If you are a southerner, especially a native of this part of Georgia, and are between the ages of 40 and 80, chances are you saw the Goat Man, his iron-wheeled wagon loaded down with pots, pans, old car tags, hay for his goats, signs (Prepare To Meet Thy God, Jesus Wept, Pepsi, George Wallace For President, etc.) being pulled along the highways and by-ways by 8, 20 or even more goats with the older and younger goats riding and with the Goat Man walking and leading with his whip over his shoulder.
If you ever saw the Goat Man and his Bovidae companions and you stopped, talked (or more correctly, listened) with him as he spoke of salvation, politics, or his life and road experiences and as he tried (with much success) to sell you a picture postal card and, at least in the early days, for “15 cents each or three for 50 cents,” you have not forgotten it.
And, if you saw the Goat Man, stopped and visited, and perhaps bought “three cards for 50 cents,” you, like all that had this experience were overwhelmed by the smell of goats and the smell of Mr. Ches McCartney, “America’s Goat Man.” Not only did the Goat Man smell like his traveling companions, he apparently, went months, and possibly years, without bathing!
The story is told in Darryl Patton’s book, America’s Goat Man, of a visitor who confronted Ches McCartney with: “If you would bathe, more people would come to visit you” to which McCartney responded, “How many people have come to see you, today?”. He answered, “None,” to which the Goat Man replied, “Well, about 300 have visited me, today!”
McCartney, a modern day Robinson Crusoe, Huckleberry Finn or Johnny Appleseed, claims, at various times, to have visited every state in the union except Hawaii (“I am afraid my goats would eat the grass skirts off of the hula dancers”), traveled by goat power over 100,000 miles, to have had three or four wives, a son killed in Vietnam and a son killed in World War II, met and talked with John Kennedy (when McCartney was thinking about running for President – “Kennedy talked me out of it”), visited with Oral Roberts, etc. etc. He was quite a talker and quite a character.
We do know that McCartney was born in Iowa in 1901 (In 1984 he claimed to be 105 years old), married a Spanish knife thrower in New York (she threw knives at him for money) when he was 14 and she was 24 and that McCartney had a son, Gene, by a third marriage who traveled with him for a time and lived with him after he “retired” to Jeffersonville, Georgia.
We also know that the Goat Man did lots of roadside preaching, and claimed to be a “licensed Christian Church preacher and Pentecostal Evangelist.” Typical of his spiritual lessons was his response when asked about his wife: “I’ve had three of these things, and I don’t want no more. In the Bible God promises every man seven wives, but somebody else can have my other four.”
Lastly, we know that the Goat Man was a true American character. In places, school would be ‘let out’ when news got out that “the ‘Goat Man’ is coming.” I think that was well and good and I suspect that the students remembered this lots longer than the Algebra formulas or how to dissect a frog.
And, yes, I saw (“met”) the Goat Man on two or three occasions. I don’t know how old I was, but I know I was always with Daddy traveling somewhere (probably to my Walker grandparents) when we ‘came up on him.’ And, I know I was always a little frightened by him (his odor didn’t help any).
The Goat Man always tried to sell us a picture postal card but Daddy would never fork over “the 50 cents for three” or, later, the “1 dollar each.” I wish he had. I think it would be fun to go back, look and remember how it was with America’s Goat Man.
If interested, get Darryl Patton’s book, “America’s Goat Man.” It’s published by Little River Press, Gasden, Alabama.
http://www.stalkingthewild.com (that’s what’s in the book).
Also, if you have an interesting ‘Goat Man story or experience’ please email me. I might just add yours to what we know about this “American Institution”.