Today’s Headline: Never let a hurricane get your goat

Hurricane Beulah floods South Texas. Photo: McAllen Monitor

Just one of the many stories, the many headlines that comprise the overall story of any hurricane.

As we now are seeing with the aggressive coming of Hurricane Harvey, there are those who choose to stay behind.

They become the stories behind the story.

These people cite their reasons.

Some stay behind to protect others.

Some stay to protect their property.

Some say they don’t have the money to leave.

Some stay for other reasons.

Reminds me of Beulah, the hurricane of September, 1967.

Took the last flight into Corpus Christi.

Got the last airport rental car available.

Headed in the direction of the approaching Beulah.

Others were headed out.

Drove through the downtown area of one city, noticed a bakery opening before 4 a.m.

Asked the owner why he and some employees were there, getting the coffee pots going, starting to turn out baked goods and a selection of breakfast items.

Why not leave?

Head for higher ground.

Safer ground.

Simple. Because people soon would be stopping by, getting breakfast before heading off to work.

The bakery needed to be there to serve them.

The people needed their breakfasts.

This despite the fact Beulah with all her fury was only a couple of hours away.

Then heard about Jesus (who, best as I could understand it, there in the blowing rain and the howling wind, said his name was pronounced “hay-soouce) Garcia. (In later discussions through the years, some said Hey-zeus, Hey-zuse, He-soos, Hay-soos, Che-Soos, Khe-soos and more.)

Went to see “Hay-soouce.”

Rain was picking up.

Wind was picking up.

Hay-soouce’s story:

Of course he was concerned about Beulah.

So concerned he sent his wife and kids inland.

Sent them to higher ground.

Safer ground.

Why did he stay behind?

His billy goat.

His black billy goat.

He had no way to send his black billy goat  inland.

Inland to higher ground

Inland to safer ground.

So he stayed behind to look after his billy goat, protect it any way he could.


Not really sure.

He would figure that out when the time came.

Much later, in the calm after Beulah, went back to check on “Hay-soouce.”

He was fine, just fine, smiling – as was, I could swear, his black billy goat.

Beulah spawned dozens of tornadoes.

Caused dozens of deaths.

Half a century ago.

Harvey is here now.

And somewhere along its path are the stories of those who stay behind.

Stay behind because the baked goods need to be baked.

Because folks need their breakfasts.

Because someone named Hay-soouce knows it’s up to him to watch out for his black billy goat.

Jesus Garcia and His Black Billy Goat.

Just one of the many stories, the many headlines that comprise the overall story of any hurricane.

Even, perhaps, the kind of story-within-the-story which is – when all is said and done, when the ill wind that blows nobody good is done — the most important and endearing and enduring story of all.

Roger Summers is a journlist and essayist, former reporter and editorial writer for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. He is the author of Heart Songs from a Washboard Road.

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  • LeAnne Summers

    Why does this have Caleb’s byline at the top?

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Because I made a mistake when loading the story, LeAnne. I apologize. It has been corrected. I never want to distract from a Roger Summers by-line. He’s much too good a writer for that.

      • LeAnne Summers

        Thanks for being a good administrator and pouncing on that, Caleb. I knew it was a mistake. Lots of details in running a website. But it still got my goat up. That’s an expression, right?

        • Caleb Pirtle

          It is.

  • The end of the story could have been, ‘Neither Jesus nor the billy goat were ever seen again.’

    We don’t write the ends to hurricane stories – we can’t divert them, we can’t slow them down, not at the time they happen. We forget – at a time when the money isn’t poured into infrastructure, maintaining roads, dams, levees, bridges… So much of the damage could be prevented if people didn’t live on barrier islands, beaches, wetlands. And insist the government protect them there, with our tax money. And replace the sand on the beaches Sandy scoured clean in NJ…

    Humans have short memories. Nature has to remind us sometimes.

    It’s when, not if.

    • Caleb Pirtle

      Human who have not experienced a hurricane or tornado cannot fathom the power of winds and water. It’s not fate that tracks us down. It’s nature, time, and circumstance.

      • I lived through David in a motel in Orlando (we were evacuated from Cape Canaveral, where I was working), and Sandy outside my front door in NJ a couple of years ago.

        There is no quarter, no place to hide. The palm trees were horizontal.

        • Caleb Pirtle

          Alicia: You are indeed a fortunate woman to have escaped a hurricane twice. It comes after you with wind, water, and flying debris. All can be deadly.

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