Monday, January 9, 2006

The Goat Man

A sure-fire way to tell if you're getting old is if you find yourself reading the obituaries. That's not something the young does. But it's something that I do.

One of the last times I was in my home town (for a funeral), as I was leaving, someone said "See you next time." Meaning "See you soon, I hope." But it just as well could have meant "See you next funeral." It seems like the only times I ever go back to my hometown if for a birthday or a funeral. And there seems to be more funerals than birthdays.

Anyway, this past weekend, I found myself checking the obituaries on the Savannah Morning News Web site when one caught my eye. Not anyone I knew, but you know they sometimes will include a nickname on a notice, right? Well, this was an obituary for Arthur "Goatman" Thomas. I'm not making fun of the late Mr. Thomas or making light of his family's loss, but his nickname brought back some memories and some thoughts.

I remember The Goat Man. Or at least I think I do.

Now, I'm not talking about the Maryland (and other states) Urban Legend of some half-man/half-goat creature. And, no, I'm certainly not talking about the guy who originally put up the Web site.

No, I'm talking about the Goat Man. The guy with the wagon pulled by goats that travelled all over the country, particularly the South, many years ago.

When we were small, sometimes parents (or more likely, grandparents) would tell us to get a bath because we looked (or smelled) like the Goat Man.

I had no idea what they were talking about. Until one day, while at my grandparents' (father's parents), we were pointed to a man with a wagon and goats traveling the road. We were told it was the Goat Man. I don't remember much about the man or his entourage, other than seeing it. But it stuck in my mind that the Goat Man was real.

Later, in school, someone mentioned the Goat Man and someone else said "Ah, there's no such thing." My mentioning I had seen him brought derision. Oh, well. The heck with them, I thought. I knew what I was talking about.

Over the years, I heard that the Goat Man had died. In fact, I heard it many times. In the early 70s, in the 80s, in the 90s. I figured he had died, since he's got to be too old to be gallavanting across the country (or even Georgia) with goats.

Not everyone in the South had seen the Goat Man, of course. Heck, many have never heard of him. The Wife, for instance. First time I mentioned the Goat Man, she looked at me like I was crazy. She might be right, but not because of anything to do with the Goat Man.

Anyway, I decided to do some research about the Goat Man, and ran across several mentions of him. Velociman mentioned him in 2003. I even found some pictures of him. Including some that give his name: Ches McCartney. Heck, even Porter Wagoner's message board mentions him. (Gosh, I hope you know who Porter Wagoner is.)

Do you remember the Goat Man? Or am I the only one old enough have heard of him?


  1. The Goat Man was a vision. Seeing him on a trip made the trip kinda magical for a kid.

  2. I never *saw* the Goat Man, but I've seen pictures of him, and I know enough people who have seen him to believe that he's real.

    And it's definitely not Goatse... Ugghhh!

  3. I definitely remember the goat man. He was famous around Cedartown, Ga. I saw him at his camp on several occasions between Cedartown and Rome during the 1970's. He would camp on the side of the road (this was before it was four-laned)with his many goats. They pulled his wagon which looked similar to a Connestoga. A book has been published about him and it may be purchased at Slaughter's Store, among other places, between Cedartown and Rockmart.

  4. I have seen the goatman and his connestoga style wagon several times. I was probabaly about 12 years old the first time I saw him.
    This was in Sanford, North Carolina I would think about 1956. I remember seeing him a few times but I never knew he was a distance traveler. I always assumed he was a local or from near Sanford. (Gosh, do you think there could be more than one ?). The descriptions fit to a tee. (followed links in your blog..)

  5. I saw the "goat man" on several occasions.Before my Mother died (1998) she had been in a nursing home for several years.One of the nursing homes she was in was in Macon,Ga.(I think that was the one).She was there at the same time the Goat Man was there.He was between 99 and 100 years old then.I'm not sure what year she was at that particular nursing home.It was in the early 90's.The name of the book about him is "Americas Goat Man"

  6. My children and grandchildren have heard me tell the story so many times about the goat man. The man traveled the southeast during the 1950s and 1960s with a wagon with many goats pulling the wagon. He was real dirty and had a lot of STUFF on the wagon. In Albertville, Alabama he stopped at my sisters house on the side of the road. I was probably 10 or ll years old. He let me go in his wagon and he had hub caps, trinkets, junk, old cans, old bottles hanging all over the wagon. You could hear him coming down the road because he had so much stuff it would jingle. I saw him at least three or four times where I grew up. He
    would come through our area every year or so.

