The Legendary Goat Man, Ches McCartney
Fascinating story of “The Goat Man,” Ches McCartney, one of the South’s most famous wandering travelers and folk characters – powered by goats. Written by Craig Dominey.
The picture hung in my parents’ home for years before I finally asked about it: a pencil sketch of a gentle old man looking like some unkempt, nomadic Santa Claus, cradling a baby goat in his strong, leathery hands. Behind him, a team of older goats pulled a ramshackle, trash-strewn wagon, a placard on its roof screaming “GOD IS NOT DEAD.”
Pencil drawing by Larry Martin, used by permission.
As a kid, I dismissed the drawing as yet another curiosity that my parents would buy in the folk art galleries and antique stores that surrounded our North Georgia mountain home. But when I began writing columns for the local paper and became hungry for story material, I asked my mother one day about that strange old man on the wall. She flipped the picture around with a smile, revealing a manilla folder full of newspaper articles taped to the back, waiting for the day that I would ask.
That was how I first became acquainted with the fascinating life of Mr. Ches McCartney, a.k.a. the “Goat Man.”
For over five decades, the Goat Man roamed the highways and byways of the South, fueled by little more than simple wanderlust. Most of this time was spent in a goat-powered, scrap wood wagon covered with cooking utensils, dented signs, old furniture, rusty lanterns and whatever else he could find on the roadsides. “The Goat Man’s coming!” became a common refrain on radio stations and newspapers across the region. Traffic would back up for miles as curiosity seekers stopped to gawk at him. Some schools would even let out early so that the children could see this modern day pioneer.
After his “retirement” from traveling in 1987, rumors circulated in the press that the Goat Man and his team had been killed on a rain-slickened highway by an out-of-control truck. But back in 1998, I discovered he was indeed alive and well at the Eastview Nursing Home in Macon, Georgia. After arranging for a visit with the staff, I drove down to see him.
As I was led into the crowded television room, I spotted a short and frail old man sitting alone on a bench. He was indistinguishable in his clean plaid shirt and pressed khaki slacks, a new baseball cap covering what was left of his brittle white hair. He constantly rubbed the stubble on his face, as if he were feeling for the fuller beard of his youth. His hearing was nearly gone, and he mumbled almost unintelligibly when he spoke. But the minute he smiled at me, the gentle, road-tested wanderer from my parents’ picture suddenly appeared before my eyes.
He immediately spotted a Goat Man biography under my arm and motioned for it. Without my asking, he took out a pen and signed his name twice on the cover page. Although pictures and framed magazine articles on the Goat Man hung throughout the nursing home, the other residents seemed oblivious to the fact that a celebrity was in their midst. “Ain’t no lies in that book,” he said, excitedly tapping his long fingernails on the cover. “I don’t tell nothin’ but the truth. ”
The nursing staff around us smiled. No one is sure how many of the Goat Man’s stories are fact or fiction. He claimed to be around 105 years old, although nursing home records at the time estimated his age to be somewhere in the mid-to-late 90s. He said that his goats were on display at Disney World, although no one had ever seen them. He also claimed to have spent the night in the White House as President Carter’s guest, although I found no official record of such a visit.
But most accounts of Ches McCartney’s life agree that he began his traveling days in 1915 when, as a teenager, he ran off to New York City from his home in Iowa. According to one of his self-published booklets, he sold newspapers on a street corner before embarking on a whirlwind romance with a 24-year-old Spanish knife thrower. Struggling to make ends meet, the couple put on a traveling circus act in local taverns where, upon arrival, Ches would take down the dart board, get up on the wall and allow his new bride to throw twenty-five keenly sharpened knives in his direction.
The performing duo eventually split up, and Ches returned to Iowa. Thinking he had quenched his wanderlust, he remarried, had a son, Albert Gene, and settled into a life of farming. Ches was first introduced to the benefits of “goat power” when he used them to plow his fields after he lost his horses during the Depression.
The McCartneys eventually lost their entire farm in the Depression, and Ches went to work cutting timber for the Works Progress Administration (WPA). It was during this time that a tragic event occurred that would forever alter his life. While working deep in the forest, a tree fell across him, shattering his left side and pinning him to the ground for hours. According to Ches, when a search party finally arrived, they presumed he was dead and took him to the local funeral home. He later awoke on the embalming table, much to the shock of the mortician.
Ches eventually recovered, but his left arm was forever mangled. Unable to work, Ches nevertheless refused go on the public dole, wanting to be his own boss. “I decided to do what I could,” he would later write, “and so my life with the goats began.” Inspired by one of his favorite books, Robinson Crusoe, he had his wife sew goat skin outfits for him and his son, while he designed two goat skin-covered wagons. The family then set off for parts unknown.
