Ever since Christmas Eve, 2011, the headlines of the Fergus Falls Daily Journal have loudly proclaimed and excitedly followed the daily drama and progress of one black angora goat whose adventure kept the whole community on the edge of their seats. It all began when Curley’s owners took him to participate in a nativity appearance at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church of Fergus Falls. It couldn’t have been that Curley suffered from stage fright for he was very tame and an old hand at pageants, having previously participated as a member of Noah’s Ark for the Stavanger Lutherans, and was deemed “very well behaved” by his family, Jim and Karen Aakre.
Who knows what visions of sugarplums tempted him this past holiday season, but he was all the talk of the town, and not because he escaped into the night, but because he continued to appear and allude his captors. Curley was first spotted in the parking lot of the Service Grocery, next by the museum, then near Roosevelt Park, and outside of town at the Wal-Mart, by the old dairy building, at the lumber yard, on the University of Minnesota campus (where he was chased by 20 students), at the city dump —-
Soon the paper was printing a google map each day, covered with “sightings” with the usual balloon-like markers, and offering a reward of $20- in gift cards to the person who most accurately predicted the date and time of his final capture. As time went on they upped the ante to include a $20- prize for just a photo of the elusive ovine. And not to be outdone, the goat’s owners and the local radio station offered $250 for his capture and then the Best Western got into the act with an offer of one night in a whirlpool suite and dinner for two.
Every day Curley was sighted somewhere. Or so “they” said. And every day he slipped away. A local photographer, Jeff Zachmann, spoofed the adventure with photos of Curley (most likely a large puppet) sitting in a booth at the Viking Café, enjoying a performance at the Center for the Arts, and peeking around the aisle while shopping at the Sun Mart Grocery.
But the intrigue intensified, as did the weather, leaving the Aakre’s to become increasingly alarmed for their beloved pet. And finally, after 25 days on the lam, the goat wandered into a goat herd on the Loomer farm outside of town. Jim and Karen rushed to the scene, loaded Curley into the back seat of their car (the temperature was now well below zero) and celebrated their happy ending.
We will never know what inspired Curley to bolt from that Nativity night. Nor will we be privy to all he experienced on his pilgrimage about town. Or if he ever found his heart’s desire. More likely (like Dorothy) he discovered that in the end, there’s no place like home.
In a Letter to the Editor, Bernice Hanson related the adventure to Leviticus 16 in the Bible. She said “As simply as I can say it, one of the things the Jewish high priest was instructed to do was confess the sins of Israel unto a goat, and send it into the desert wilderness. It was to be a picture to point us to Jesus, who would take the sins of humanity on Himself, and be crucified on a cross outside the city. And I started thinking, maybe this goat, Curley, should be commended for his extraordinary role in this year’s pageant.”
Thank you Bernice. You can see just how far this goat’s adventure has taken and inspired a community. In more ways than one.
Whatever the inner tale might reveal, Curley is now a celebrity of great renown in the town of Fergus Falls and will ever after be in demand for personal appearances.