SI Vault
William Johnson
December 09, 1968
Sure, a little piece of Ireland—the noble beast, King Puck—came to Annapolis, but he could not stop Army from beating the Middies 21-14
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December 09, 1968

Getting Navy's Goat

Sure, a little piece of Ireland—the noble beast, King Puck—came to Annapolis, but he could not stop Army from beating the Middies 21-14

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The goats' obituaries were duly posted in newspapers. In an elephantine, if oddly fitting, stroke of irony, the notices of King Puck's death generated about all the publicity that Puck Fair ever did receive from the affair. Once the news was out the academy received a spate of offers to replace its mascot. The quickest reaction came in an eager dispatch from one Walter Pfluger of the Mohair Council of America, an association of goat breeders.

He offered a free, new, purebred Angora goat to the Navy. Walter Pfluger also used the occasion of King Puck's death to offer the use of his association's beauty queen—Miss Mohair of the Universe—for the Army-Navy game or "other appropriate occasions." The academy replied that it couldn't think of any occasions where Miss Mohair of the Universe would be appropriate. It did, however, accept the goat, which was duly delivered this September. Around his old ranch in Texas the goat had been known as "Admiral Chester Nimitz," but the midshipmen applied their own special brand of fun-loving creativity and renamed him Bill XVII.

Although Walter Pfluger had wafted his pitch in first, Tom Maloney and the Class of '27 did not remain idle. Within 48 hours of King Puck's death, Maloney told the academy that he was standing by to bring over the 1968 Killorglin king. Rather reluctantly, academy brass told Maloney to proceed with the operation if he really "desired to go to the expense and trouble again."

Since Maloney's name was anathema in Killorglin, he brooded about how he could make a contact to buy King Puck. Idly, he mentioned the problem to his old friend, Pete Kriendler, who is an owner of the "21" Club. Kriendler, a hyperefficient executive, acted instantly. He phoned the venerable old Gresham Hotel in Dublin. He outlined the crisis to Managing Director T.J. O'Sullivan (no kin to Killorglin's Chairman O'Sullivan), then followed up with an enormously detailed night letter. "Well, of course, Toddy O'Sullivan was delighted to help," Pete Kriendler said. "Toddy's really a kind of Mister Ireland, you know. He has a fine reputation—a fine reputation. Also a fine collection of Irish silver. If Toddy O'Sullivan can't get that goat out of Killorglin, no one can."

Actually, Toddy O'Sullivan seems like precisely the kind of man who would have nothing to do with getting goats out of Ireland. He is a middle-aged gentleman of elegant grooming and he has the poised look of a natural aristocrat, the worldly mien of a man at ease with princes or prime ministers—but not with goats. Nevertheless, he seemed positively delighted with the escapade. "Ah, I never fancied myself as a goat exporter," he said, chuckling. "But I must say that I've made rather a success of it."

Scarcely two weeks after Toddy O'Sullivan entered the negotiations, Tom Maloney passed through Dublin on business and stopped at the Gresham Hotel, eager for a progress report. Toddy beamed and said with dignity, "Official documents are in final processing. The puck goat is in captivity in Killorglin, Tom. It is awaiting your pleasure—and the delivery, of course, of $100 to Pat Houlihan." Predictably, Tom Maloney looked surprised, for of course this was the same Pat Houlihan who had claimed to be underpaid in the $70 billing. "Maybe," said Toddy O'Sullivan soothingly, "they've simply decided to forgive and forget in Killorglin."

But on that recent chill and drizzly day in Killorglin, when the subject of this year's transaction was introduced in O'Sullivan's Bar, it was clear that Chairman John Phillip O'Sullivan, at least, had neither forgotten nor forgiven. The chairman's light blue eyes widened behind his rimless spectacles and he said: "Sir, we have had no contact at all with America. We have not even been advanced the courtesy of an official notification of the death of last year's King Puck. No, there will be no goats sent again by our committee to America."

Then Chairman O'Sullivan was informed about Pat Houlihan's contacts with Toddy O'Sullivan in Dublin, about the documents already prepared, about King Puck's imminent departure. The chairman scowled. "If that goat is sent out, there will be questions." Chairman O'Sullivan then suggested that Sean Falvey as committee secretary would certainly know of any such "alleged" transactions. Falvey was as flabbergasted as the chairman. "Pat Houlihan has arranged it?" he asked. "I just can't put it in my head that Pat would sell King Puck himself. I mean, not without consulting the committee...."

When Sean arrived at Pat Houlihan's home the mist had stopped, and there was the hint of a cold golden sunset beneath thick clouds. When he was asked about King Puck, poor Pat flushed. Then he blinked. Then he produced a very, very small and painful smile, and he said, "Of course, I meant to tell the committee the moment the goat was off, Sean. But I was afraid that if word spread of the sale, Sean O'Shea—even up on the mountain—would have heard, and he'd not have parted with the goat for 200 pounds. I was protecting everyone's interests, surely you see that. If Toddy O'Sullivan himself hadn't guaranteed me the money, Sean, I shan't have gotten involved with the American Navy. I don't trust the bounders, either."

Sean Falvey sounded weary and sad as he said, "I'd not have thought it of you, Pat. You've taken advantage of your position on the committee and sold King Puck. You've capitalized for yourself on Puck Fair, and the dollar sign is the root of it all, isn't it, Pat?"

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