Dear Sad Goat: A Roundup of Truly Canadian Tales and Letters

Reviewed: February 26, 2003
By: Bill Richardson
Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre
200 pages, $22.95

If you spend any time with CBC radio in the afternoons then you know about Richardson’s Roundup, a delightful program that samples some of the other fare on Radio 1 and 2, as well as offering up its own collection of interviews, contests and reader submissions. Since 1997 this week-daily potpourri of “music, poetry, fiction, drama, anecdote and reflection” (the press release put it all so well) has had as its mascot a Sad Goat.

The name came from the telephone number. Arthur Black once derived “Make 5 Wieners, I’ll Eat 6” from his postal code for Basic Black. Richardson wanted to do something similar with his show’s telephone number: 1-888-723-4628. His first choice was 1-888-RADIO 2 U, but he was afraid that people would dial it “TO YOU”. Looking at other things that might be spelled by the letters on top of the pushbuttons, the Roundup team came up with SAD GOAT. The rest, as they say, is history. There is now an actual goat (named Milli), and listeners tend to address letters to her.

Letters to Sad Goat are generally personal reflections and anecdotes, often prompted by some contest which the Sad Goat team has proposed that particular week. There have been thousands of letters, or which 163 have been chosen for this book. They are grouped by themes, although I’m not sure the themes make a lot of sense without reading some of the letters. They include “Because you told me he was dead”, “I placed my thumb under the drill bit”, and “For as long as I can remember, Mother had worms.”

Some of them are touching; many of them are hilarious. Canadians have a good sense of humour. They prove that the art of letter writing is far from dead.

I was pleased to note that the proceeds from this book are going to two worthy causes. One is the Saturna Island Elementary School, which needs a lot of help to sustain its programs. The other is the restoration fund for St. John’s Anglican Church in Lunenburg, which I remember seeing two summers ago just before it was destroyed by fire that fall. They’re trying to rebuild it and, as Lunenburg is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it’s a worthy cause.