Written by Richard Barnum.
It was morning when Lightfoot woke up. He found he was in a strange place. It was a place with many streets and big cars running back and forth on shining rails. But they did not run as old trolley cars did. Instead a big engine pushed them and pulled them. Though Lightfoot did not know it, he was near a railroad yard.
He came out from under the bush to look for something to eat. He saw an empty can with a piece of paper on it that he knew was covered with paste. He wanted that paper very much. But as he crept out to get it a boy picking up coal from the tracks saw him and cried:
“Oh, fellers! Look at that goat! Let’s chase him!”
And chase after Lightfoot they did, shouting and trying to catch him. Lightfoot had no intention of being caught, so he ran across the tracks. The boys shouted at him, the men in the railroad yard yelled at him, but when he crossed the tracks the engines tooted their whistles at him. Altogether Lightfoot was very, very frightened.
On and on he ran. Some of the boys were getting closer now, for Lightfoot could not run over the shining rails as easily as they.
“I’m going to get that goat!” cried the boy who had first seen Lightfoot.
Lightfoot heard the boy’s shout, though he did not understand the words. The goat knew he must run faster and faster, and he did. He came to a place near the line of the railroad tracks where he could see some water. He knew what water was, for he drank it, and also, when it rained hard, there was a little pond and a stream that formed on top of the big rocks, so he was used to seeing large puddles.
Lightfoot ran close to the water. The boys, racing after him, saw, and one cried:
“Oh, the goat’s going for a swim!”
But Lightfoot was not going to do that. He was only looking for a good place to hide. Pretty soon he saw it. Floating on the water was something that looked like a little house. Smoke was coming from a stovepipe in the roof, and beyond the house, and seeming to be a part of it, were two big, long black holes.
“Those holes would make a good place to hide,” thought Lightfoot.
He ran up alongside them and looked down.
There was nothing in them, and no one was in sight. The boys chasing after him were behind some freight cars just then and could not see him.
“I’ll hide down there,” said Lightfoot to himself. “It isn’t as far to jump as it was from the top of the rocks to the roof of the shanty. I’ll hide there.”
Down into the dark hole, near the funny little house, leaped Lightfoot. And where do you suppose he was now?
He was down in the bottom of a canal boat, down in the big hole, in the hold, as it is called, next to the cabin, or little house. In the hold, though it was empty now, is located the cargo the boat carries—hay, grain or coal.
For the first time in his life Lightfoot was on a boat.
With a heart that beat hard and fast after his long run, Lightfoot, the goat, crouched down in a dark corner of the hold in the canal boat.
“My!” thought poor Lightfoot as he curled up in a space as small as he could. “I got away from them just in time. I hope they don’t find me.”
He listened with his ears pointed forward, just as a horse does when he hears or sees something strange. There was a sort of thumping noise somewhere in the canal boat, near the wooden wall or partition against which Lightfoot was resting himself.
There was a rattling of dishes and pans, and then Lightfoot heard the noise of coal being put in the stove. He knew that sound, for in the shanty of Widow Malony he often heard it before, when Mike or his mother would make a fire to cook a meal.
And pretty soon Lightfoot smelled something cooking. He sniffed the air in the dark hold of the canal boat. It was not the smell of such food as Lightfoot cared to eat, for it was meat and potatoes being cooked. And though he did like a cold boiled potato once in a while, he did not want meat.
“I wonder what is going on here?” thought the goat.
If he had known, it was the noises in the cabin-kitchen of the canal boat—the captain’s wife was getting dinner. For on these canal boats, of which there are not so many now as there used to be, the captain and his family live in a little house, or cabin, where they eat and sleep just as if the house were on land. Instead it is on a boat, and the boat is pulled by horses and mules from one city to another, bringing to port coal, grain or whatever else they are loaded with.
Lightfoot remained hiding in the dark hold, listening to the noises in the kitchen cabin, and smelling the good smells. Then Lightfoot heard voices in the cabin. It was the captain of the boat speaking to his wife.
“We’ll soon pull out of here,” he said.
“Where are you going to voyage to now?” asked the captain’s wife.
“To Buffalo,” he answered. “I’m going there to get a load of grain and bring it back here.”
“Are you going to take the boat out empty?” asked the woman, as she set a dish of potatoes and meat on the little table in the cabin.
“No,” he answered, “we are going to travel a little way in the boat, then we will take on a load of coal. We will carry that a hundred miles or so, and then when we take that out and the boat will be empty again, and, after it is cleaned, we will go on to Buffalo and get the grain. We will start soon.”
