Today I'd like to bring you my favorite passage from the famed Norwegian folktale, written by Arne Thompson, titled "The Three Billy Goats Gruff."
So first of all came the youngest Billy Goat Gruff to cross the bridge.
"Trip, trap, trip, trap!" went the bridge.
"Who's that tripping over my bridge?" roared the troll.
"Oh, it is only I, the tiniest Billy Goat Gruff, and I'm going up to the hillside ... hey, what's that guy with the camouflage clothes and the really bad haircut doing aiming that M-16 automatic rifle at me? That's so dangerous ..."
Bang. Bang, Bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-bang-bang.
"I've been hit!" gasped the tiniest Billy Goat Gruff. "The son of a bitch shot me nine times, like 50 Cent. Every 'hood we go through, we hold it down like we s'posed to. You can front if you want, we be poppin' them thangs ..."
But unlike rapper 50 Cent, the tiniest Billy Goat Gruff died, and the U.S. Army received valuable battlefield medical training, which, as I understand it, will come in handy if George W. Bush declares war on a petting zoo, which is a distinct possibility.
Anyway, as you probably know, I made some of that folktale stuff up. The author's name is actually spelled Aarne Thompson.
But there is a great goat controversy sweeping our village and our nation today, a furor involving Army Special Forces shooting goats so its medics can practice on the bleeding animals in the field. This, as you might imagine, has angered the animal-rights people (motto: Goats have kids too) so much that the fur is now standing up on the backs of their necks. And those necks are just those of the women.
Seriously, goat experts say the animals are bright, intelligent and capable of complex communication, which leads to the obvious question in our village: Why would Fort Carson's Special Operations soldiers shoot an intelligent animal such as a goat when their medics could get the same medical training -- not to mention provide an enormous civic benefit -- by shooting Ed Bircham in the leg?
(Footnote: During Ed's recovery, we could get the goats to write his Mensa-quality editorials that appear in our village's daily newspaper. "Wake Up America. We Can Do ... BAAAAAHHH!!!")
According to the Rocky Mountain News, before being intentionally wounded, the goats are anesthetized via the usual method: strapping them into a chair and making them sit through a speech by Mayor Lionel Rivera. Army Special Operations spokeswoman Rebecca Ellison told the Denver newspaper the injuries are designed to "replicate actual combat wounds."
Operation Goat Wounding is scheduled to begin soon at Fort Carson, according to the report. "We have an estimate that about 150 goats will be used. Some of these goats will be shot," said Martin Stephens of the Humane Society of the United States.
Insiders say some of the animals will be a smaller breed of goat known as pygmy goats. As I understand it, those particular goats will be shot by dwarf soldiers.
The story caused local animal-rights activist Gayle Hoenig, owner of the Bravo Bend Wildlife Sanctuary in Peyton, to send an urgent e-mail to her followers. "Please, please protest this atrocity against animals," she wrote. "This action by the Army will hinder any future efforts to get cruelty towards animals stopped, and will set a precedent for future atrocities toward animals."
I was having lunch when I read Gayle's e-mail, and I shared her outrage. I became so incensed when I began to think about how we treat animals these days that I spit a mouthful of spotted-owl-egg omelet onto my new gorilla-skin cowboy boots and couldn't finish my fillet of Sumatran tiger. (Although later I recovered just enough to force down a slice of delicious baby-harp-seal pie.)
The Army says the practice of having its medics work on goats, which has gone on for years, saves the lives of wounded soldiers in the field. "Special Operations medics must learn to independently manage critically injured patients during the first few hours of their injury ... ," said Special Ops spokeswoman Ellison.
As you might guess, the goat issue has been the topic of heated debate in our village. Take this recent letter to the editor that appeared in the Gazette:
Dear Gazette: Do you guys still have a newspaper?
Seriously, one person who can speak to both sides of the goat controversy is Charlie Webb, a vegetarian, animal protector and also an emergency room physician at Memorial Hospital.
"I've refused to eat animals for the past 30 years," Webb said. "I understand the opposition to using animals for medical training. But I think it's warranted. That kind of training does save human lives. And there's no way to replicate that kind of training. There's no game machine, no virtual-reality game. You need blood and tissue to get that experience. And if it helps to save just one soldier's life, then I believe we have to do it."
And with that, count me on the side of the Army on this one. Don't get me wrong. I love animals. Especially with wild rice. But if goats must be sacrificed to save a soldier's life, I say it's time to work toward that one common goal we all dream of.
So if you can get Ed Bircham into a goat costume and into the trunk of my car, I'll drop him off at Fort Carson.