Goatman: An Unexpected Gift
Goatman, Goatman Chris, Chris Burns, Chris- they’re all the same guy, and this is the chronological order of names I've known him by. A lecherous, yarn spinning, literature quoting, alcohol guzzling, impetuous, insightful, inciteful, spirit of South Texas that has been given roughly human form. His small herd of goats roams free, crossing property lines, browsing on whatever they find, spending time wherever they aren’t run off. Chris imbued his goats with his own spirit of libertine transgression.
I first met Chris (then known as Goatman) while I was having coffee. He walked in, looked at me, asked me to sit down, and told me stories for two hours. I was used to this. I tend to attract people who have stories to tell, and in some cases, people with good stories are often repulsive to the general public. Chris was lewd, loud, hungry, and rank. But he told me stories of moving certain substances across the Tex-Mex border, he told me about helping melon farmers with their mules. He told me about flying to the Bahamas with a starlet. By heart, he quoted Shakespeare, James Joyce, and a handful of authors unknown to me. He had a broad knowledge of history. Shortly after our conversation, Chris was banned from the main drag in Llano for creeping on one of the shop owners. He was a recurring character in my life for years.
I ended up living with somebody close to Chris, and I spent more time with him than I ever thought I would. During the big papa freeze of 2021, Chris stayed with us. He lived on a small ranch about 20 miles outside of town, and he had no running water or electricity, living in frontierish conditions. I don’t know how old Chris is, but he can hardly walk up the stairs, and he would have had a hard time getting through a week of freezing temperatures without a helping hand.
I didn’t expect Chris to remember me or any of our conversations, but he did. We’d talk about writing and he was surprisingly encouraging, like an estranged great uncle.
I learned about storytelling in our conversations. I didn’t know how much of anything he said was true, but it hardly mattered. I swallowed the hook.
Writing candidly, I thought Chris was nearly intolerable, but his stories and his mercurial madness left a mark on me.
I have never been in control of my life. Circumstance has fed me breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but I think that is the diet of Adventure. Chris was a gift of circumstance, and I’m learning not to look gift horses in the mouth.
I don’t know what Chris would think if he read this, but if it somehow makes its way to his eyes, “A man of genius makes no mistakes...his errors are volitional and are portals of discovery.”