Thursday, January 15, 2009

all goats go to heaven

Hunting and football games were most likely my two earliest excursions (apart from my baptism) as an infant. Where I was raised, the island of Maui, there was a very large feral goat population. These goats, rangy creatures with dark fur and dark eyes round as marbles, lived on the slopes of Haleakala in vast herds. With no natural predators the goats thrived and local families, such as my own, would supplement the grocery budget with their meat. Goat was served at my house as often as chicken or beef and we thought nothing of a meal of teriyaki goat.

Hunting the goats was often a family activity and when I was quite little I would trail behind my dad and brothers as they hiked the slopes with their guns. Once a herd was spotted they would hike as close as they could to the animals and the shooting would commence. Hundreds of goats would leap from crag to crag and some would fall. Six, seven goats at a time--often dead quickly, but sometimes not. When a nanny goat was shot her kid would be caught and we would take it home to raise it ourselves.

I was too young to carry a gun and too young to wander about so my dad would sit me down next to one of the dead goats while he went to find the others. I would sit quietly or poke about in sight of the dead animal while I waited for my dad and brothers to return. On one occasion, as I sat staring at this dead animal, I observed what looked like mist rising from its body. It was often cooler on the mountainside and now I realize that what I saw was the warmth of the body dissipating into the cooler air--much as my breath does on a cold day. But then, then I thought, that what I was witnessing was the soul of the goat leaving the body and going to heaven. I remember a sense of peace at that moment as I stared in wonder. What I had been taught was true, death was not the end and I had proof as I watched the soul of that goat ascend.

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