Written by Richard Barnum.
Lightfoot, the leaping goat, who was cropping the sweet grass on top of the rocks from which he had once made his great jump, looked down in the yard near the shanty and saw his owner Mike busy over something new.
“I wonder what that is?” thought Lightfoot to himself, for goats and other animals wonder and are curious about things, as you can tell by holding out something in your hand to a dog or a cat. They will come up to it and smell it, to see if it is good to eat.
And so Lightfoot wondered. Mike was good to him, and often brought him some lumps of salt, or a bit of carrot or turnip, for though goats like to eat grass, and even bits of paper and other strange things, they like nice things too, like sweet vegetables.
“I guess I’ll go down and see what it is Mike has,” said Lightfoot to himself, and so he started down the rocky path. Though he was a good leaping goat he did not want again to try to jump on top of the widow’s shanty. That was too dangerous.
“Where are you going, Lightfoot?” asked Blackie, the girl-goat, who had been cropping grass near her friend, as she saw him start down the rocky path.
“The boy Mike is down there, and he may have something good to eat,” answered Lightfoot. “If he does, I’ll give you some.”
“You are very kind,” said Blackie, and she followed down after Lightfoot, only more slowly, for she was not as good a jumper or rock-climber as he was.
Down near his mother’s shanty, Mike was looking at the goat wagon and harness he had just brought home.
“It’s almost as good as new, Mother!” cried the boy. “Look at the wheels spin, would you!” and turning the wagon on one side he spun two wheels around until they went so fast he could not see the spokes.
“Be careful now and don’t break it,” cautioned his mother.
“Oh, sure ’tis a grand strong wagon!” cried Mike. “It would hold two baskets of clothes. And I can ride four boys or girls around in it at once, and get pennies.”
“Well, it is the pennies we need,” sighed Mrs. Malony, for she found it hard to get along on what she could earn. Mike was getting to be a bigger boy now, and he ate more, though his mother never told him this. She wanted him to grow strong.
“Give me a bit of salt, Mother,” said Mike. “I want to get Lightfoot friendly, so he’ll not be afraid of the harness or wagon, for I’m going to hitch him up soon.
“Here he comes now with Blackie,” went Mike, as he saw the two goats coming down the rocky path. “You’re just in time, Lightfoot, though I don’t need Blackie to learn to pull the wagon. She might not be strong enough. But I’ll give her some salt.”
The two goats licked the salt from Mike’s hands, and liked it very much. Mike turned the wagon right side up, and then took up part of the harness.
“I wonder how Lightfoot will act when I put it on him,” thought Mike. “He’s never been harnessed.”
While the goat was chewing some sweet chopped carrots which Mrs. Malony spread out in front of him, Mike gently slipped a part of the harness over the goat’s back. At first Lightfoot jumped a little to one side. But, as he saw that there were still more carrots left, and as he felt Mike patting him, Lightfoot thought it was all right.
“I guess it’s just a new game that boy Mike is playing,” said the goat to himself. “Well, he’s always kind to me, so I’m sure it will be all right. Anyhow, these carrots are good. Have some, Blackie.”
“I will,” said the other goat. “But what is that strange thing on your back, Lightfoot?”
“Oh, some game that boy is playing,” answered the goat. “It won’t hurt us, for Mike is always kind,” and he and Blackie went on eating the carrots.
“Well, so far so good,” said Mike to himself when he had most of the harness on his pet, and Lightfoot had stood still. “Now to get the bit in his mouth. That’s going to be harder.”
“Better get Jack Murphy to come over and help you,” said Mrs. Malony. “He’s used to keeping goats, and he knows a lot about ’em, though I don’t know if he ever harnessed ’em to a cart.”
But Mr. Murphy had, as it happened, and, being a neighbor of the Malonys, he soon came over when Mike called him and showed the boy how to put the iron bit in Lightfoot’s mouth, and run the reins back through rings fastened in a part of the harness that went around the middle of the goat’s back.
It was not an easy thing to do, and, several times, Lightfoot tried to break away. But Mike and Mr. Murphy held him until the harness was in place and tightly strapped on.
“Now see if you can drive him about,” said Mr. Murphy, when Mike had hold of the reins and the bit was in Lightfoot’s mouth. The goat was shaking his head about, trying to get rid of the piece of iron between his teeth. It did not hurt him. It just felt unusual. But it was firmly held by straps, and Lightfoot could not shake it loose.
“I can’t drive him without first hitching him to the wagon,” said Mike, for as yet the goat had not been put between the shafts of the little cart.
“Oh! Don’t hitch him to that yet,” advised Mr. Murphy. “Sure he might run away and break it. Just drive him about the yard by the reins and run after him.”
“He may run away with me,” laughed Mike.
