Goatherd In Residence

In the same publication where Dennis Beerpint saw a classified advertisement for the post of Poet In Residence at Beppo Lamont’s Travelling Big Top Circus, there was a similar item inviting applications for a Goatherd In Residence at an evaporated milk factory in Winnipeg. This was the very same evaporated milk factory where, many many years ago, Dobson served as a janitor, though during the out of print pamphleteer’s janitorial tenure the post of Resident Goatherd did not exist.

The advert has led to conjecture that at least some of the milk used for the manufacture of evaporated milk at the factory is goats’ milk which, as we know from H S Holmes Pegler’s article on goat-keeping in The Listener, Vol I No 16, 1st May 1929, has a “peculiarly goaty flavour”. In Winnipeg, then, we would expect the resultant product to have a peculiarly evaporated, goaty flavour. Taste tests are to be carried out, with the participation of a volunteer panel, to ascertain if this is indeed the case.

Meanwhile, a second body of opinion has emerged, positing the possibility that it is not the peculiarly goaty flavoured milk that is evaporated, but the goats themselves. But is it likely, or even feasible, to effect the evaporation of a goat, a creature of flesh and muscle and goaty sinew? A goatherd, charged with the care of the goats, would hardly stand idly by, chewing a piece of straw, while his goats evaporated before his startled eyes, would he? I suppose he might, if he were complicit in their evaporation, if indeed he had been employed for the very purpose of evaporating them, one by one, by fair means or foul. This might go some way to explain the placing of an advertisement for the Goatherd In Residence in an obscure and arcane academic journal, almost all the subscribers to which are beardy postmodernist fatheads with little grasp of life in the raw, rather than, say, in a cheaply photocopied newssheet for rustics, distributed by hand at peasant gatherings and barn dances.

One way to find out what is really going on at that evaporated milk factory in Winnipeg would be to undertake close observation and regular, systematic counting of the goats. Thereagain, the goats may be corralled at some ancillary goatstead at some distance from the evaporated milk factory, on the outskirts of the city, even outwith Winnipeg itself. Such an arrangement, of course, would necessitate the transportation of the evaporated goats from goatstead to factory. It is difficult to imagine precisely what form of transport one would use, to contain securely the evaporated essence of goat in transit across the cold wastes of the state of Manitoba, without that peculiarly goaty vaporous essence dispersing upon the winds. Are there canisters for the purpose, made of matériel with properties such as will not contaminate the vapours and thus sully the peculiarly goaty flavour of the tinned product eventually to find its way on to the shelves of our favourite evaporated milk retail outlets? We would need to station observers along all the main freight routes into Winnipeg, road, rail, and river, hoping to spot a telltale canister aboard a lorry or cart or truck or train or barge, to follow its progress, and then to slink by subterfuge into the unloading bay at the evaporated milk factory, to watch events unfold. Dobson, during his janitorship, would have made the perfect “inside man” for the job. It is yet another example of an opportunity lost in his long and ultimately tragic career.

I have tried to find out who, if anybody, applied for the post of Goatherd In Residence, but the Winnipeg evaporated milk factory’s Human and Capric Resources Department did not respond to my enquiries. I am tempted to drop the matter, and instead embark upon urgent and overdue pillow research. Tempted, but not yet decided. First I shall fix a tumbler of cocoa, made with evaporated milk. I shall be alert for the peculiar flavour of goat, evaporated or otherwise.

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