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From A Libertarian Walks into a Bear, which was published in September by PublicAffairs.

When Chris Weathersbee, then in his sixties, moved onto the property in Corinth, Vermont, in 1999, it had just three goats.

He began to think of the twenty-nine-acre farm as a goat sanctuary, one that would operate in accordance with his Buddhist beliefs. He started taking in stray Nubians and cashmeres; because he thought it inhumane to isolate, castrate, or slaughter his bleating wards, they were free to breed with one another, a freedom of which the goats took full advantage

Within four years, the property was home to 252 goats, and Weathersbee—by then widely known in the community as Goat Man—was devoting most of his days to their care.

By the summer of 2004, Goat Man had become completely overwhelmed by his charges. The previous winter, he had been concerned about his newborn goats’ ability to survive an unusually intense cold snap. So he moved the babies into the house. Ditto their nursing mothers. Ditto the oldest goats. Ditto the sick and the frail. In all, this extended goat slumber party included seventy goats, all allowed to stay inside the house until the cold passed.

But, as witnesses would later describe, when the winter did let up, Goat Man did not evict the animals. Goats milled aimlessly around the house, in and out of the kitchen, up and down the stairs. Chickens foraged on the counter. In the living room, a goat stood on a wing chair overlooking a sleeping bag on the floor, where Goat Man reportedly slept while restless goats stepped on him all night. During this time, Goat Man had allowed layers of hay and shit to accumulate on the floor to such a degree that one’s head nearly bumped the ceiling.

If the house looked like a horror-movie trailer, the barn was the full-length feature. It was as if some elder Cthulhu-like god had been handed a wooden, barn-size bowl of sacrificial chèvre and cast it down, disgusted at the enormous mass of shit and dead goats mixed in with the living.

When a visitor described the number of goat corpses she’d seen, she was diplomatic: “He was trying, you know,” she said. “He had a problem.”

Soon, authorities began suggesting that if Goat Man didn’t care for the animals properly they would be seized.

“I said, ‘I will resist you by every means at my disposal,’ ” Goat Man told Goat World magazine. “If the sheriff comes, you’ll have to shoot me.”

The final straw came a couple of weeks before Christmas in 2004, when someone—possibly an irate neighbor—shot one of the goats in the face and left the body in Goat Man’s front yard.

Days later, Goat Man, who was by then facing animal-cruelty charges, loaded up his small car with as many goats as it would carry and fled. He apparently went to Ohio and started the whole goat cycle over, because the following year he fled the state under similar circumstances, leaving the authorities to discover 220 live goats and 80 dead goats in his wake.

Police, following a trail of dead goats that spanned four states, finally caught up with Goat Man in West Virginia. When he was arrested, he had sixteen goats in his possession (including one in the freezer). Stripped of his goats, he disappeared.

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November 2020

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