His wife eventually grew tired of the road and left him. Albert Gene stayed in Iowa to attend school, rejoining Ches on his vacations. But Ches traveled on, gaining notoriety across the country as the “Goat Man.” His goat skin outfit eventually gave way to several layers of greasy, sooty clothes, which he would peel off depending on the weather. He never shaved or bathed, and it was said that his smell would roll into town long before he did. “[The goats] don’t care how I smell or how I look,” he later wrote. “They trust me and have faith in me, and this is more than I can say about a lot of people.”
At its height, the Goat Man’s junk-filled “goatvoy” consisted of two wagons pulled by a team of over thirty goats. The larger billies were hitched to the front of the wagon with homemade leather leads. Nannies were tied to the back with a couple of strong billies that served as the “brakes” on steep hills. The Goat Man also collected stray and neglected goats that he found during his travels, including a three-legged goat that rode in a special box on the front wagon. He referred to the goats as his “babies,” and called each of them by name as he walked beside them.
He slept with the goats in the back wagon, which he dubbed the “maternity ward” since it was where the females gave birth. At night, visitors to his campsite would frequently find him curled up with his goats in the back wagon, reading Robinson Crusoe or The Bible under the warm glow of a kerosene lantern. “On cold winter nights, my goats are the finest electric blanket I can find,” he would say.
Upon arriving at his chosen campsite, usually on the outskirts of some town, the Goat Man’s first responsibility was to feed and water his goats. He would then build a campfire out of whatever sticks and trash he could find lying around and cook his dinner. The final touch was to throw a couple of junk tires on the fire that he kept stocked in his wagon. He claimed that the thick, acrid smoke chased the mosquitos away and added a distinct flavor to his food. But the burning tires more than likely served a more ingenious purpose: to attract visitors.
Thinking there had been a car wreck, those curiosity seekers who were already held up in traffic behind his slow-moving caravan would rush over to the campsite at the sight of the smoke. There, they would find the Goat Man drinking flesh goat milk from his herd, which he claimed had kept him healthy for years. He would then offer up a plethora of novelties for sale: booklets on his travels, picture postcards, proprietary medicines, sewing materials. Whether folks bought something or not, he always thanked everyone for coming out.
All of the money he raised either went to the maintenance of his goats or to a series of churches he planned to build throughout the South. The Goat Man claimed to have been ordained by the Pentecostal Church, and refused to travel on Sundays so that he could preach in a booming voice to the crowds gathered around his wagon. One of his tiny churches, the Free Thinking Christian Mission in Jeffersonville, Georgia, stood for several years until vandals burned it down. When I asked him about this, he sadly shook his head. “Takes all kind of people to make a world,” he said. “And I think we got ’em, all right.”
For those hardy visitors who could stand the stench and the constantly bleating goats, the Goat Man would eagerly recount stories of his travels and offer opinions on his three favorite subjects: God, politics and women. He claimed that modern day preachers were only interested in the Almighty Dollar, and warned of upcoming race wars and economic depressions. He also tried to generate interest in a run for the Presidency on a third party ticket. By the late 1960s, he claimed to have been married three times, fathered children by each of his wives, and to have received over 25 additional marriage proposals. “The Good Lord gave me three wives, which proved to be three too many,” he would often say. “The Good Book says that there’ll be seven women for every man. Somebody can sure have my other four.”
One subject that continued to haunt the Goat Man in later years was Vietnam. He claimed to have another son missing in action, and my mere mention of the subject brought about an unexpectedly angry response. “The money people just kept sendin’ the boys over there, killin’ ’em all,” he said. “People know how to kill, but they don’t know nothin’ about savin’.” At one time, he even considered camping out with his goats on the White House lawn until he received an answer on his boy’s whereabouts.
Over the years, the Goat Man became a problem for law enforcement. Due to heavy traffic jams behind his wagon, he was frequently rerouted at various state lines. Humane societies charged him with cruelty to animals, although he was never convicted. In the 1940s, he was even suspected by some Twiggs County, Georgia residents of being a Nazi spy. After a short investigation, the local police decided that his mountain man appearance was not a disguise. “[The whiskers and long hair] have something to do with professed religion,” they concluded.
Unfortunately, the Goat Man’s herd proved irresistible to vandals. One of the worst violations occurred on a snowy Christmas morning in 1964 when the Goat Man awoke to find Old Billy, his oldest goat and so-called “companion of companions,” wounded by a hunting arrow. Kind passers-by helped bring the goat to a veterinarian, but he died of complications four months later. The Goat Man later eulogized him in one of his autobiographies with the heartbreaking poem, “In Memory of Old Billy.” The vandals were never found.