Lightfoot heard all this through the wooden wall, but he did not know what it meant. He looked around the hold as well as he could. He could see no one in it. It was like being in a big, empty barn.
Then Lightfoot heard the sound of some boys’ voices calling, and as he remembered the boys, with the lumps of coal, who had chased him, he shrank farther into a dark corner.
Lightfoot could hear the patter of running feet. He did not want the boys to find him. He heard them calling again.
“Say, Mister, did you see a goat around here?” asked one of the boys.
“Goat? No, I didn’t see a goat.” It was the canal boat captain talking. “Get away from here now! I’m going to start the boat soon, and if you don’t want to be taken away on her you’d better go ashore.”
“Come on, fellas!” cried the boy who had first seen Lightfoot. “That goat isn’t here. He must have run up along the canal,” and away ran the boys, which was just what Lightfoot wanted.
Up above him Lightfoot could see the glimmer of daylight, for the hatches, or covers of the hold, were off, now that it was empty. When the boat was loaded with grain the covers would be put on, but they were not needed for coal, since water does not harm that.
“Well, I seem to be down in a sort of big hole,” thought Lightfoot, as he looked up. “It was easy enough to jump down, but I don’t know if I can jump out again. However, I don’t want to do that now. I want to stay where I am so those boys can’t get me. But I do wish Mike were here with me.”
Lightfoot was beginning to feel a little lonesome, but there was so much that was new and strange all about him that he did not feel homesick long. He kept on walking to the other end of the canal boat.
Then he sniffed the air. He heard noises which he knew were made by horses, and then he caught the smell of hay, oats and straw.
“I must be near a stable,” said Lightfoot. “But I don’t understand. What does it mean?”
He walked on a little farther and soon he came to another wooden wall. Behind it he could hear horses, or mules, he did not know which, chewing their food and stamping about in their stalls. Lightfoot thought this was strange.
But those of you who have seen canal boats know what it is. Each boat has to carry on it several teams of horses or mules to pull the boat along, since one pair of horses would get tired if they pulled all the while.
A canal, you know, is a long ditch, or stream of water, going from one city to another. Men cut the ditch through the earth and then let the water flow in so boats would float.
Along the side of the ditch of water is a little road, called a “towpath,” and this is where the horses walk, pulling, or towing, the canal boat by a rope that is fastened to the boat at one end and to the collars of the horses at the other end. In fact the horses pull the canal boat along the water much as Lightfoot pulled the goat wagon in which the children rode.
Years ago there were many canal boats, but now, since there are so many railroads, the canals are not so often used, for it is slower traveling on them than on the railroad trains, which go very fast.
“Well, I certainly am in a strange place,” thought Lightfoot. “I don’t know whether I am going to like it or not. Still it is better than being teased with a stick, or having boys chase after you with lumps of coal.”
He listened to the horses stamping about in their stalls, and chewing their food. Then there were more noises, and the sound of men calling: “Gid-dap there!” Next came the pounding of horses’ hoofs on wooden planks, and the voices of men shouting.
“What in the world is going on?” thought Lightfoot.
“Hello, in there, you horses. What is going on, if you please?” he called.
He could hear that the horses stopped chewing their oats; and one said to another:
“What is that?”
“I don’t know,” was the answer. “It sounded as if somebody were in the hold.”
“That’s just where I am,” said Lightfoot.
“Who are you?” asked a horse.
“Lightfoot, the leaping goat,” was the answer. And then Lightfoot told something of himself and the adventures he had had so far—of why he ran away from the park, and, to get away from the boys, of having jumped down into the boat.
“Well, if you’re there,” said a horse on the other side of the wall, “you’re likely to stay for some time. It is too high for you to jump out.”
“I see it is,” answered Lightfoot, “even though I am called the leaping goat. But what will happen to me?”
“You are going on a voyage now,” was the answer of the horse. “That noise you heard was the captain leading some of the horses out of our stable, here on the boat, over a board, called a gangway, to the canal towpath. Very soon they will begin to pull the boat along the canal, and, after a while, it will be our turn. You are going on a voyage, Lightfoot.”
“Is a voyage nice?” asked the goat.
“You had better wait and see,” was the answer.
“I wish I could come into your stable,” said Lightfoot. “I would not take up much room.”
“You would be welcome,” said a horse, “but there is no way for you to get in unless you can get out of the hold, onto the towpath and come down the plank. Someday maybe you can do that.”
“I hope so,” said Lightfoot, who was now getting very hungry.
Just then the captain called:
“All aboard! Cast off the lines!”
And the next thing Lightfoot knew was that the boat began slowly to move. It had started up the canal. Lightfoot was on a voyage, though where he was going he did not know.