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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Mid-Week Historical Newsbreak -- Wooddale's Dynamite Goat

For this week's Newsbreak I couldn't resist using a story that not only ties directly into the community of Wooddale, topic of the last two posts (one and two), but also happens to be one of the most amusing ones I've seen. There's also an interesting phrase that may give a little insight into Wooddale, or at least how it was perceived from the outside. It comes to us from the pages of the Chicago paper The Inter Ocean, dated August 28, 1904. It's simultaneously funny, frightening, and discomforting on several levels.

As the story goes, there was a community-owned goat who lived among the quarry workers at Wooddale. And as we've all seen in numerous old tv shows (I'm looking at you, Brady Bunch and MASH), goats will eat just about anything. In this case, there was reason to believe that the goat feasted on two sticks of dynamite, the type regularly used by the quarrymen in blasting out the rock. After learning of this, the locals gave the animal a wide berth, not wanting to get caught in any sort of goatsplosion (goatastrophe? goataclysm? I can go on if you'd like). As the article below from the Alexandria (VA) Gazette noted, the goat was "struting around the neighborhood like a king".

I've not found any follow-up to the story to know if the goat ever blew up, or if everything, um, came out ok. And while there's no denying that for the most part this is a pretty funny story -- one that almost sounds like a cartoon -- in a way it does point out the dangerous conditions under which these immigrants worked. There are numerous stories about workers either being buried in rockfalls or blown up in explosions, like the article mentioned in the Spring Hill Brewery post update. In the pre-OSHA days jobs like this were often very hazardous, probably one reason why it was done largely by immigrants (that and the Italians' stoneworking experience).

The final little thing I'd like to point out is the way in which Wooddale is described in both articles -- as an "Italian colony". This fact was pretty obvious from the Census records, but to see it described this way is interesting. I think it shows that Wooddale was really seen as a foreigners community, possibly one reason why its memory has faded so much over the past century. But all seriousness aside, how can you not chuckle at the thought of that goat wandering around the village?


  1. Scott,

    Great stories about Wooddale...honestly, who knew that all stuff was happening right here, under the collective noses of our ancestors. I drive through that area a lot, and you would never, ever know that all that activity was taking place a hundred plus years ago. Sorry, I can't resist...that last story kinda got my goat, just a little.

  2. Not sure if you saw this or not, its from the past summer

    1. I did not see that, I don't think. Very interesting! Thanks for posting it. If anyone wants to check it out, it's an article about the Wood Mansion.