Johnny’s Goat

So GM is dropping Pontiac. I wonder what Johnny thinks of that.

Thirty years ago, I lived in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, at a place called Beaver Lodge. Three of us were students. Three others were out of college, but still living the life. Then there was Johnny.

Johnny spent a little time on campus, but he wasn’t a student. He was a different cat. Johnny often talked about having some money, or soon coming into some money, but his life seemed to suggest otherwise.

Johnny often looked like he’d just gotten out of bed, unshaven, his clothes rumpled and his wild, thinning hair all over the place. But that was Johnny. He wasn’t into appearances. He was pretty laid back.

Especially, thankfully, on the day we crashed the Goat.


That’s what Johnny called his Pontiac GTO. Johnny’s Goat — I think it may have a ’69, like the one above — once had been a sweet ride.

But it wasn’t by the end of the ’70s, when Johnny was driving it to his job as a security guard. It rode too low to the ground, and it wasn’t a low rider. It needed shocks, springs and body work.

When he wasn’t working, Johnny liked to fish. He’d tie his aluminum canoe on top of the Goat and take off. A muscle car with a boat on top. That was Johnny.

One day, the Goat was blocking another car in our driveway. I asked Johnny to move it, and he just threw me the keys. I hopped into the driver’s seat of the Goat, thrilled to be behind the wheel of a cool car. The thrill faded almost immediately. The inside of the Goat looked and smelled like a landfill. That, too, was Johnny. So I moved the Goat and went back inside.

A couple of minutes later, we heard a loud, scraping noise. Then we heard the crash.

The Goat had rolled forward on our sloping driveway and smashed through the basement garage door. When Johnny’s canoe hit the house, it slid off and came to rest at a 45-degree angle, with one end against the house and the other end on the driveway, the Goat underneath it.

Johnny’s often bleary eyes grew wide. He put his hands to his head and swept them back through that wild, thinning hair. His mouth dropped open, but he didn’t say much.

“John,” I assured him, “I set the parking brake.”

“It doesn’t work,” Johnny said.

Remarkably, though, neither the Goat nor the canoe sustained much damage. The scraping we heard was the Goat dragging its rear end on the sloping pavement, slowing its trip toward the garage door.

Johnny was cool about the …


“Wreckage,” the J. Geils Band, from “Monkey Island,” 1977.

Our landlord was not cool about the wreckage. He tore out the garage door, bricked it up and filled in the driveway. That said, it made my basement bedroom — the one in which I often listened to “Monkey Island” — that much more comfortable.

Where’s Johnny today? I have no idea. Not sure I want to know.

Johnny, after all, was a guy who liked to bring his fish back to Beaver Lodge, then throw his catch into the freezer without cleaning it or properly wrapping it. Our roommate Mikey took one look at Johnny’s fish staring at him from the freezer and threw them out.


Filed under April 2009, Sounds

4 responses to “Johnny’s Goat

  1. Pingback: J. Geils Band “Wreckage” « Rock God Cred

  2. Arthur2sheds

    Growing up just across the river from Detroit, I was fed a steady diet of J. Geils. They’re a criminally under-appreciated band in my opinion.

    It’s too bad they’re probably best known for a song like “Centrefold,” –which hasn’t aged particularly well–more than their terrific 70s output.

    I’m listening to the great “Must’ve Got Lost,” complete with the rambling spoken-word intro, even as I type.

  3. Shark

    What is it about someone like Johnny that makes you want to live that college student life all over again? Maybe because it was a time when, even though you had no money, somehow you had enough money to have a good time. Whether you were with 2 friends or 6 friends, it didn’t take much to to have a great time…a baseball, a frisbee, a charcoal grill, some adult beverages, a radio…it didn’t matter, there was nothing like being young (and stupid) and living in the moment.

    As for J. Geils, I recently put a cassette tape in my car’s cassette player (yeah, I still have one) and was pleasantly surpised to hear “Come As You Are” by Peter Wolf, a minor 1987 hit. Peter Wolf sure could put on a show…I saw J. Geils open up for Peter Frampton in 1977 and for REO Speedwagon in 1980.

  4. I love that post. I don’t care much for the cut, but the story!?! Long live Johnny and all those like him!

    Thanks for making me smile.

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