“Well, that can’t be helped. Maybe he will. But he’ll soon get used to the harness and behave. Lightfoot is a wise goat.”
But even wise goats don’t like it the first time they are put in harness, and Lightfoot was no different in this way from others, though he was such a good jumper. When Mike took hold of the reins and called Lightfoot to “gid-dap,” the goat, who was now big and strong, started off with such force and suddenness that Mike was almost jerked from his feet.
“Run!” called Mr. Murphy. “Run with him, and along after him, Mike. Try to turn him to the right and the left so he’ll know how to mind the reins when he’s fastened to the wagon. Run after him!”
Mike, holding fast to the reins, ran, and the goat ran too. And, being a good runner, Lightfoot easily kept ahead of Mike. It was all Mike could do not to let go of the reins.
“Run!” called Mr. Murphy. “Run faster, Mike!”
Mike tried but he stumbled over a stone and fell. However, he kept hold of the reins, winding them around his wrists and as Lightfoot kept on going he pulled Mike about the yard.
“Bless and’ save us!” cried Mrs. Malony coming to the door of her house. “What’s happenin’?”
“He’s teaching Lightfoot to pull to a harness,” said Mr. Murphy.
“Hum! It looks more like Lightfoot was teachin’ Mike,” said the widow. “Won’t Mike get hurt?”
“Not a bit. Many a time in th’ old country I’ve been dragged by a goat. It’s good for one.”
Around and around the yard Lightfoot dragged Mike, the chickens and ducks scattering in all directions, the old rooster flying up to the fence and crowing with all his might.
At last Lightfoot, finding he could not get the iron bit out of his mouth, and could not shake off the harness, and looking back and seeing Mike being dragged about on the ground, thought:
“Well, I guess I’m tired. I seem to be held fast no matter what I do. I’ll quit.”
And that is just what Mike wanted, for he was tired of being pulled about in this fashion.
“Well, I guess he’s learned that part, anyhow,” said Mr. Murphy. “Now we’ll hitch him to the wagon.”
While Mr. Murphy was bringing up the wagon, and Mike was holding Lightfoot, Blackie came up and asked:
“What was all that for, Lightfoot?”
“Oh, I guess it was a new kind of game. I can’t say I like it though. I would rather jump on the rocks,” answered Lightfoot.
“No, it was not a game,” said Grandpa Bumper, coming up just then. “You are being taught to let yourself be harnessed up to draw a cart, Lightfoot, and here they come with the cart now.”
“What does that mean?” asked the leaping goat. “Will it hurt?”
“No, not if you behave yourself. Once I was a cart-drawing goat, and I worked in a nice park. I’ll tell you about it so you’ll know what to do.”
And when the cart was brought up, and the shafts, one on each side of Lightfoot, were being fastened with straps, the younger goat stood very still, listening to Grandpa Bumper tell, in goat language, just what it all meant.
“Why, he seems to like it,” said Mike as he fastened the last strap. “He didn’t try once to get away, Mr. Murphy.”
“I guess he’s getting used to it,” said the kind man.
But if he and Mike had known, it was what Grandpa Bumper had said to Lightfoot that made the young goat stand so still and allow himself to be hitched to the cart.
“Well,” said Lightfoot to the old goat when the harnessing was finished, “it may not be so bad after all. I guess I’ll be good and not run away. I’ll pull the cart nicely.”
“It will be best, I think,” said the old goat.
So, when Mike took his seat in the cart, and pulled on the reins, calling to Lightfoot to “Gid-dap!” the goat started off, pulling the little wagon as though he had done it all his life.
“Oh, this is great!” cried Mike. “I never thought he would learn as easily as this.”
“He is a smart and sensible goat,” Mr. Murphy said. “Now look out if he gets going too fast.”
But Lightfoot did not seem to want to run away. He trotted along up and down the street, soon learning to turn to the right or the left as Mike pulled the reins.
Once or twice Lightfoot started to run swiftly, but Mike pulled back on the reins, and the iron bit in his mouth, pressing on his tongue and teeth, told Lightfoot that he must go more slowly.
In a few days he had become used to the cart and harness and Mike could drive him anywhere. The other goats came to the top of the pile of rocks and looked down at Lightfoot. Many of them wished they could be harnessed up, for Lightfoot got many extra good things to eat from Mike, who liked his driving goat very much. Lightfoot was now a driving goat as well as a leaping one.
“And now it’s time, I guess,” said Mike one day, “to see if I can earn money with my goat and wagon.” He had taken a number of baskets of clean clothes home to his mother’s employers, and, no matter how heavy the basket was, Lightfoot had no trouble in pulling it, with Mike sitting on the front seat of the cart.