    I left that area many, many years ago and I have only found one man with knowledge of the same memories that I have of the goat man. Please respond if you have information

  7. I too have fond memories of seeing the Goatman. I was raised on a farm in rural south Georgia. Our home was located on a small dirt road about 16 miles from the nearest small town. You can imagine our suprise when we heard a loud noise coming down the road. To our amazement the noise turned out to be caused by a wagon covered by buckets and pots and pans drawn by a group of scragly looking goats led by by a even more scraggly bearded man. He yelled at his goats to keep going and he walked over to my mother and asked if he could have a bucket of water. He filled his bucket and wandered down the road after the goats. My memory of him was that he smelled worse than the goats. He was dressed in dirty bibb overalls and had a tangled beard.
    My mother always maintained that he was just a very rich ecentric man who just wanted to spend his life wandering the country.
    it is my understanding that there are a couple of books written about him and that there is a good collection of pictures of him in the Railroad museum in Waycross

    Austin lewis

  8. I am 62 years of age and I am from Eatonton Ga.. Home of Uncle Remus and The Color Purple. I can remember the goat man as if it was yesterday ,. I have sat and talked to the goat man when I was just a kid for hours when he would camp out in front of Capes grocery store across from the entrance to Rock Eagle which is the 4-H Club entrance. Saw him many times, he was a great individual, but he did smell just like a goat . Came from sleeping with the goats he said. Wonderful man.

  9. I remember the Goat Man coming down US 27 through Carrollton, Georgia. We kids were told that he traveled it all the way to Detroit, which amazed us ("this road goes to Detroit?") as much as the Goat man himself.

    I found this site because I had a recent memory of the Goat Man and wondered if he was real or part of my personal apographa.

  10. I remember seeing the Goat Man, maybe more than once, coming through Valdosta, GA, during the 1950's (I think). For some reason, I just thought of that and did a search, came upon your site, and just had to write my memories, too!

    My most vivid memory of seeing the Goat Man is at twilight as he came through the intersection of Ashley St. and Park Ave. in Valdosta. All the vehicles stayed at a standstill as he and his herd of goats made their way through green & red traffic lights. I still remember the jingling sound of chains and/or tiny bells as they passed by. The Goat Man's clothes were ragged, and it seems to me that he had a long, scraggly beard. To me, there was a comic undertone that the animals were goats instead of cows or horses (which I would have expected to pull the wagon).

    During those days, no one seemed to know his story. In recent years, I've read the same info. about his wife being a knife-thrower, and of his ending up in a nursing home in the South. Remembering him brings back another of those strange things from childhood which were never fully explained but which have become somehow significant. I'll bet there are plenty of newspapers across the South with photos of the Goat Man in long-ago issues.

  11. I saw the goat man for the first time in about 1962. I was outside playing when I heard the uproar of many dogs barking furiously. Mixed with this was the most undescribeable sound of pots and hundreds of other items clanging together. The strange wagon piled high with lots of junk(?) passed by and was pulled by around a dozen goats. The old man was filthy looking and was yelling at the goats. It sure triggered my instinct to flee and I would have had I not been so enchanted. Behind the wagon were many more goats in procession. I saw him again on the side of a road when I was a few years older. I live in Aiken, SC and US#1 passes through here. I think he often traveled this highway.

  12. My brother and I saw the Goat Man in Glencoe Alabama in the early 60's. We were probably about 8 and 10 years old. We were wading or fishing in a spring off Hwy 431 and he stopped and talked with us while his goats drank out of the spring and cooled off. I seem to remember he was a nice man, but I also remember the smell of his goats.

  13. When i was 8 years old, the goat man came by our house on hwy 20 near cumming, ga. He camped for the night on the side of the road across from our house. When word got out that the goatman was around, people would jump in their cars, and go to see him. That particular night, cars were parked on both sides of hwy. 20 near the goatman's campsite. He did indeed smell like a goat. He would milk the goats, and tell all kinds of funny stories.
    I have copies of some pictures that some people we knew took the next day, a few miles up the road from us. I saw the goatman several times during my childhood. Seems like he was everywhere.

  14. I remember the goat man coming through Lawrenceville and "camping out" at the old fair grounds. Always drew a crowd. And flies.

