Home > Uncategorized > Before Goatse, There Was The Goat Man

Before Goatse, There Was The Goat Man

In an effort to move the unpleasantness of the last post further down the page, I’d like to revisit a bizarre childhood memory:  The Goat Man.

People I’ve told about the Goat Man in my adult life have tended to be disbelieving, probably for the simple reason that the Goat Man spent most of his time on the east coast, so they probably never saw him when they were kids.  But he was a regular fixture in Georgia where I grew up; I remember one time, aged 5 or 6, riding down US 41 and my dad saying, “kids, look – it’s the Goat Man!”  Even to a young child, the sight was surreal – a ZZ Top figure in overalls walking alongside a rickety wagon piled with scrap metal, rags, and other detritus, all being pulled by a team of a dozen or more goats, with more goats behind.

I think this photo must have been taken in the late 40’s to mid-50’s, but since the Goat Man pretty much defied progress, the whole tableaux looks about the same as it did when I saw it in the late 60’s – except US 41 in those days had become a very busy road, so the Goat Man kept to the shoulder.

One other time the Goatman had pitched camp on the side of US 41; we begged Dad to stop so we could see the Goat Man, but he refused with some comment about how bad goats smell and something about the Goat Man being crazy.  Dad had long familiarity with the Goat Man, who he said had travelled through regularly since he was a kid.

Those are the only two times I remember seeing the Goat Man; I mostly forgot about him until the late 80’s, when I was browsing through a book about southern legends in a bookstore – and there he was, in a chapter devoted to his life and travels.  I don’t remember all the details or the name of that particular book, but do remember how surprised I was to learn that he had been married and had a child.  According to this account, his wife didn’t like travelling but he found he couldn’t settle down, so she left with the child and he continued on with the goats.  One phrase I remember, in a section where he talked about sleeping (in the non-Biblical sense) with his goats, was how he described cold nights as “two-goat nights”, when he would pull two goats on top of himself when he went to sleep.  Reading that, I had no problem sympathizing with the former Mrs. Goat Man, who probably had no more love for the smell of goat than any of us do.

Charles "Ches" McCartney, a.k.a. The Goat Man

 These days with the fancy internets and all, information about the Goat Man is a bit easier to come by, though much of it, cobbled together from Ches McCartney’s own accounts, seems quite fanciful.  The way he told it, he ran away from his home in Iowa in 1915 at age 14, went to New York City, and married a Spanish knife-thrower a decade his senior.  Then again, given the circumstances of his last travel, maybe it’s not so unbelievable.  In the late 1980’s, he followed the well-trod path of both Jon Lovitz’ “the Liar” character and Pee Wee Herman and went to Los Angeles to woo Morgan Fairchild; once there he was mugged.  He never did get to meet Ms. Fairchild – funds were raised to purchase a plane ticket to bring him “home” to Macon, Georgia, and his travels finally drew to a close.

The “goat years” of his travels for which he was known took place from 1930 – 1969, and the wife who briefly travelled with him was his second.  He claimed to be an ordained Pentecostal (what else?) minister, and apparently preached whenever a crowd showed up at his camp – which solved for me the riddle of why Dad wouldn’t let us stop to see the Goat Man.  From various internet accounts, he also seemed to have some rather novel ideas about other things, like race war, which probably would serve him well in today’s paranoid teabagger crowd.   He mostly travelled the east coast between Maryland and Florida, typically going south in the winter and travelling back north the following spring, so any of you old farts reading this who grew up anywhere in the Southeast during that time period might have seen him. 

Whatever else he may have been, he was an original, an eccentric throwback to the hobos of the Depression, and clearly someone who managed to live life on his own dirty, smelly, goat-ridden terms.

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  1. April 15, 2012 at 1:23 am

    See also: Three Dog Night.

  2. Big Bad Bald Bastard
    April 15, 2012 at 5:32 pm

    We had our own celebrated vagrant in the 19th Century. Every so often, I hike to one of the “caves” he stayed in (actually more like a crevice in a cliff), and I get goosebumps looking at the fire-blackened rock wall.

  3. April 16, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    There are not enough gaping assholes in this entry.

    Thank you for that.

  4. MR Bill
    April 24, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    The Goatman used to come to Hiawassee Ga. (It’s in the mountains, about as far north as you can go without being in NC..) every year, and my grandad would take us to see him, over my mom (who’s worship of ‘Southern Living’ and ‘Better Homes and Gardens’ was second only to that of Jesus)’s strong objections…the smell was indescribable, and I think accounts for my distate for chevre to this day..

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