DANCES WITH GOATS: A METAPHOR FOR LIFE?

The following is from MORE OF PAUL HARVEY’S THE REST OF THE STORY, by Paul Aurandt:

The Goat-Man of Juan Fernandez

There is a print of a rather detailed eighteenth-century drawing, pastoral setting, the focus of which is a scruffy-looking fellow dancing with a goat.

The ragged character in the portrait really lived.  His name was Alexander Selkirk, and he was the Goat-Man of Juan Fernandez.

As for many young men in the dawning eighteenth century, life on land was not agreeable to Alexander Selkirk.

Back home in Scotland it seemed he was always in some sort of trouble.  Indeed, parish records show that he was cited more than once for misbehavior in church.

In May of 1703, Alex, now twenty-seven, said good-bye to all that, joined a privateering expedition to the South Seas.

Privateers, pirates for hire.

Sixteen months later the ship came to a small island four hundred miles off the coast of Chile.  The island was named for Juan Fernandez, the sixteenth-century mariner who had discovered it and had tried unsuccessfully to colonize it.

Anyway, there was Alex, twenty-eight years old, the appointed sailing master of the privateer.   As the ship was about to leave, Alex and the captain got into an argument.

Tempers flared; Alex gathered his possessions and demanded to be put ashore.  He  was.

“Now what do you say?” We can still hear him shouting from the shore.  “You don’t dare sail without me!”

But the captain standing on the bridge ignored Alex, issued the command to hoist anchor.

Alex’s dramatic ploy had backfired.

Having considered himself indispensable, he was now wading out to his armpits, calling after the ship, pleading for the captain’s forgiveness.

But the stubborn captain had sailed away, never to return.

Thus began THE REST OF THE STORY, the real-life legend of the Goat-Man of Juan Fernandez.  For the explorer Fernandez, upon evacuating the island two centuries before, had left a few goats behind.

The goats would multiply, thrive.  And because they did, abandoned Alexander Selkirk stayed alive.

The wild goats provided meat and milk and skins for clothing.  Those he tamed became his friends.

Four years and four months would pass before Alex was rescued.  He barely remembered how to speak.

He returned to England, became page-one news.  Books were written about him, including one by Alex himself.

Thus this comic eighteenth-century drawing.  A pastoral setting, trees in the background.  And a thatched hut.  And in the foreground, a ragged, bearded, long-haired man, dancing with a goat.

For Alexander Selkirk, the imperiled privateer, the Scottish seaman whose temper got him stranded on a dot of soil in the Pacific–the Goat-Man of Juan Fernandez–was the flesh-and-blood model for fiction author Daniel Defoe.

He was the original, the real-life, Robinson Crusoe.

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