As Hurricane Dorian crawls up the Southeastern coast, Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas have called for the evacuation of coastal communities. At Drunken Jack’s Restaurant and Bar in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, this meant boarding up windows; pulling in outdoor furniture; taking down signs, flags, and lights; and wrangling the nine goats that live on the adjacent (and aptly named) “Goat Island.”
“The goats are great for keeping the island’s undergrowth down, and getting people to ask questions,” says restaurant owner Al Hitchcock, who for more than thirty years has brought goats to the 20,000-square-foot island behind his restaurant to entertain guests during the summer months, and then ferried them back to a mainland farm in nearby Socastee come late fall.
Yesterday, ahead of Dorian, Hitchcock and a gaggle of volunteers—restaurant employees, local boat captains, and other neighborhood helpers—corralled the goats into a pontoon and a small fishing boat to take them to horse stables at a farm about two miles inland where they’ll be safe from the storm. “Sometimes you have to chase them down with a lasso,” Hitchcock says. “This time was pretty easy. They all made one lap around the island, then jumped in the boat themselves. We only had to really chase about three.”
Over time, Hitchcock and the team have become expert herders. “The goats are used to it,” Hitchcock says. “And they can feel something is about to happen. Even the babies who haven’t evacuated before just kind of go along with it.” In addition to the goats’ annual Thanksgiving pilgrimage to Osprey Marina, the farm where they spend their winter vacation, hurricanes tend to force evacuations every other year or so.
On Tuesday, a crowd of around 250 onlookers gathered to watch the goats make their journey across the creek. If all goes well, the goats will return to their island habitat this weekend. “We prepare for the worst and hope for the best,” Hitchcock says. “In the best-case scenario, all this work was for nothing.”
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