The Goat Lady of Buffalo City


From: Orlin Brommer

For years I have heard about the Goat Lady in Buffalo City, Grace Ahrendt. Husband Elmer and his brother Fritzie were other members of the household. They kept to themselves, so not all residents got to know them very well. An interesting note about Elmer was that he was in his late 30s when drafted during WWII.

Most early residents of Buffalo City spoke both German and English. The residents in Grace’s house did, too. Because of a birth defect that affected his lower jaw, Fritzie had trouble speaking, and that made him a bit scary to those who didn’t get to know him.

Grace was the “Goat Lady.” As with many in Buffalo City, money was scarce and especially so for Grace. Those telling about the family never spoke much about goat milk and its uses, so the goats probably were mostly kept for their meat. She only had small acreage on which to graze her goats, so wherever she could find pasture grass she tied her goats to graze regardless of who owned the land. Water was carried to the animals in buckets. Much of her summer was devoted to gathering hay. She was an opportunist and harvested hay along the roadways that the maintenance crew had cut and left lying. She needed the hay to winter over enough animals for the next year.

Neighbors enjoyed telling about this unique family and their lifestyle. During prohibition, Elmer spent time on the islands where moonshiners and commercial fishermen found refuge. Grace was an early nutritionist, keeping her men-folk from sugar whenever she could. She thought sugar caused cancer. Fritz snuck to grocery stores and would buy and eat an entire package of cookies on his way home, lest he be scolded by Grace.

That’s all background. What I found most fascinating was that Grace collected her clippings after her friend, a trained beautician, cut her hair. Grace took the hair home and buried it. In winter she either burned the clippings or saved them to be buried in spring once the soil had thawed.

It is fun to imagine anyone telling today’s barber, “Sweep up my hair and put it into this bag I have here. I’m going to take it home and bury it.”

While doing a little research I found that saving one’s hair cuttings was not unusual at all. Hair and fingernail clippings were superstitiously disposed of lest an enemy, or a troll, or even the devil made trouble for the owner.

Many tales, scrolls, and books from ancient times included stories about hair and hair cutting as symbols of power and strength.

Here are some interesting, fun superstitions. In one society, clippings and also hair from one’s brush were taught to be burned because throwing it away was thought to be bad luck. In another group, it was believed hair should be buried. If a bird flies off with somebody’s hair strands, the discarded hair makes for a tight nest; in that myth, the human donating locks to the nest were told their hair in the tightly woven nest made for headaches. In another society hair not burned or buried could disturb the weather. For that reason, sailors only cut their hair during a storm because the weather was already miserable. Sisters of sailors cut their hair only at night, but I couldn’t find out why.

There are more superstitions but if the above are not enough to convince you that you must begin taking your hair home after having it cut then, the reports of hair clippings affecting the sun, moon, stars, and initiating war won’t convince you either.

Maybe Grace was also ahead of her time when she took her hair clippings along when leaving the beautician’s shop. Modern tests from hair samples and DNA tell stories that send bad guys to prison. With that in mind, maybe visiting politicians also should be more careful of what they leave behind when leaving town.


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