Years ago, as a little kid, I loved to hear my Granddad tell the story of the billy and the
stickweed. Now, I always took it to mean that this was a story about him, but after my
Granddad died I was told it was about his best friend. Whatever, he told it with such
gusto, you would have swore he had been there and he just might have been, because if it
had happened to me, I would have said it happened to a friend too. This story took place
way back in the hills of West Virginia in the very early 1900’s.
Back then and in that area everyone lived near a creek. Mainly because it gave you a little
bit of sloping land to build on and a place to keep a flock of chickens, a cow or two, and
a garden. Plus, the best weed eater around, a billy, was always somewhere on the place.
Granddad’s friend was just a little fellow who had a lot of responsibilities. He fed the
chickens, collected the eggs, fed the cow, brought in kindling for the wood cookstove,
and a variety of other very important chores. One day his dad came home with a proud
possession, a big billy. His dad turned the big billy loose in the barnyard and went on
about his business.
That evening Granddad’s friend went out to collect eggs and feed the cow. What he
wasn’t expecting was this big billy to come tearing out from behind the barn and chase
him over the barnyard fence. He got his first clue that life had just been made difficult.
He complained to his dad about the billy and his dad said to get over it. This billy was to
clean the weeds not only around the barnyard, but around the house as well to keep the
copperheads back. And, he told his son that he better not be lax about his chores.
The only one that billy ever chased was the boy. His whole life seemed to be centered on
hunting the boy down and chasing him back into the house. Granddad’s friend had to
think of all sorts of tricks to be able to get his chores done and still, he ended up chased
back inside the house.
One day the billy got interested in some particularly good weeds and the boy was able to
slip out to the barn. While he was there a sudden thought occurred to him and he went
out to study the creek. With a big grin, he climbed down the creek bank and stuck his
head above the bank.
"Billy! Billy! Billy!" he shouted to the goat. The goat came trotting around the side of the
house looking for the boy. What he saw was this head sticking just above the bank and it
was shouting at him. In anger he ran towards the irritating boy and lowered his head to
give the boy a good butting.
Granddad’s friend’s grin got even bigger. He knew that with his head down, the old goat
couldn’t see as well where he was going. He waited till the last minute and ducked his
The billy had picked up quite a bit of speed by now and was so angry he didn’t even slow
down as he came near the head. When the head disappeared, he went sailing out over the
bank and landed with a big splash in the creek. The boy laughed all the way to the house.
Now that he had learned a new trick, the boy had to play it on the goat a couple of times
a day. That billy never did learn, he hated that head so much.
One Sunday, on the way back from church, Granddad’s friend was walking with a pretty
little neighbor girl. As they came around the bend to his house he saw the billy grazing in
the front yard.
"Watch this," he said to the girl. With a snicker, he climbed down into the creek and
stuck his head up above the bank and yelled, "Billy! Billy! Billy!"
That goat whirled around to find the hated head. He instantly spotted the boy’s head and
went into a full run at it, lowering his head to butt as he came close.
To build up suspense, the boy waited even longer then usual before he ducked his head
down. He was laughing about the girl’s shrill squeals over the quickly approaching billy.
Finally, just before the billy was to hit, he dropped his head. But, that day he was at a
different location and a very stiff stickweed went up his nose.
Up popped his head. He was knocked clean across the creek, not once touching the
water, and the billy turned with a toss of his horns and pranced happily back to the