Ready, set, goat
JASPER -- The town of Jasper was given over to the goats on Saturday.
With a field of 40 four-legged competitors at the Jasper Goat Races on Saturday afternoon, the animals created such an overwhelming presence that they seemed to outnumber the humans. But a good crowd was also on hand to root for their favorite nanny and billy.
There were big goats, medium goats, small goats. White goats, black goats, gray goats, brown goats. Their bleating cries grew louder as race time neared, and some of the competitors were suited up in special racing attire.
By the time the races got under way, there were goats sporting hats, T-shirts, a white fur boa, leis, lavender fur leggings and a tiger-striped coat. One of the smaller goats had a toy monkey tied to its back, ala a Taco Johns commercial. One of the larger animals displayed a lack of modesty, racing in his underwear with "TNT Tighty Whiteys" emblazoned above his tail.
Not to be outdone, many of the human handlers also had special attire --T-shirts with the slogan "Get off your fanny, race your nanny" on the back.
Goat ownership wasn't a prerequisite for participating in this year's event. Tom and Sandi Muller, owners of Girls and Goats Acres of Pipestone, were on hand for goat rental.
"We actually just got into the goat business back in February," Tom explained. "We had a lady from Jasper call us and ask if we could bring some goats down. So, we brought 15 -- two are for our daughter to race, and the rest are rented out."
The Mullers currently have 100 head of does and about an equal number of kids. Before jumping into the business, they read up about it and learned that goat meat is becoming increasingly popular.
"And it's a good family activity," Tom stressed.
But the Mullers quickly learned that goats have some special skills that can make raising them a challenge.
"If water can go through your fence, so can your goat," Sandi said. "You have to stay three steps ahead of them; one step isn't enough."
The Muller goats were all rented out well in advance of race time.
The field of 40 went head-to-head on the course, which was composed of three semitrailer flatbeds surrounded by fencing with a chute on each end. As the handlers brought their goats up the chute for each race, two members of the Jasper Goat Club helped to corral the animals and then chased them down the racetrack utilizing an air horn and a small metal gate that was supposed to keep the animals from leaving the course.
But the gate didn't always do the trick. Some of the goats were more willing competitors than others, giving credence to the adage "stubborn as a goat."
Nikki Thode, 10, of Jasper was in her second year of goat racing. Last year, her goat tried to jump off the side of the course.
"So, I have a different goat this year," she said.
What makes a good racing goat?
"If they're tame," Thode said.
"And if they have big nostrils, so they can breathe when they run," prodded Reuben, a Goat Club member and raiser of Thode's goat, who declined to give his last name. "I take care of the dumb things."
The Jasper Goat Races are a double-elimination event, and Reuben said many of the goats initially balk at the starting line.
"Their first time through, they'll go a little slower, then after that, they know what to do," he said.