By Jim Miles
The Ballad of Snowball, Killer Goat
In May 1991 Cherokee County resident Carl Hulsey was 77 and retired from the chicken industry. A year earlier he had purchased Snowball, a 110-pound goat with large horns. Cherokee County coroner Norman Sosebee, a family friend who frequently visited Carl, said Hulsey often beat the animal with sticks in order to make it aggressive toward humans. “He was doing it basically to make a watchdog out of it,” Sosebee explained.
After a year of abuse Snowball plotted his revenge. When Hulsey again poked Snowball with a stick, it butted him in the stomach twice with his horns, then pursued Carl onto the porch and crashed into him a third time, knocking his owner off the porch and five feet to the ground. Hulsey’s wife Alma managed to secure the animal, which had started a fourth run.
“It just took a terrific run and knocked him in the abdominal cavity,” Sosebee stated. “It evidently ruptured his stomach and he died. Very unusual.”
Immediately dubbed Snowball the Killer Goat by the media, the animal was incarcerated by Cherokee County Animal Control, which found no regulations for dealing with a homicidal goat. Killing it was one option, but Dixon Blackwood, director of Animal Control, said: “We’ve had a tremendous number of calls from people who felt sorry for the goat and didn’t want it put to sleep.”
Carl’s grandson, Billy Hulsey, defended his grandfather, explaining that he walked with a cane and only hit Snowball when it attacked him. “(Carl) and the goat didn’t get along too well,” Blackwood said. “The goat didn’t like him, and he didn’t like it.”
Badass Snowball occupied a pen in Animal Control’s kennel as people from across Georgia, the United States, and Great Britain and Germany phoned to request the goat be spared. Snowball’s supporters outvoted his detractors by a margin of four to one. Animal sanctuaries in Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and Henry County, Georgia, offered the goat a home. A bomb threat was called into Animal Control and Blackwood received a death threat at his home.
“This person said if we euphonize the goat, something would happen to me or my family,” stated Blackwood. “I take that very seriously. This is not funny at all.”
Animal Control was inundated by television camera crews and hordes of the curious wanting a glimpse of Snowball. John Templeton, Atlanta resident and owner of a pygmy goat named Rodney, called Governor Zell Miller, seeking a pardon for Snowball. “I love my little goat,” he said. “He is obnoxious, but there is a difference between obnoxious and dangerous.”
Humorist Lewis Grizzard took up the cry. “Snowball was acting in self-defense,” he wrote. “If somebody beat me with a stick, eventually I would get all I could handle too, and would take some sort of measures to end my pain and suffering.” He begged quarter for Snowball, stating, “Find Snowball a place he can live out his years in peace doing whatever it is goats do.” Grizzard believed goats weren’t “killers by nature. Snowball didn’t plot. He didn’t kill for money. And if nobody starts beating him with a stick again, I feel certain Snowball won’t kill again.”
Snowball the Killer Goat Pardoned, but Neutered
Although Alma Hulsey wanted Snowball dressed out in her freezer, the goat was paroled to Jama Hedgecoth, who operated a 122-acre rehabilitation center for animals near Locust Grove in Henry County, called, appropriately, Noah’s Ark. There he joined 500 other animals, including monkeys, llamas, turkeys, dogs, cats, horses, pigs, mountain lions, cougars, timber wolves, and bearcats.
“Just call me St. Dixon the First,” Blackwood said, “the patron saint of all goats.” From Locust Grove Hedgecoth gushed, “I’m so excited…I feel very privileged.”
“He’s a stud,” said Jama, explaining that an unneutered goat makes a poor pet. “He’s not a bad goat, he’s not a killer,” Hedgecoth continued. “All he is, is a stud…By morning he’ll be an it.” At Noah’s Ark Snowball was anesthetized and placed atop a kitchen table, where a ten minute operation left him neutered and neutralized. Following 40 days of incarceration, Snowball was released into a large field, where he sedately munched vegetation beside the gate, then started racing around other goats, pranced with horses, and stood up on his hind legs to eat leaves from a pecan tree, obviously relishing the taste.
“When he first came to us we heard such terrible things about him we didn’t know what to expect,” Hedgecoth said. “But within a few hours it became clear he was a people’s goat.” Snowball “has showed absolutely no signs of aggression. Zero. He loves the other animals. He loves attention. He loves people,” and sour cream-and-onion potato chips. The killing “was an accident,” Jama said. “Snowball had a part, but it was just a terrible accident.” \
Snowball, no longer a killer goat, flourished at Noah’s Ark, and Noah’s Ark flourished because of Snowball. Attendance doubled, $10,000 in donations paid past due rent, and a philanthropist supplied nearly half a million dollars which enabled the center to purchase the property. At Snowball’s death on January 20, 2002, he was buried in the Noah’s Ark Cemetery.
Not Quite a Killer Goat
On the evening of August 22, 2010, 88-year-old Vestal Davis walked outside his shop in the Madison County community of Colbert and saw that a neighbor’s goat had escaped its pen. The goat “charged him knocking him to the ground,” the sheriff’s report stated, and “every time he moved to get up, the goat would attack him again.”
Davis was brutalized by the goat for an hour before managing to call 911. He was admitted to ICU at Athens Regional Medical Center and the goat’s owner was charged with allowing livestock to roam free.
“I’ve never heard of anything like this,” said Colbert Mayor Chris Peck.
Jim Miles is the author of two Weird Georgia books, seven books about Georgia ghosts and eight books about the Civil War. To see all of his books go to the Jim Miles Author Page on Amazon. Order autographed books or contact Jim directly at firstname.lastname@example.org