Nik, beloved South Congress billy goat, Austin icon, pardoned outlaw, and victim of gentrification, died Wednesday. He was over 10 years old.
For almost 10 years, Nik lived in the front yard of a little house at South Congress and Mary. With his big horns and long beard, he was a permanent fixture on the popular street. Known for his friendly disposition and love of Fran’s french fries, he enjoyed being pet and fed by visitors.
Nik’s goatiness could be smelled from as far west as South First. To some, it smelled like a yummy goat cheese. To others, it smelled like stale urine. It was this smell that probably drew ire from the new neighbors moving in to the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, leading Nik’s owner, Joel Munos, to receive a citation for violating Austin’s livestock ordinance. After a flood of e-mails, letters, and phone calls, City Hall changed their stance. In 2005, Nik won an official pardon from Mayor Will Wynn, proclaiming that Nik was a “good goat.”
Nik had the adoration of thousands of Austinites. He received a steady stream of daily visitors. And while he had all the fries he could eat, he was never able to find true love.
All that would change in 2011. Surrounded by the constant hammering of gentrification, Nik’s original owners sold their home and gave Nik to a new owner. His new owner, Paula, took Nik out to a farm to live his final days in the country.
It was on Paula’s farm where Nik would finally find romance with a younger doe named Annabelle. Initially Anabelle was attracted to his strong goatiness–but she was a little intimidated by his celebrity status. The more time she spent with him, however, the more she realized that he was a chill goat. For the last year of his life, Annabelle and Nik were inseparable.
Nik passed peacefully Wednesday morning, surrounded by Annabelle, Paula, and the other animals on the farm. The death was announced on Nik’s Facebook page.
For me, Nik was more than just a goat. He was a symbol of everything I loved about South Austin. Biking to Magnolia on late summer nights, I’d smell Nik and know that all was good in our fair city. Despite the million dollar homes going up in the hood, his goatiness prevailed; Austin was still a town with goats and dirt and funk.
When he left in 2011, I was sad. No more goatiness. No more field trips with friends’ kids to pet Nik. Now it’s just a new home that looks kind of like all the other new homes going up in the neighborhood.
R.I.P Nik. I’ll eat some fries for you.