The exact origin of the phrase “Got my goat” has been lost. Some sources speculate that the expression comes from horse racing. People believed that placing a goat or other stable mascot such as a dog, cat or chicken with their racehorse the night before a race would have a calming effect. But if someone stole (or got) the goat, it would upset the horse.
Horses become very nervous when their mascots aren’t around, so crafty stable hands would steal away a rival horse’s pal. Thus deprived, the horse would become angry when someone got its goat.
We don’t own a racehorse but recently my wife and I had the expression play out right before our eyes. We were en route to Markel, Indiana, where my wife, Marty, has a booth in the Markel Antique Mall.
The approximate 25-mile route takes about a half-hour. When we approached within a couple of miles of Markel, we noticed a herd of goats grazing peacefully near the highway.
“Look!” my wife, shouted. “One of the goats is outside the fence! We should stop at the farmhouse and tell them so it doesn’t get runover.” Typically, I said, “Oh, it’ll be okay. We don’t really know which farm house that field belongs to.”
After we finished rearranging the antique booth, bringing some items in and taking some others out that hadn’t sold, we did a little shopping in the mall before heading back to Fort Wayne.
You know what’s coming next, correct? As we passed the goat herd that single goat was still outside the fence, grazing away on the grass that obviously was greener on the other side. This time there would be no denying my wife’s plea to report the incident at the farm house. “It’s right back there. We just passed it,” she exclaimed.
So, we turned around and pulled into the farmhouse driveway. My wife dutifully knocked on both the front and side doors trying to rouse someone, to no avail. She got back into our vehicle and as we once again approached the isolated goat, we began planning how we could get the critter over the fence. “Could we each grab an end and lift him over the fence,” Marty speculated?
Not knowing or deciding if we could or should attempt to lift the goat, we stopped our vehicle adjacent to the isolated animal. But as we sat there contemplating whether or not to try something, he simply crawled under the wire fencing and joined his companions, eating what they were eating. We, in fact, lost sight of him almost immediately.
There you have it. Billy Goat Gruff, or whatever his name is, definitely “got our goat,” throwing us off our tentative game plan without so much as bothering to say “thank you” or “butt out!” We felt good about at least having the good intentions of helping the little guy out.
We again stopped at the farm a week or so later and talked with the owner. A goat getting outside the fencing was not an isolated incident. “It happens all the time,” he said. “I can’t keep a couple of them from crawling under the fence occasionally,” he remarked. “But they never go on the road. In fact,” he said, “sometimes they crawl under the fence and then stick their head through the fence to eat the grass on the inside. Go figure!”
Should one of the little guys get injured the owner assured us that his wife is a vet tech in Ossian so the goat would be in good hands.