Despite this setback, the Goat Man traveled on, eventually covering, by his count, some 100,000 miles and 49 of the 50 states. The only state he missed was Hawaii, due to logistical problems and his concern that, as he told an Alabama newspaper, the “goats might eat the grass skirts sight off the hula girls!”.
As superhighways were constructed across the country in the late 1960s, it became more dangerous for the Goat Man to continue his odyssey. But it would take two more tragic events to knock his caravan off the road for good. While traveling through Chattanooga, Tennessee late one night in 1968, the Goat Man was violently mugged. He later awoke in a hospital with a gash in his head that required twenty-seven stitches to close. His goats were not so lucky; eight were found dead, their throats slashed.
Horrified by his ordeal, the Goat Man and his herd were driven to Conyers, Georgia to recover. While there, two of the remaining goats were stolen. One was believed to have been tied to a railroad track, while the other was never found. This proved to be too much for the Goat Man, who finally called it quits in 1969.
His livelihood gone, the man who prided himself on being his own boss finally moved into a one room wooden shack in Jeffersonville and lived off Social Security. One evening, he forgot to extinguish his makeshift stove after dinner, and fire swept through his shack while he slept. Luckily, he escaped with only his hair and beard singed, but his shack burned to the ground. Sympathetic Jeffersonville residents bought him and his eldest son Gene an abandoned school bus to live in.
Domestic life eventually became too dull for the Goat Man, and he soon became a common sight limping along Highway 80 between Jeffersonville and Macon, decorating himself with various objects he scavenged from the roadsides. He would also hitch a ride into Macon every week to socialize at the senior citizen’s center. Frustrated with his shrinking Social Security checks, he vowed to renew his cross-country odyssey, this time with the help of airplanes and buses.
In October 1985, the Goat Man followed through on his threat. He was reported missing to the Twiggs County Sheriff’s Department, and did not resurface until three months later, when a doctor from Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles called to report that the Goat Man was hospitalized there after being mugged. The Goat Man claimed to have traveled to Hollywood with the intention of romancing actress Morgan Fairchild. Instead, he was robbed at gunpoint of his watch and two government bonds. After his release, friends purchased a plane ticket back to Georgia for the dazed Goat Man.
The California trip effectively ended the Goat Man’s wandering days – that is, to everybody but the Goat Man himself. He considered his stay in the Eastview Nursing Home to be only a temporary thing. “I’m on the go all the time, bud,” he repeatedly told me. He then scratched his stubble with a smile, saying how anxious he was to grow his flowing beard back.
As my visit ended, I asked the Goat Man if he would allow me to take a picture of him to put in the frame of my parents’ drawing. He smiled and guided me out onto the sunny deck, allowing me to take all I wanted. Our task completed, he stayed back in the dining room as I told him goodbye.
“God be with you,” said the Goat Man. He then turned and stared silently out the window at the open blue sky.
ADDENDUM: Not long after my visit, tragedy struck Ches again as his son Gene was shot to death on their Twiggs County property near the old school bus, a murder which remains unsolved. Gene is buried in a donated plot in Jeffersonville, Georgia. A few months later, Ches passed away at his nursing home at age 103.
America’s Goat Man, the definitive biography of the Goat Man, is available in our Bookshop.
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“Face Of A Legend.” Pencil drawing by Larry K. Martin. Copyright by Larry K. Martin. Printed with permission of the artist. This subject and others are available as prints from larrykmartin.com.
- “America’s Goatman – Mr. Ches McCartney.” Pencil drawing by Larry K. Martin. Copyright by Larry K. Martin. Printed with permission of the artist. This subject and others are available as prints from larrykmartin.com.
- Postcard of the Goat Man handed out at his stops, photographer unknown.
- Home movie of the Goat Man provided by Robert Bonner.
- Picture of Goat Man in 1998 by Craig Dominey.
Other Goat Man Links:
Darryl Patton, America’s “Goat Man” (Mr. Ches McCartney) (Gadsden, Ala.: Little River Press, 1994).
105 Responses to “The Legendary Goat Man, Ches McCartney”
Aww… Such a sweet man. I wish he didn’t have to suffer so much.
My mother, Louise Fowler, grew up in Twiggs County, and talked to me about the Goat Man. I’m glad to hear about him again. So sorry he had a rough time of it and know he’s up there in heaven with all his sweet goats.