Mike made his wagon nice and clean, put a strip of old carpet in the bottom, and started one day for a part of the city where rich folks lived. Along the streets there, on pleasant afternoons, nurse maids would be out walking with the children of whom they took care. When he got to this place Mike drove his goat wagon slowly up and down.
It was not long before a little boy, well dressed, who was walking along with his nurse, cried:
“Oh, Marie! See the wonderful goat wagon! May I have a ride in it?”
“No, no, Peter. It is not to ride in.”
“Yes, it is! I want a ride! Will you give me a ride, young boy?” he called to Mike.
“You must not ask for rides,” said Marie, the maid. “The boy sells rides—that is, I think he does,” and she looked at Mike and smiled.
“Yes,” answered Mike, “my goat wagon is for hire.”
“Then I want a ride!” cried little Peter. “I want a ride, Marie!”
“But we must ask your mom,” said the maid. “Come, she is just going out in the car. We will ask her.”
Mike saw a nicely dressed lady getting into a big automobile in front of a fine house. Peter ran to her and said something. The lady beckoned to Mike, who drove his wagon toward her.
“Do you hire out your goat wagon for rides?” asked the lady.
“Yes ma’am,” said Mike.
“And is he perfectly safe?”
“Yes ma’am. I drive him myself. I won’t let him run away.”
“Then I think you may have a ride up and down the block, Peter. Marie, here is money to pay the boy. But be careful, won’t you?” she cautioned Mike.
“Oh, yes ma’am,” he promised. He helped Peter into the goat wagon, on to one of the three rear seats, Marie getting in also. Then Mike started Lightfoot off down the street at a gentle trot.
“Oh, I love this!” cried Peter. “When I grow up I’m going to drive a goat wagon!”
“Oh, Peter!” cried Marie.
“Well, I am,” he said. “It’s ever so much more fun than making an automobile go. Anybody can do that.”
Up and down the block Mike drove Lightfoot, giving the little boy and his nurse a fine ride. Then the other children wanted rides, and their parents or nurses, seeing how gentle the goat was, and how well Mike managed him, let their boys and girls get in the cart. Mike was kept busy all afternoon giving rides to the little tots, and when he had finished he had nearly two dollars, in ten- and five-cent pieces, for some children took more than one ride.
“Talk about your luck!” cried Mike as he drove toward his shanty, a happy smile on his freckled face. “I’ll soon be rich.”
“Look at that, Mother!” he cried, as he poured the money from his pocket onto the table. “That’s what Lightfoot earned for us to-day!”
“Oh, my!” exclaimed Mrs. Malony. “The money will come in handy, for I have the grocer to pay to-night. Tell me about it, Mike.”
And Mike told, while Lightfoot, unharnessed, ate a good supper, and then told the other goats of his new adventures.
For several weeks Mike went about the different streets of the city giving rides to children, and hardly a day passed that he did not make a dollar or a little more. Of course when it rained he could not do this. And then one day Mike came home with bright eyes and a laughing face.
“What do you think, Mother dear!” he cried. “I have a regular job with Lightfoot!”
“What is it, Mike?”
“I’m to drive him and the goat wagon in the park, and the man is to give me ten dollars a week. That’ll be better than going about the streets. I’ll get paid regular money. Hurray!” and Mike hugged and kissed his mother.
When Mike had quieted his joy and happiness down a bit, he explained to his mother how it had come about. It seemed that as he was driving Lightfoot about, hitched to the cart, and giving a number of children a ride on a quiet street, a man had come up to Mike.
“I have a goat stand in the park,” the man explained. “I own a number of goats and wagons, and hire boys to drive them. Would you like to sell me your goat and wagon? I need another.”
“But I told him I wouldn’t sell Lightfoot,” Mike explained. “Then he wanted me to rent my outfit to him for a week, but I wouldn’t do that, for I wouldn’t let anybody but myself drive my goat.”
“That’s right,” agreed Mrs. Malony, who was almost as fond of Lightfoot as was Mike himself. “What did the man say then?”
“Well, he wanted to know if I’d come to the park and drive the goat myself. He said he’d give me eight dollars a week, but I said I could earn more than that working for myself. Then he raised it up to ten dollars and I took him up on it.”
“But how does he make any money out of it?” asked Mrs. Malony.
“Oh, he keeps all I take in over ten dollars, and I guess it will be more than that lots of times, for big crowds of children go to the park these Summer days. Then, too, we don’t give such long rides as I’ve been giving. They charge only five cents a ride in the park, and I charge ten sometimes, but then I go all around a big block.
“But I think it’ll be a good thing for us, Mother. Ten dollars a week is a lot of money. Of course I’ll have to buy the feed for Lightfoot out of that, and a bit of lunch for myself.”
“Sure, I can put that up for you in the morning,” said the widow with a smile. “It’s great, Mike my boy! Sure we’ve had good luck ever since we got Lightfoot.”