Behind enemy lines ...

September 18, 2018

Steve Graham's brief career many years ago with a certain Special Forces unit is still mainly hush-hush, thanks to the Official Secrets Act, but it is known that he was for some time attached to the covert Miagolio platoon of those fine Italian mountain troops, the Zampognari, and during the Cold War he trained assiduously with them in clandestine operations in the Ciaramedda region of Sicily. We see him here, clad in a convincing disguise of rude peasant garb, standing outside a remote farmhouse comandeered by the intrepid Zampognari, and calling in the regimental goats for milking by blowing a special mating call on a chiamante di capra or 'goat-caller', a Sicilian device not unlike a bagpipe. The goats, of course (when slaughtered) also provided the hides for the airbags of the pipes. Apart from the goats, only the platoon's three pet cats (Bassu, Quatta and Fisciettu - adopted by Steve as strays) could abide the fearsome, bloodcurdling sound.

 

Although the eerie wail of the 'goat-caller' had this unique attraction for goats, it had quite the opposite effect on any enemy troops foolhardy enough to attempt a landing on Sicily, and Steve was widely credited in military circles at the time with thus deterring any thoughts of invasion by Eastern European forces long before the globally feared nuclear deterrent became necessary. This saved the Western Powers a great deal of money, not to mention preventing untold damage to the goats. Some years later (shortly before Steve transferred his skills to the kazoo) the late, great George Melly, on hearing him playing Milenburg Joys on the pipes, appreciatively remarked: "Magnificent is not the word!". (Some years later, he said much the same about Steve's kazoo recitals). The one negative aspect to this stirring episode in Steve's secret life was his subsequent strong aversion to garlic, due to an unvarying diet of spaghetti al caprone while serving in his mountain fastness.

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