As best that I can remember, the first time that I ever heard mention of the Goat Man was from former Frisco City High School coach and teacher Curtis Harris, who would mention this unusual folk character from time to time in his classes. Later, when prompted, I heard my father talk about the Goat Man as well. Sometime last year, I heard about a book on the Goat Man called “America’s Goat Man: Mr. Ches McCartney” by Darryl Patton, and I added it to my “bucket list” a few months ago.
My wife got me a copy of “America’s Goat Man” for Christmas, and I started reading it on Monday of last week. I officially scratched it off my bucket list when I finished reading it on Friday night. All in all, this 160-page book told me everything I ever wanted to know about the Goat Man.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Goat Man, his real name was Charles “Ches” McCartney, a native of Keokuk County, Iowa. Born on July 6, 1901, McCartney became a somewhat famous American itinerant wanderer who traveled up and down the eastern United States from 1936 to 1987 in a ramshackle wagon pulled by a team of goats. He claimed to have covered more than 100,000 miles and visited all U.S. states except Hawaii.
McCartney, whose left arm was mangled in a timber-cutting accident, began his travels on July 4, 1936 when he decided to build a wagon, hitch it to his herd of goats and begin traveling the country to preach. Leaving his old Iowa farm, McCartney would spend the next five decades traveling all over the country, preaching, living mostly off goat milk and selling postcards and photographs of himself to the crowds that flocked to see him. During that time, he was featured in countless newspaper articles, and he survived all sorts of unusual adventures, run-ins with the law and near-misses on America’s highways.
As things go, McCartney hung up his traveling shoes in 1987 and he eventually passed away at the age of 97 on Nov. 15, 1998 in a Macon, Ga. nursing home. Those of you wishing to visit his grave can see it today at the Jeffersonville Cemetery in Jeffersonville, Ga.
Patton’s book was published by Little River Press in 2003, and his book details the Goat Man’s many wanderings around the Southeast and beyond. The book also contains scores of interesting photos that show the Goat Man as a young traveler and up to his days in a Georgia nursing home. Much of the book appears to have been gleaned from old newspaper stories about the Goat Man as well as from personal accounts from people who personally encountered the Goat Man.
In the end, how many of you have read “America’s Goat Man” by Darryl Patton? What did you think about it? How many of you had personal encounters with the Goat Man? Let us know in the comments section below.