Cape St. George Lighthouse, courtesy Lighthouse Digest magazine
School was out for the summer and four-year-old Will had a special reason to be excited. For Will, summer meant his family was reunited.
From September through May, his mother, older brother Walter and sister Betty lived on the mainland so the children could attend school.
Will, however, stayed with his father Walter Roberts, Jr., the keeper at the Cape St. George lighthouse on St. George Island, Florida in the Gulf of Mexico.
Although Will liked being with his father and learning about the responsibilities of lighthouse keepers, he missed his brother, sister and his mom. The only times he saw them was on holidays and during the summer.
So when summer arrived, so did they, and the fun began! Even though it was the 1920’s, and there was no TV, running water, phones or video games, the children had plenty to entertain themselves. They never got bored, as the island provided hours of fun activities like fishing, exploring the sandy beach, and camping out.
One year a family friend gave them a Shetland pony. Will’s father ordered a little red wagon from Montgomery Ward, imagining the fun the children would have as the pony pulled them around the island. He picked up the unassembled wagon on the mainland, then returned and put it together while the children waiting with eager anticipation. But when he tried to harness the pony to the wagon, the pony wouldn’t cooperate, having no intentions of pulling a wagon.
Then Keeper Roberts had another idea. On a neighboring island herds of wild goats roamed, untamed by humans. Rumors abounded as to their origin, such as pirates or soldiers who camped there during the Civil War. Believing a goat would pull the wagon, Keeper Roberts saddled up their horses, and he and Will rode three miles before crossing over the sand bar to “goat” island.
They brought their dog Trixie with them, and when they spotted a herd of goats, Will’s dad told Trixie to go find them a goat. Trixie ran through the herd and stopped beside a male goat with long curved horns. With the dog standing guard, the goat stood still as Will’s dad put a rope around its neck. When they headed back to the lighthouse, the goat offered no resistance as it followed them home.
The children treated their new pet well, feeding, patting and watering him while Mother adapted the pony harness to fit. When the time came to hook up “Billy” to the wagon, the goat acted as if he had always pulled a wagon. For the rest of the summer, the children enjoyed hitching Billy up and taking rides.