  15. In 1959 I was living in Waresboro, GA. The Goat Man came through there several times. I remember that we were allowed to leave the school at lunchtime to go and see him (escorted by our teachers). This guy was smelly! It was said that he did a lot of preaching, but I never saw any evidence of that. I always figured that he was a little crazy.

  16. I, too, have memories of seeing the goatman while on family vacations. This was more frequently in Upper South Carolina. Where does he come from? What is his history? Were there more than one goat man?

  17. Speaking of synchronicity, I was searching for some Goat Man links to refer to a friend when I ran across this site.

    I'm trying to work my childhood experience with the Goat Man into novel (in progress - as the euphemism goes).

    It was one of those hot, sultry Southern Illinois (there's a reason it's called Little Egypt) days in late July and the shout went up as the mail truck pulled up to the small post office in Springerton, Illinois, "The Goat Man's coming, he's out by Enfield right now."

    My cousins were all excited by the news, but as a city boy just visiting for the summer, I didn't know what they were talking about.

    I soon learned, as later in the day, we all piled in an older cousin's car and drove over to Enfield where the Goat Man had camped out.

    What a sight! A beat to hell old wooden wagon on automobile tires pulled by a team of goats with kids running and bleating at their side. The wagon was guided by a grey bearded old coot in those old-fashioned bib overalls so popular in those days. He rode the buck seat of the wagon with a tiny, brown and white, three-legged kid in his lap.

    The wagon was adorned with hub caps, spare tires, inner tubes, flags, lanterns and all sorts of clanking, banging, rattling, shining and clattering paraphenalia.

    He offered people goat's milk from a dirty mason jar, and preached up a storm around a fire of burning tires later in the dusk of early night.

    I understand that he fell under the spell of an actress, Mona Freeman, (some say Morgan Fairchild--but I think there's a bit of a time problem with that) and once set out for California in order to pursue his dream. (The original concept for the Beverly Hillbillies).

    There are several sites with personal memories of the goat man. My understanding is that sometime in the 60s he was set upon by some town toughs somewhere in the South and was badly beaten, some of his goats killed and his wagon trashed. He died, as I understand it, years later, in a nursing somewhere in the south, still, no doubt dreaming of Mona Freeman.

  18. I "fell in love" with Ches McCartney around 1984, when, as a former dealer in limited edition fine arts, I received a mailer of the artwork of Larry Martin. In it was a study for, "America's Goat Man - Ches McCartney". I was just going through a divorce, with all the resultant financial insecurities, and had no disposable income but I made up my mind to make whatever sacrifice was necessary to own and frame a print of that study.
    I went without lunch for six weeks to buy the print and have it properly museum-mount framed. Of all my special limited edition serigaphs, colotypes, lithographs and a host of other art work, "The Goat Man" remains my hands-down favorite. His eyes, and the security of that baby goat in his arms, guided me through countless moments of terror and despair, even when I became homeless.
    I now live in a custom built home on five acres at the top of a hill in wine country, and with all I survey -- my vineyard, my orchards, my stables -- the most enduring comfort and inspiration comes from that study, proudly displayed as a reminder that faith and hope are found in the humblest of surroundings.

  19. The goat man was my Uncle Al's 1st cousin. In the late 1940 he came threw Janesville Wi to visit his family and parked in a farmers field. I and my brother Jerry road in his little wagon the taged behind the larger one. I was really concerned when he dropped Jerry off and gave me another ride free and told me he would come back when I was older, when his son would need a girlfriend. Scared me!

    Later in the 1970 or 1980s we heard that a man that had been beaten in L.A. Ca had been I.D. as the Goat Man from Ga.

    My husband had also met him in N.C. when he was young, along with his pretty young wife. When my Mom's sister and Uncle Al came to visit my husband asked him if he used to travel with a wagon and goats , Uncle didn't answer for his own reasons??? So when we heard this L.A. report we wondered if this was the Goat Man we knew.

    After moving to N.C. we found after researching that it was! Here are some facts

    Ches Mc Cartney is real, his was born in Iowa, he was at the N.Y. worlds fair, he ran for president a few times, against John Kennedy the last time, camped with his goats on the White House Lawn, traveled all over the U.S. , wrestled a bear and won in Iowa. It would be wonderful to collect and document his story.

    In Burnsville N.C. a book titled, Emages of Yancey County has a picture of The Goat Man and his wagon in it.


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