There are other versions of Puck's origin. One involves the gift of a puck goat to St. Patrick that encouraged him to bless the whole southwest of Ireland. Another has it that around 1650 the invading English armies of Oliver Cromwell were delayed briefly at Killorglin one night because a flock of mountain goats, led by a noble puck, clattered across the cobbled square. The flock awakened the town, which set up a fierce, if temporary, resistance to Cromwell's troops. Some people believe that legend, but Chairman O'Sullivan admits that it is probably not true, since frightened goats usually circle behind intruders instead of stampeding in front. Ironically, of course, it was the Cromwell tale that appealed to Tom Maloney in his quest for Navy's new goat. "Good lord, what more could we ask?" he said. "Here's a goat that actually stopped Army!"
Misinformed though he was about that, Maloney's campaign to make King Puck a Navy goat was enthusiastic and well organized; but the men of Killorglin were not immediately convinced that their hallowed tradition should be lent to a cause as insignificant as American football—a game they thought sissified anyway, with all its pads, helmets and cushions. To help bridge the culture gap, Maloney enlisted the aid of a man from the Irish Tourist Board who gave fiery pep talks about positive thinking to drinkers in the gloom of O'Sullivan's Bar. Ultimately the visions of floods of Puck Fair publicity in the U.S. caused the skepticism to disappear.
Thus, in August 1967, Maloney flew in from New York for the final summit negotiations with key committee personnel. There was, of course, Chairman O'Sullivan. And there was the secretary, Sean Falvey, an articulate young schoolteacher. And there was Patrick Houlihan, a rosy-cheeked man-about-work who held the contract for building King Puck's scaffold, as well as for his general all-round care during the fair. The arrangement was that Maloney would pay $100 to Puck Fair, plus all fees required to get King Puck from Macgillycuddy's Reeks to Maryland.
Oh, it was a fine, firm business deal, consummated with many pints of good Guinness stout. "I suppose we might have sensed a fiddle in it," Sean Falvey, the teacher, mused much later. "But Tom Maloney is a genuine man, I know. Of course, we bit the cherry on the positive-thinking arguments. They made us greedy for the publicity. Ah, yes, it was greed, I know now. And the rewards of greed aren't often worth a damn."
Indeed, the odyssey of King Puck was double-damned, jinxed, hexed and star-crossed from the start. The goat had scarcely set down on U.S. soil in an Aer Lingus jet when bad things began to happen. A U.S. Department of Agriculture agent suddenly stiffened as he riffled through the thicket of documents that accompany any animal immigrant and, as Maloney recalls it, he shouted in a deep and dramatic baritone: "I'll shoot that goat if he sets foot off that plane. His papers are not in order!"
Well, there was nothing to be done for it; King Puck was flashed back to Shannon Airport. At first, there was grand embarrassment at the Irish Department of Agriculture in Dublin, but that feeling soon changed to icy disdain when U.S. agents sheepishly admitted that King Puck's papers had been misread. He was, they said, quite welcome to return. Ah, but there was another delay at Shannon, and the poor goat, confined to the baggage center, fell to an alarming state of low morale and bad health. At last, a sympathetic traffic controller sent an S O S to Killorglin.
Stricken, Pat Houlihan exclaimed to Sean Falvey, "I shan't stand here, Sean, and allow the goat to die in captivity. I'm going to Shannon and bring King Puck home." It was done and, with some good Killorglin grass in his belly, the goat quickly took on the look of well-being When all was ready for his return to the States, a newly frisky King was re-crated by Pat Houlihan, driven again to Shannon and jetted off once more to America Houlihan figured it only reasonable that he be paid for his time, so he sent a bill for $70 to Maloney, "I thought it not unfair," said Houlihan, "for I have five children to support and the few quid wasn't asking for much, you know."
But by then Maloney was in no mood to be spreading largess any further, and he did not pay Houlihan. Instantly, all of Killorglin turned sour toward Maloney. "Any man who thinks a few quid are more important than a goat's life has his wires reversed," said Sean Falvey. At that point no one would have agreed more than Tom Maloney that every wire was crossed, crisscrossed and short-circuited in King Puck's world. "Hell," said Tom, "the goat was here in the States, all right, but everything being written called him 'Tom Maloney's goat' and that was exactly what I didn't want. He was Navy's new mascot. And anyway, by the time the damned thing turned up at the academy, it had cost me $2,000." To add insult to inflation, the Navy was only using handsome King Puck as a "backup mascot" to the punier, less ornery $15 Bill XVI.
Yet—miraculously—when King Puck did finally appear at games against Syracuse and Army in 1967, Navy produced stunning upsets. Indeed, for those two brief Saturdays, the goat's hitherto ominous odyssey seemed at last to be crowned with good fortune. Could it last? Of course not.
One hot sunny day last July a new hand at the academy's farm in Gambrills, Md. cut the grass outside the goat's pen, then drove his machine inside the fence where grazed the feeble old Bill XV, young Bill XVI and the noble Irish monarch. A lethal pesticide had been sprayed upon the grass outside the pen and some clotted lumps of the poisoned cuttings lodged in the power mower. They fell inside the pen. King Puck and Bill XVI ate them and both died within the day; ancient Bill XV survived only because his teeth are so poor that he cannot eat grass anymore.