Rising floodwaters can't get this goat

Liz Evans Scolforo

Leonard the goat is high and dry. And when you live in the area of the old Detters Mill, that's a good thing.

Shortly before dark Wednesday evening, owner John Baugher and next-door neighbor Ed Regelman moved the billy goat from his multi-level waterfront condo to higher ground — a cozy shed behind Baugher's home.

Leonard the goat's owner moved him to higher ground from his waterfront digs on the Conewago Creek at the old Detters Mill to keep him safe from rising floodwaters.  Liz Evans Scolforo photo

Leonard needs no encouragement to flee when the Conewago Creek is rising. He knows he could be washed away if he exhibits goat-like stubbornness and refuses to leave, according to Regelman.

Leonard's regular digs are situated on the Warrington Township bank of the Conewago Creek, near the site of the former Detters Mill. His side of the creek floods, neighbors said, as does the Dover Township side, where rising waters forced the evacuation of an apartment house Thursday.

Portions of the Detters Mill roads on both sides of the creek were rendered impassible by standing flood waters Thursday morning, the result of Wednesday's rain and thunderstorms.

Detters Mill doesn't exist anymore, nor does its namesake low-head dam, which spanned the creek and was 152 years old when it was torn out on orders from the state Department of Environmental Protection in June 2004. That happened after a nine-year battle by residents to save it.

Lost was a pond created by the dam, which locals fished, swam in, boated on and picnicked near for decades.

Leonard the goat leaves his high-water home (owner John Baugher's shed) to greet a visitor after the Conewago Creek flooded its banks on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016.  Liz Evans Scolforo photo

4-legged weed-eater: It was the demolition of the dam that ultimately led to goats taking up residence on Baugher's waterfront.

"When the dam was here, I used to keep it mowed because it was a very popular area for fishing and canoeing and recreation in general," he said. "After the dam was gone, I decided not to do it anymore."

Regelman and Baugher said they mulled it over and agreed a goat would solve the weed problem.

"We didn't want to mow the grass down there anymore," Regelman said.

'A challenge': Baugher, 57, said the venture wasn't quite as simple as they initially thought and that, in retrospect, he could have simply hired someone to deal with the grass and weeds.

"He does help with the weeds," Baugher said of Leonard. "But he's a character. He's mischievous, and he's a challenge."

At about 8 years old, Leonard, thankfully, is a bit calmer now, his owner said.

And he's a local celebrity with his own Facebook page, according to Baugher, who said people posted comments there Wednesday night and Thursday morning, asking whether Leonard weathered the flooding.

"My daughter called me this morning because of traffic on Facebook wondering about Leonard," he said. "She's his secretary."

Swept away: Baugher lost two goats to the fast-rising creek — Leonard's mother and aunt, he said.

"Now that the dam is gone, it's much more difficult to judge how fast it's rising," he said. "It's something we watch closely."

Baugher said it was a hard-learned lesson.

"When the water's high, I just let Leonard run," he said. "He usually hangs out on the front porch. In the summertime, he loves to eat the bushes."

When the Conewago Creek isn't overflowing its banks, Leonard is happy to receive visitors and hold court at his waterfront abode.

"He's very friendly ... just like a dog," Baugher said. "Lots of people feed him."

Neighbors prepared: Flooding in the Detters Mill area did not improve after the dam was removed, according to Regelman.

"Ever since they ripped the dam out, it's been twice as bad," the 56-year-old said.

Regelman and Baugher both said that with the dam gone, each flood seems to cause soil erosion at the banks of the creek.

Those who live in the Detters Mill area have learned to respect the Conewago Creek, the men said. Baugher's lived there nearly 36 years, and Regelman moved there some 18 years ago.

Regelman said a neighbor told him flood waters once reached the second floor of her creek-side home, perhaps during Hurricane Agnes in 1972.

Getting older: "It can happen real fast," he said of flooding. "We (neighbors) put benchmarks out and take turns keeping an eye on it. You have to here. ... It used to be fun, but we're getting older."

"We watch out for each other," Baugher added. "It's just a neighborhood thing."

Now, most everyone has generators to power their homes and sump pumps to rid their basements of water, Regelman said.

In the old days, he said, neighbors would gather and play cards by candlelight. Sometimes they had so much fun they kept right on playing after power was restored, he said.

"We were stranded numbers of times when (floodwater) covered the guardrail and was up in our driveway," Baugher recalled. Detters Mill Road separates his waterfront from his front yard and home.

"When it gets to that point, you need to be prepared," he said. "And then monitor it closely."

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.