It wasn’t something you see every day. A grown man walking a goat by the side of the road. Complete with collar and leash.
Traffic slowed to a crawl. Drivers strained for a better look. It was difficult to work out who they were more focused on. The high-stepping farm animal, or the giant wearing nothing but his footy shorts and a smile.
My big mate has always done things like that. He’s not embarrassed easily. When you tip the scales at over 120 kilos, you can pretty well do as you please.
Memories of the goat came flooding back on the weekend, as a few of us celebrated his 50th birthday.
In typical style, he’d banned any party. Said he wouldn’t attend. Too much fuss.
Instead, it was decided that we’d surprise him several weekends before the actual date. A shock and awe approach to a birthday bash.
Over a few cool drinks at the club we helped build thirty years ago, stories of tall tales from the early days emerged. The goat received several mentions.
We were minding it for one of the Big Bloke’s friends. I never found out why. I just came home one Friday night, on unsteady pins, to find a new pet chained to the clothesline.
This puzzled me. I was sure there hadn’t been an animal there when I left for work earlier that day. One would remember such a development.
I checked with the housemates, who confirmed that my eyes weren’t playing tricks. So began our time with Spot the Goat.
Visitors loved Spot. They thought he was a quirky addition to our bachelor pad. Like the barber’s chair on the back deck. And the bathroom that had never been cleaned.
I had less affection for Spot. His diet consisted of grass, cardboard (as in beer cartons), and my work shirts. His other great trick was to position himself at my bedroom window, and make the most awful of noises at approximately 4am. Every day.
His time with us was eventful, but brief. Spot went to the farmyard in the sky. The Big Bloke was upset for a week.
My mate’s other great passion, aside from family, Fords and Manly, has always been food. You don’t get to be his size without knowing a little about preparing a meal.
Back then, he took it upon himself to make lunch for all three members of the house. One loaf of bread per day. White, of course.
He bought us lunch boxes, and had them packed, ready to go, early each morning. Sometimes with a treat. This, from a burly front-rower who packed down with the best of the time.
At work, my colleagues chuckled. Don’t let that one go, they’d say. I’d landed myself quite a catch.
It all worked fine, until the day I was invited to a business lunch. I’d forgotten all about it, and duly lined up in the morning to receive my allocation of the loaf.
Those four hefty sandwiches remained in my bag, as I dined out on fancy Chinese. Big mistake.
What I didn’t realise, was that my towering housemate was checking our lunch boxes each night. Just to make sure that his efforts weren’t being wasted.
It was our first and only confrontation. Me full of cheap wine and dim sims, and him waving soggy cheese and beetroot sangers in my face.
From then on, if I had a work lunch, I’d dump his carefully made sandwiches in the bin. Nothing like keeping the peace.
He hasn’t changed. Made me breakfast before I left for my flight home. Three fat sausages, two eggs, two tomatoes, baked beans and toast. And watched as I took every bite.
He loves looking after people. Always has. The Big Bloke doesn’t believe in throwing anything away. A mighty heart in that giant frame. Even the cat is a stray.
I could have asked if he had any goat’s cheese to go with my cup of tea. But I thought better of it.
He doesn’t exercise farm animals any more. That’s a shame. I guess once you’ve walked with goats, there’s not much left to achieve.
Follow David on Twitter @Salmo22