A Goat..A Rope…and A Tree

I’m never surprised by some of the things police officers run into. I was speaking to a street officer from another jurisdiction the other day who was describing an incident where two neighbors were feuding over where grass clippings should go.

I remember as a kid, the big discussion at my church about whether coffee grinds should be dumped in the garbage or down the drain. The dispute ultimately lead to a number of people leaving the church.

I remember the call I received back in the early 1980’s where a woman soaked her neighbor with her garden hose. Once the parties calmed down, I learned they had been feuding for 20 years over a cake recipe (a distant calling of grumpy old men). During the initial calming process I also got soaked. Threats of a more serious intervention on my behalf ultimately got both sides to agree to settle the longstanding issues with an apology and a return of the recipe.

As amusing as these may sound, sometimes trivial issues wind up hurting others both emotionally and physically.

The whole issue of behavior like the incidents described above reminds me of a goat that my mother used to have on her hobby farm. Mom would let him out of the pen occasionally, using a rope attached to a tree that would stretch about 50 feet and attach the rope to a collar she had obtained from farmer. One time I was visiting, I heard a bang outside. I looked out the window and the goat was sitting on the ground shaking his head. I watched him stand up pull the rope to its full length. He would then bray at the tree as though it was his captor. He then walked up to the tree and struck it with his horns. As I walked out to put the goat back in the pen, he got up and butted it again.

Obviously the goat was mad at the tree and obviously he should have figured out that hitting it with his head only caused him pain. This particular goat spent the rest of his time with Mom in the pen, where he would proceed to butt the fence and anything else that got in his way.

I guess that’s were the phrase “getting someone’s goat” came from.

Despite the best efforts of officers attempt to discuss, offer mediation services, or a common sense observation of the conflict doesn’t always prevail. The officers often find their radio calling them back to the same disputes over and over: sort of like the goat butting the tree.

Apparently it’s really true that you can’t always see the forrest while you are butting the tree.

Seriously, officers share their concerns for the inability to bring individuals together to reach a solution over matters that are easily resolved on a regular basis. We are fortunate to have excellent mediation services available in Northfield. Many attorneys offer mediation as an option to their clients during disputes.

If you know of someone in a dispute or if you are engaged in this kind of thing, seriously consider using a mediator to resolve the conflict.

Ultimately, you are going to be better for it.

About Gary Smith

Chief Smith has served over 31 years in the criminal justice field. He is currently a consultant assisting public and private organizations better establish community goals and ethical conduct with the members of their organizations. Chief Smith serves as a facilitator, lecturer, professor and other capacities both inside and outside the criminal justice field.
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