I paid a premium to travel from Essaouira to Marrakech by car, and it was worth every dime.
I’ve looked down into an active volcano in Nicargaua, walked around Stonghenge in England, trekked up the verdant slate strewn trail to Bron yr Aur cottage in Northern Wales, marveled at whales and porpoises and flying fish cutting through the surface of the Pacific Ocean 4,000 miles from home and hundreds of miles from any shore, walked through the Colesium and many other antiquities in Rome and stood enthralled before dozens of other natural and man made wonders.
But I’d never seen anything quite like what I saw 20 miles outside of Essaouira this morning on my way back to Marrakech.
A herd of goats – 13 or 14 – grazing up in the tall branches of a tree. A tree they’d climbed in pursuit of the argan nuts that they feed on exclusively.
I’d seen a poster of this once or twice before, but until you look up at a goat standing on a narrow branch 20 feet off the ground, it doesn’t quite sink in.
Those vaunted mountain goats I’ve seen in photos are stumbling clowns compared to these utterly sure footed mammals. While it is pretty clear that some humans have had a hand in nailing up a few supports here and there to buttress the goat’s footing, it’s still damn impressive.
I guess when you’re the type of goat that can climb up to the highest reaches of a 20-plus foot tree and dine on delicacies, you don’t have to slum like the rest of your goat brethen who schlepp around down on the ground munching on scrub grass and such.
It all had me wondering if Morocco had considered developing an event like they have in neighboring Spain. Instead of “Running with the Bulls,” you could “Climb with the Goats.” The worst that could happen is one might fall on you. Well, or something else fall on you.
Anyways, as I stood looking at the tree filled with goats, I tried to imagine the first time one actually ventured to climb up a tree after argan nuts.
Actually my first thought was how cool it would have been if Alfred Hitchcock had known about this phenomenon in the 60s and made a movie called, say, “The Goats.” Then I realized that they never could have gotten down the chimney, which would have tanked the dramatic narrative in that scene where they invade the house and scare the hell out of Tippi Hedren.
But I digress.
“Damn! We’ve eaten all argan nuts we can reach,” a long ago goat might have said to his goat colleagues. “Guess it’s just scrub grass and such for us until we find another tree.”
“Screw that,” another goat shot back, still hungry and very frustrated at having to leave such an abundance of nuts just hanging there, seemingly taunting them. “They’re right there, just above our noses!”
“Might as well be on the moon, Clyde,” the other goat replied dismissively. “We can’t get to ‘em, ‘cause, as everyone knows, goats can’t climb trees.”
After staring up at the bounty of higher hanging argan nuts for a minute, the hungry goat looked at his colleague and replied, “Says who?”
“Says… uh… well, um … I don’t know,” the other goat replied with a puzzled look. “I hadn’t really thought about it.”
The hungry goat looked the tree over again for a minute or two and turned to his goat brethren.
“This is one small step for a goat, and one giant leap for a… well, a goat,” he said, and proceeded to climb up the tree slowly but surely.
And the rest, as we humans say, is history. If goats were so inclined, which they aren’t, they might have raised a statue to the Neil Armstrong of goats. But they didn’t. ‘Cause they’re just goats. Though goats that, incredibly, can climb trees.
By the way, because all that those climbing goats eat is argan nuts (not the bitter shells) they’re prized for their delightful tasting roasted flesh, which has the pleasing scent of argan oil.
So maybe, if they know what’s good for them, the goats, as impressive as they are, shouldn’t stop at merely climbing trees. Because they need a way to be able to not just get up into the trees, but stay there and become tree dwelling goats.
Because in the end, after all the wondrous stares and photos, the goats, just like those prized Spanish pigs that eat only acorns and taste so yummy they go for $90 a pound, the Moroccan goats are still just dinner waiting to happen.