The Goat man is coming
COLUMBUS, GA 1950’s — Let me start by saying the fun part of doing the stories, for CGO and my “memories of Whitesville” website, is getting e-mail and input from you the readers. One such story is one that brought back memories, some 40 years in my forgotten childhood memory; when Mr. Lovett of Woodbury, Georgia, e-mailed me an old photo of a man with a makeshift wagon, being pulled, by a mob of goats, down a Highway. My old memory cells came alive, as I looked at this picture of this rag-tag caravan. The clank, clink, bing, bongs; the sounds of creaking wheels on black top, the bleat of the goats and the voice of a man calling out orders to the goats. The call of the young boys as they ran ahead of the goats and wagon, “THE GOAT MAN IS A COMIN ! “. I remember witnessing this event along the road several times, as we traveled the Southeast in our 1954 Ford Station Wagon; it always brought a smile of awe and amazement to my face as I looked out of the car as we would meet them traveling. Who was this Man, where is he from, where is he going, why is he so dirty and carrying all that junk? Only once as I witnessed his trip by Central Jr. High on Crawford Rd., Phenix City, Alabama did we later go to his camp; I talked my dad into taking me; I did get to listen to this old Goat man tell stories and read and preach from his old Bible. I was 14 years old at that time, but I can still hear and see the children as they run out front up the street and yell out “THE GOAT MAN IS COMIN! “.
Here is what’ been published or written from interviews on this man’s long life and times as facts: His name was Charles McCartney born in 1900 on the farm of his parents near Van Buran Township, Keokuk County, Iowa; the son of Albert and Louise E. Russell McCartney. His nickname was Ches. At the age of 14, he ran off to New York City and married a then 24 yr old Spanish woman. She was a knife thrower who threw knives at Ches at local taverns and bars to make tips. In my mind WARNING! WARNING! pops up as I read this with the phrase “a women’s scorn!”; but it may be just me. Ches states that his wife” threw the knives in his general direction: she would throw a couple to attract attention; then as coins hit the floor, she would throw all 25 . The closer the knives came to Ches, the bigger the tips. Ches was unable to grow a long, flowing beard during this time.” The couple, after a while, discovered that they were going to have a child, so Ches invested in a team of horses, some goats, and a 20-acre farm near his childhood home in What Cheer community of Iowa. A son, Albert Gene (Bert/Gene) McCartney was born here. Ches stated that his son thrived “on pure country air, vegetables, spring water, and plenty of goat’s milk. ” Life was good for a time. Ches even became “a devoted reader of the bible and started expounding the Gospel to his fellow-man.”
In 1929, The Depression hit hard, there was no market for his abundant crops, the winter was hard and the two horses died. Ches related the misfortunes that the depression be felled him. “I lost my life savings to the bank failure and had to take a job on the Works Progress Administration—WPA. “While working with the WPA a tree fell on him and left him with a crushed lung. a crushed left shoulder, a deformed left elbow, and a smashed right hip”. He was left for dead. Ches says he was left there for hours before anyone came to help. ” They thought I was dead and took me to the undertaker. He was sticking the embalming needle in me when I woke up”. Ches ended up with a permanently mangled arm and shoulder. His arm was so crushed that he was unable to do any heavy work.
Now with his limitations from injuries and the depression, Ches realized: He has a family to feed and needs money. He must find something to do to provide for them. A gimmick was needed: He likes Robinson Caruso and liked preaching. There are places to go and challenges to be met. He had his wife make them goatskin clothes. He hitched up a number of billy goats to the front of a ram shackled handcrafted wagon, loaded his wife and son onto it, traveled around locally a while, and finally decided to hit the roads of America for good preaching and selling trinkets. This was the start of the man soon to be known the “Goat Man.”
This wandering life seemed to be too hard for Mrs. McCartney (son Gene in 1984 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article said his mother’s name was Sadie Smythheart. I never found it anywhere else.); so she left the family in dawn’s early light to never travel as a family again. Ches said, She went away and left me and the boy…. took up with another man”. Some say Ches soon returned to Iowa and dropped off his son with the grandparents, so he could attend school and then returned to the road. Many witnesses, however,said to have seen his son with him, even as a teenager. In fact, most agree that Gene traveled, off and on, with his father till age 15 yrs. old. Ches McCartney, with and without his son Gene, set out across this country to fulfill his wanderlust. As it is said, he traveled to 49 of the 50 states, more than 100,000.00 miles; with 20+ goats and a wagon (sometimes pulling a 2 wheel trailer) walking with them down the highway. In 1942 he moved near Jeffersonville, Twiggs County,Georgia; which served as his base camp till his death .
Part 2 will follow; with personal comments from people who saw him and or talked with him as he traveled trough the southeast. We will tell you of trials and troubles incurred by this kindly old man as he traveled the roads of the south. About the murder of his son and the day the Angels cry out to the Heaven’s ” The Goat Man’s a Comin!”
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