The Idle American: Life, Liberty, and the Billy Goat Man

Don Newbury ready to remove what the lazy squirrels ignored.


We should have been more concerned about too many leaves and acorns, as well as lazy squirrels.

For most of my adult life, I’ve bought into the “balance of nature” thing, perhaps ignited by reasonable absorption of elementary school “book learnin’” about plants, oxygen, carbon dioxide, tides, and other stuff.

Now, I’m ready to “sell back” a long-held supposition that squirrels and acorns come out generally even on matters of supply and demand.

Hogwash. When we moved to our Burleson, Texas, home 17 years ago, we gave little thought to the name of our neighborhood: Oak Valley. Dreams gravitated toward stately trees adding positively to our front yard. We should have been more concerned about too many leaves and acorns, as well as lazy squirrels–the very animals we expected to “squirrel” away acorns for the winter….


  Our squirrels seem happy to live for the day. Acorns are stacking up in record numbers. Meanwhile, squirrels scamper about happily as if there’s no tomorrow.

My wife of 52 years whimpers mostly about our acorns. She fears that they’ll become full-grown trees and that maybe we’ll be the first victims of outdoor suffocation. Additionally, there’ll be yet another reason for our neighbors to laugh at us.

Thankfully, yard maintenance was provided during half of our professional years, and here lately, our 15-year-old grandson Jonah has provided mowing and edging.  On yard work, I’ve been pretty much “home free”–until now. I feel the pressure; it’s up to me to dispose of the dreaded leaves and acorns. I’m coming out of retirement to take on this dastardly debris….


  I have my “pre-owned” Billy Goat–and providence–to thank. The guy at Lowe’s had no leaf/debris vacuums to show me, but another customer, overhearing my plight, suggested a visit to Bargain Buddy’s, a lawn equipment place.

He mentioned that a neighbor traded in his gasoline-powered Billy Goat there a few years back.

Lest you wonder, the Billy Goat leaf/debris vacuum was introduced about a half-century ago at its Lee’s Summit, Missouri, plant. It is so named because it removes leaves and other stuff better than real goats do….


  When I visited Buddy’s–located near I-35W on “woodsy” Bethesda Road, just four miles away–providence took over. A customer entering the shop right after I did hear my almost-tearful description of our problem.

He interrupted, asking the owner if he still had the Billy Goat he’d traded in a few years back for a larger machine.

What are the odds the previous owner would appear? Or that Buddy would remember where to find it among his hundreds of machines? Or that he would soon make it “lawn worthy” at an attractive price? Yep, there had to be providence involved….


   I contacted the Billy Goat manufacturing people, learning that common questions include how to change the oil, and what to do if debris “upchucks?”

The answers: Turn the machine on its side to drain oil from the spout, and, make sure to keep the bag clean! It is a given that suction must maintain air flow in the right direction!

I can do this!…


 Oh, I’m not likely to become recognized as a lawn authority, or ever fully understand my Billy Goat. It is, after all, some 15 years old. Real goats’ age is about the same as “dog years.” So my machine is older than I am, and perhaps even more temperamental.

New challenges include finding shortcuts for bag-emptying or devising a longer handle for the intake nozzle.  Or maybe I can help the “flowerbed folks” by helping to develop heavier mulch. If this seems impractical, there is always the possibility of adding adhesive to one side of each piece, so the mulch isn’t sucked up, too. I hereby accept such challenges.

And did I mention that my Billy Goat is somewhat noisier than the four-legged goat, and is loud enough to drown out my wife’s ever-growing, verbal additions to her “honey-do” list?….


   Dr. Newbury is a former educator who “commits speeches” round about. Comments/inquiries to: newbury@speakerdoc.comPhone: 817-447-3872. Web site: www.speakerdoc.comTwitter: @donnewbury. Facebook: don newbury.

Don Newbury is the author of the humorous and inspirational When The Porch Light’s On. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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