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My Pet Goat: Newly Translated Sequels Found

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My Pet Goat: Newly Translated Sequels Found

by John Kendall Hawkins

On September 11, 2001, while jets were screaming into towers in NYC, President George W. Bush was in Sarasota, Florida at Emma E. Booker Elementary School -- there to participate in a reading of "My Pet Goat" by Siegfried Engelmann. He has been vociferously criticized for his seeming lack of decisiveness and action during the time of what many people regard as a crucial turning point in American history. Some say it seemed in keeping with his previous shirking of responsibilities years earlier while in the Texas Air National Guard when he went AWOL. While in Sarasota, Vice President Dick Cheney was in charge of the response to the attacks.

As for "My Pet Goat." it's actually called "The Pet Goat." 'The' not 'My'. As a translator (I've translated Heinrich Heine poetry), I know how important these differences can be. And, truly, anybody who has compared, say, R. J. Hollingdale's translation of Nietzsche's work with Walter Kauffman's will know that such differences in the field philology are not mere instances of pedantry: meaning must mean something if it is to make sense to the reader. That said, "The Pet Goat" has a follow-on story, "The Goat Stops the Robber," a far more nuanced narrative showing the disadvantaged students in the elementary classroom how mistakes can be made in gated communities.

It should also be noted that "The Pet Goat" is extraordinarily difficult to find on the Internet or elsewhere. Some theorists have theorized that the story was 'disappeared' because it contained esoteric symbolism and coded information about the attacks on 9/11. I make no such inference here. In fact, there is a solid and reasonable explanation for the difficulty in finding these simple tales: They are not stand-alone tales, but part of Reading Mastery -- Level 2 Storybook 1. There: That mystery is solved. We needn't lose sleep again over any proposed bleak symbolism. The stories that GW Bush was participating in with the disadvantaged Black students in the classroom are available on the miraculous site Archive.Org. You can view them there and read what the children read. Here it is.

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But more importantly is the recent discovery that two more follow-on sequels have been discovered. They were not included in the textbook. I have come across them surreptitiously, through channels I would rather not divulge. Think peer-to-peer, or scholar-to-scholar, if you will (wink). Secret Scholars Business. I have taken the liberty of parsing these documents and of translating them from Directed Instruction (DI) code to ordinary English, although I have gone out of my way to channel the voice of the author of "The Pet Goat." The two tales, pasted below, are titled "The Robber Calls the Cops" and "The Pet Goat Does Time." (At least, that was my translation of the titles -- I haven't heard back from Hollingdale yet.) One other consideration: Engelmann was interested in highlighting the letter -e for the children. Thus, he included word pairs to flesh out these differences: can and cane, pan and pane, cap and cape. I have had to relax these rules a bit, opting in my translation to capture Engelmann's voice, rather than settling for a literal or littoral translation. Alas, this is the common conundrum of those who render the words of foreigners into English.

I would suggest that the intrepid reader begin with now readily available original tales at the link provided above. (Perhaps download them in case the Thought Police are patrolling the neighborhood -- n'est c'est pas?) And then on to my translations. A short Critical Thinking Skills set of questions follows. There is no right answer. Proceed as you will.

The Robber Calls the Cops

translated by John Hawkins

A girl once had a pet goat. Her dad had a slightly dented red car. It was an extra large MG two-seater and it liked to roar.

The girl had a Ma. The Ma had died. Dad was sad. The girl was sad. Ma had taken too much oxycontin when she heard that 9/11 conspirators lived on Escondito Circle, just down the road. Now Ma was dead. Now Dad was a single parent. Now the girl was sad.

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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