, draw knife, hand auger (drill), and file along with my trusty pocket knife.
Sawing, drilling, filing and nailing, my wagon started taking shape. At first I was going to build a one-goat wagon; then decided to make a two-goat wagon. Why not, since we had two large goats. That decision proved to be a major mistake.
The most difficult part of the wagon building was putting the axles and wheels together. As I recall, I had four wheels, all different sizes, although two of them were nearly the same size. The two wheels nearest the same size were put on the front. This was done at Granddaddy’s suggestion, although I really do not know his reasoning. I had a good strong timber for the tongue of the wagon and Granddaddy let me use an old worn double tree. The double tree is the devise that the goats’ harness is hooked to in order to pull the wagon. I did not have enough leather and suitable material to make collars for the goats; however, I was able to use some scrap leather, rope, chains, etc. to rig up a very substantial harness. It did not look factory made but was very strong and durable – it would hold. It was proven later that it would hold very well, too well. Oh, how I wish I had taken a picture of that goat wagon. It looked great!
Well, the day for the inaugural ride finally came – a bright, hot Saturday afternoon. Flapper and I got the goats into the corral and roped them. I had decided rather than trying to drive the wagon down the road I would use the pasture, because it was 5 acres with no trees to hit or ditches to run through. Leaving the corral, it was downhill for 100-150 yards and then uphill for about 200 yards – all wide open.
We put feed sacks over the goats’ heads to keep them calm for the hookup. After a little difficulty we got both goats in place. At the time, I really did not understand why Granddaddy was about to fall out of his rocking chair on the front porch because he was laughing so hard. Anyway, the goats were hooked up; I got in the wagon and Flapper guided the goats through the corral gate. It was time to make the inaugural ride.
Flapper pulled the feed sacks off the goats’ heads and away we went. What a ride! Immediately I know there was no guiding or steering the goats in any direction. Within the first 100 feet I realized how rough the ride was going to be. The ground was not smooth at all. Things started going wrong immediately. My first mistake was underestimating the strength and power of two goats hooked up to a relative light wagon. A one-goat wagon would definitely have been better for the wagon and me! The first casualty occurred when the back wheels hit a hole – the back axle and wheels separated from under the wagon. My immediate thought at that moment was, “How am I going to get out of this wagon alive?”
Piece by piece the wagon began coming apart. By now I was at the bottom of the hill. All that was left attached was the wagon tongue, double tree, two goats and me. I had wrapped the reins around my hands really tight for a good grip. This was another mistake because I could not let the reins go. Now I was being dragged by the two goats holding on for dear life. The goats ran all the way to the back of the pasture dragging me all the way.
When the goats got to the back fence, rather than turning right or left they just stopped – goats are rather dumb. That moment gave me enough time to shed the reins from my hands. I did not have a place on my body that did not have a scrape or bruise – not to mention shirt and jeans that were ripped to shreds. It was a long walk back to the house.
When I got back to the house and walked up on the porch. Granddaddy, without looking up or any expression, asked “Did you have a good ride?” I responded, “Yeah!”
Gotta love it when kids learn life lessons the hard way.