Guard goat: ‘Holy goat’ stands watch over Mississippi church

Published 7:35 am Monday, July 20, 2020

Local folks call him the “holy goat.” For reasons known only to himself, the big billy goat likes to hang out in front of Rose Bower Missionary Baptist Church on Highway 24 west of McComb.

Nearby resident Anita Campbell alerted me to the goat in a text Monday morning. “We love watching for him!” she said.

Naturally I had to go see.

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Tuesday morning as I approached the church on Highway 24, I indeed spotted a large billygoat standing stock-still in front of the church. He was so still that for a minute I thought he was a piece of lawn art.

I pulled into the driveway and stopped maybe 75 yards away. The goat was no statue and ran up onto the porch.

I attached my zoom lens and tried to get a photo from the distance, but it was drizzling rain and the lens was fogged. So I reattached my regular lens, pulled on a cap and rain jacket and got out.

I approached at an angle, not wanting to spook him. He watched me intently.

I snapped photos, and as I got closer spoke to him gently as you would a dog.

The thought occurred to me that I would be in quite a fix if the goat decided to charge, as I was in the middle of a parking lot with nowhere to run, and this was a big animal with thick horns. But the goat bolted around the side of the church instead.

For the next 15 minutes I played hide-and-seek with the animal, even offering him a banana. But he got tired of the shenanigans and ran down the highway right-of-way toward the east.

I drove east and turned in at the first drive, where the goat stood on the front porch of a house.

When I got out he ran, and when I knocked no one answered.

I recalled interviewing a goat farmer, Ivy Sandifer, around here some 40 years ago and wondered if this goat could be a descendant of that herd.

At the next house, a young man named Jonathan Williams came to the door. He laughed when I asked about the goat and said the animal was well-known in the area, didn’t bother anybody and was “a good goat.” He didn’t know who owned it.

Later I spoke with Rose Bower associate minister Larry Thomas and asked him what the congregation thought of the goat.

Thomas said the church hasn’t been meeting during the pandemic, so members haven’t had to deal with the situation yet.

“It’s not really bothering us,” Thomas said. “I guess when people come he leaves anyway.”

He predicted the goat will find somewhere else to hang out when the congregation resumes meeting.

Thomas put me in touch with the goat’s theoretical owner, Gary Butler, who lives near the church.

“That goat just came up there and I caught him and tied him,” Butler said, noting the critter has been around a couple of months.

But the goat got loose and has become something of a community fixture.

People who drive that route or live in the area have gotten used to him.

“I travel to and from McComb. I have become accustomed to stopping to drop the goat off some veggies,” said Jennifer Marsalis of Winding Road, who’s an avid gardener.

Anita Campbell just likes looking at him.

“Isn’t he hilarious? Looks like a regal king or something,” she said.

“All of us in this neighborhood are possessed by the ‘holy goat!’ ”

Campbell’s son Greyson added, “Goat might be a Baaaptist!”