To the Editor:
Darling of the goat barn and blue ribbon champion, Amy, a pure-breed alpine, was the belle of the ball circa 1975 at the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Fair. Flashing back to 1975 — the release date of “Jaws,” a milestone year for the Vineyard — Amy was infamous, as we found out the day we took her to the fair.
We were not farmers, meaning we didn’t raise livestock for any commercial purposes. Rather, my dad acquired random animals on sale around the Vineyard for pets. Over the years, we owned a miniature burro, a steer, geese, a mule, pigmy goats, an alpine goat (Amy), and ducks.
Stepping back a bit, dad purchased land in West Tisbury back in the sixties as vacation property. Just recently, he overheard someone giving directions citing his property and his name as a landmark (just past so-and so’s place). It made him feel that perhaps he had now arrived on the Island, 50 years later. This might be debatable since the Island is still the Island, and few people are considered locals.
Back to Amy. In the summer of 1975, my dad was off-Island during the weekend of the fair, and we were left with a babysitter and a list of activities to keep us out of trouble. On the list was entering Amy into the fair.
We had been to the fair every summer, but mostly to visit the midway. The idea of entering an animal into the livestock competition was my dad’s — but we thought it would be fun, something different.
As I already said, we were not farmers — so we had no trailers or any type of animal-hauling vehicle. Our very smart babysitter suggested we load Amy in the back of the car to get her to the fair. Not much smarter, we agreed, because Amy was, after all, a pet. All the pets we knew rode in the back of cars to go places. Needless to say, that car was never really the same again.
We got dropped off at the goat barn — and after finding Amy’s assigned stall, the babysitter left. Visualize two pre-pubescent teenagers sitting with a goat in a barn waiting for something to happen. Well, something did happen: there was an outpouring of attention from fellow goat-owning contestants — but not for us, for Amy. Is that Amy? How has she been? Lookin’ good, Amy. This can only be explained by the fact that in 1975 the Island population was still small, and possibly, unbeknownst to us, Amy may have shown before. Regardless, she apparently was a legend on Martha’s Vineyard.
We arrived about two hours before the goat judging. Waiting around with her in her pen, we soon discovered that as an owner you were supposed to bring food, water, and grooming gear for your animal.
Thankfully, Amy was so popular with the Island goat breeders that they generously offered donations of food and water bowls. Someone even gave us a grooming brush. While they were happy to do this for Amy, we got admonished. Didn’t you bring anything for Amy? Poor Amy.
Acting as if we brushed her all the time, we worked on Amy’s coat as if styling a girlfriend’s hair. We wanted it to be smooth and shiny, and she loved every minute of the girly preparation.
When the time came to parade around the corral, not even a runway model could have out-strutted her. She raised her head, threw back her shoulders and pranced her Cou Clair (literally “clear neck”) tan front-quarters and black hindquarters around like a pro. She owned the audience, easily winning the pure-bred Alpine division. I stood with her as she got her blue ribbon. Cameras flashed. It was her big moment.
Did I mention that my best friend Carol was there with me? Well, she was, and as Amy and I exited the round-up, our hysterical laughing began. Laughing at the thought of being a winning goat exhibitor and at the impossibility of winning a livestock blue ribbon without knowing why.
We were going to call the babysitter (the days of pay phones) to come and get us after Amy’s big win — but Amy’s friends in the goat barn encouraged us to stay for the best-of-show competition.
You can guess what happened next, Amy was not to be denied. She was the goat of goats. All eyes on her, she was the blue-ribbon-winning-best-of-show goat.
As best as I can explain it, Amy was a true resident of Martha’s Vineyard — beloved by all. She was the local prom queen.
That was the only time we showed Amy at the fair (might have had something to do with the car). But, she remained our pet for the duration of her life. We loved her just as much as her Island fans did.
Besides seeing “Jaws” at the Oak Bluffs theater and exiting seeing the same police officer outside directing traffic as the one directing traffic in the movie (big deal at the time), the other thing I remember about that summer was the phone call to the travel agent, explaining that our goat ate my friend Carol’s airplane ticket (before e-tickets, it was a live ticket, just like cash). No, really.
Elaine Murphy Keller