GETTING UNCLE PAT's GOAT
A commonly repeated story which purports to explain the origin of the phrase ‘got someone’s goat’ is that goats were once placed with racehorses to keep them calm. When ne'er-do-wells who wanted the horse to race badly removed it, that is, they 'got someone's goat', the horse became unsettled and ran poorly.
As most of you know, my brother Tom and I worked on the Family Farm from a very young age. After our Father died, our ‘Uncle Pat’ ran the Farm with the part-time ‘help’ of his two nephews. Uncle Pat was an easy-going kind of guy that seldom over reacted to unfortunate incidents or mishaps, but there were a few times when we really ‘got his goat.’
Plowing takes more skill then usually imagined. Setting the draft ( plow depth ) needs to be centered between ‘too shallow’ and ‘too deep’. The control is feather touch sensitive so you need to be very alert when ending each furrow to turn the tractor around. One day fourteen year old Tom went further than he should have with the draft set much too low. The plow dug into our main 8 inch underground irrigation line. Uncle Pat was furious because of all the work required to repair it. Really got his goat that day.
Luce, Schwab & Kase, Inc ( industrial air conditioning equipment and parts ) on Gloria Lane was one of our snow plowing accounts. They had a large overhead door that was fronted outside with a ‘truck well’ ( or loading dock ‘pit’ ). These are engineered better today, but back then many had a steep angle of decline. For snow plowing they’re a pain. They fill up with drifting snow and need to be dug out. Tom was doing just that with our ‘front loader’ and backing out with the bucket up high when he hit solid ice. Despite rear tires spinning in reverse the tractor began to slide toward the building. I was yelling out ‘drop the bucket’ but it happened too fast. The raised bucket crashed into the large wooden overhead door. This was another really expensive fix. I think Uncle Pat invented a few new curse words that day too.
When I was sixteen Uncle Pat bought a new 1967 Chevy pickup truck and had it professionally lettered up with “Pollio Farms Fairfield, New Jersey.” It looked great and I got to drive it on a Farm Use Drivers License. This is a restricted use for farm business with pleasure driving after dark prohibited. Of course I never violated the law :- ), but when Tom became sixteen he got into a little trouble. Tom loaded up the Pickup with six high school friends and their bicycles then was pulled over by the North Caldwell Police. Luckily for Tom, they contacted Fairfield P.D. and Sergeant Burkhardt ( Farm Family also ) took responsibility, escorting the rowdy load back to the Farm. Coincidently, Uncle Pat returning home from dinner with Aunt Marie and daughter Mary wound up following the police car escort into their own yard. Mary said she never saw Uncle Pat so angry. I was so glad that it wasn’t me that got his goat that day, but I would soon top all of these three prior incidents.
We had two snowmobiles on the Farm. Great fun after the snow plowing was done. One was an ‘Arctic Cat’ a great snowmobile known for its handling and quick acceleration. One day it was hard starting and I decided to feed it a little gas to fire it up. To do this, I had to cross my hands on the handlebars to pull the starter rope. I fed a little gas and yanked on the starter rope. The Cat started and lunged so quickly I began falling backwards and grabbed onto the right handlebar. When I did, I also grabbed the accelerator lever and it took off like a rocket. I was holding on for ‘dear life’ but also holding down the accelerator lever to full speed. In the next half second the Cat went to full speed right into our Farms gasoline pump. Knocked it right over exposing the pipe into our 600 gallon underground tank. Before I could flip the kill switch, sparks were being made from the metal cleats of the drive belt right into the open gas pipe ! Thank God it didn’t blow up like in most Hollywood Movies. I would have been on the moon with Alice Kramden !
But nevertheless, the damage was significant. The entire front cowling on the Cat was destroyed, and the gas pump was lying on the ground. A repair job only the Sisco boys at Fairfield Maintenance could handle safely. Probably $500 in damage altogether, equivalent to about 15 factory snow plowings ( ouch ). Glad I wasn’t around when Uncle Pat got home. I would have been better off on the moon with Alice.
Although my Brother nailed 3/4 of the above, I can assure you that I made up for the difference in overall occurrences.
For a short time in the 1940’s there were goats on the Pollio Farm. Uncle Pat’s older Sister Agnes (L) and younger Sister Felicia (R).
“ If karma doesn't catch up, God will surely pick up the slack “ Anthony Liccione
Paul Pollio March 28, 2020
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