IT HAS BEEN reported that Secretary of State James Baker was to spend a weekend in Mongolia, out on the Gobi Desert, trying to shoot goats.
As a philosopher once said, there's just no accounting for tastes.
I have to assume that Baker must get some gratification, even joy, out of shooting goats. There has to be pleasure in it or he wouldn't have traveled to Mongolia, under the pretext of discussing affairs of state with Mongolians, so he could squeeze in a weekend of goat shooting.
But to someone who has never shot a goat, it seems like a lot of bother, flying halfway around the world on a government plane loaded with flunkies.
On the other hand, many people travel vast distances to hit balls around famous golf courses. So is there any greater reason to boast, "I shot an 84 on the Old Course at St. Andrews," than "I shot a goat in Mongolia?" Different strokes and different goats for different folks.
In fact, it makes me wonder if I might be missing out on an enjoyable recreational activity. Goats, I mean.
I wouldn't want to shoot one. It isn't that I oppose hunting, because I don't. I will never malign hunting, not while many of the readers of this newspaper are avid hunters and I know on which side my bread is buttered. Besides, some of them mistake each other or their own feet for wild turkeys and blaze away, which makes for interesting hunting news.
The reason I wouldn't shoot a goat is that I wouldn't know what to do with it. My friend Sam Sianis, the Greek who owns the Billy Goat Tavern, says dead goats don't taste very good. "You got put lotsa mustard and peekles on, or you won't like it," he says.
But there is a way to hunt a goat without shooting it. And I'm not talking about photography, which is popular among some non-violent hunters. I doubt if there would be much manly joy in stalking a goat just to take its picture. Even a close friend wouldn't be impressed if you returned from safari, whipped out a picture, and said:
"Look at this."
"Why are you showing me a picture of a goat?"
"Because I happen to have stalked and photographed that goat."
"They sell better goat postcards at the zoo. You could have saved a dollar."
However, there are creatures known as Tennessee Fainting Goats. I became aware of them several weeks ago, as some may recall, and wrote about their strange affliction.
They have a nervous disorder. It isn't painful or fatal, but if you sneak up on a Tennessee Fainting Goat and yell "Boo!" or "Hey, goat," or just about anything else, they will faint. That's why they call them fainting goats.
When they faint, they do so with dramatic flair. Some simply collapse, but others roll over on their backs, stiff as boards, with their legs pointing toward the sky.
But in a minute or two, their eyes flutter open and they scramble back to their feet, totally recovered, as good as new and bearing no ill will. You can make a goat faint, then pat its head and it will waggle its little tail. They aren't grudge holders.
For sporting purposes, the advantages of the fainting goat are obvious. It's recyclable. You can have the pleasure of making it faint time after time, but you still have a perfectly sound and useful goat. Of course, you wouldn't want to overdo it, making the goat faint every few minutes for an entire day. It would soon become monotonous for both you and the goat, and the thrill would be gone.
It's also considerably less expensive and time-consuming to make a goat faint in Tennessee than to travel all the way to Mongolia to shoot a Mongolian goat. And for those who care about such matters, Tennessee is where Jack Daniel's sipping whiskey is produced. But in Mongolia the favorite hooch is something made out of fermented milk. Little wonder Ghengis Khan and his Mongol hordes kept overrunning other countries. They were looking for a decent drink.
And once Baker has shot a Mongolian goat, what will he have to show for his efforts? A dead goat, that's what. I'm as possessions-crazed as the next American consumer, but I've never even thought of owning a dead goat, Mongolian or otherwise.
I suppose Baker could have it stuffed, then stand it up in his living room or on his front lawn to impress visitors. "That? Oh, just something I shot in Mongolia." But a plastic pink flamingo would be less costly and easier to maintain.
Or he might have the deceased goat's hide turned into a garment of some sort, in case he's ever invited to formal Mongolian social events.
Whatever he does with his goat, I hope he enjoyed himself. Now I must go down to my basement to set a few mousetraps. Ah, the thrill of the hunt.