I have been long been considering renting or buying a young goat, perferabley a nanny to start with. This story gives me even more belief that goats are smart enough, and loving enough. I wish peace to Ches… and thank-you for letting me know to go ahead and take a leap of faith.
It has been years since I last thought about the goat man but today while talking to my doctor, he asked had I ever heard of him. To which I answered yes and not only had I heard of him, I had seen him twice between 1955 and 1957. When he came through Black Mtn., NC our primary grade school was located adjacent to Hwy US 70, the main highway east and west. Whenever he came through they would take us out of class and we would stand near the road and watch as he came through town. I have not doubt that today he is in the presence of the God he preached of to many people on his journeys.
I met him twice as a boy.
East Tennesee in the ’50s
I was weaned on Goat’s milk
I grew up in Macon and lived way out on Riverside Drive. My mom would drive us into town on I-75. My dad would drive us into town on Riverside Drive and if the goat man was there he would stop the car and we would all talk with the goat man. I only have my memories now. Thanks for the memories. And, anyone can get ahold of me if they want, maybe we can stir up some memories.
I grew up in Warner Robins. I saw him once when he was parked on the median of Highway 247, near Warner Robins. Probably in the late 50s. I thought it was a grand thing to see!
Ruth Clark Pallan:
I was raised in East Tennessee, I remember when I was about 12 yrs old and we lived close to the old Hwy 33 north of Knoxville. He came by our house and stopped to get some water from our well and Mom made him a sandwich and we sat and talked with him a bit. I guess this was in the early 50’s as now I am 70yrs young now. But, I will never forget the site of him and his goats. I remember him as a very interesting man and grateful for the water and food.
I grew up in Alpharetta, Ga and remember the goat man camping in the same place there many times in a pine thicket and watching his goats eat pine needles. We would hear of his arrival and visit with him by the camp fire after dark. This had to be in the late fifties/early sixties.
I am from Macon, Ga and had the pleasure of meeting the Goat Man on several occassions. I talked to him several times as a teenager while living out on Cochran Short route. I would walk with him out towards Browns Mountain playing with his goats and listening to some of his stories. Later on in life, when I was in my late 20’s, I was on a city bus in down town Macon, Ga. and heard a familiar voice call to me, “Hey there boy” I turned and it was the Goat Man, sitting on this very bus, I asked him how he remembered me some 15 yrs later, and he said it was easy, it was my eyes, they never change, they only get older. I sat with the Goat Man talking about what had went on in my life over the yrs, and was asked if God was in my life, and to always turn things over to God.
I met the goat man on the Jefferson River Road on the outskirts of Athens,Georgia probably around 1945. He was traveling with his wagon and goats and had caught a very large snapper turtle that was crossing the dirt road.
If you’d like to read a wonderful book go to Amazon and order “Goatwalking” by Jim Corbett
a guide to wildland living. Expounds on how to be a a true knight errant.
as a small boy i met Goat Man with my dad and mom,near Westmoreland Tn. i too can remember the sounds of the clanking wagon and the goats. we also found him again a few yrs later camped. hwy 31 E was a main road north thru middle Tn. at that time. i was probally 7 or 8 yrs old at the time and dad bought me a post card he sold.i still have it after all the yrs. thanks to everyone comments its been fun to remember a simpler time.may God Bless Goatman
I remember seeing the goatman on 411 highway when I was a little girl. I remember feeling so sad for him and my mother telling me not to feel sad because that was how he wanted to live.
remember seeing him pass through summerville ga when i was just a lol kid seemed like such a gentle and warm man
I remember him so well in the late ’50’s, early 60’s passing through Knoxville. I have also googled him in past years and once saw a drawing of him for sale. Such an awesome man with such tragedy in his life. Can’t wait to meet him again in Heaven 🙂
I remember the goatman as a kid growing up in Lenoir City,TN., He used to come up the road with all his herd,,,slept at the cemetery just above where we lived,,,my sister and I felt sorry for him and would give him what little change we had,,,we heard later he was a wealthy man?! Don’t know how true that was ,also it was said someone would come by driving a cadillac every night and pick him up..then in the morning he would return and be on his way with his goats…
That was a lot of excitement for our little town to see him and his goats.
[…] The Goat Man and the Goat Boy, as his son Albert Gene was known as, would travel the roads together. Albert Gene stayed in Iowa to attend school, rejoining Ches on his vacations. But Ches traveled on, gaining notoriety across the country as the “Goat Man.” His goat skin outfit eventually gave way to several layers of greasy, sooty clothes, which he would peel off depending on the weather. He never shaved or bathed, and it was said that his smell would roll into town long before he did. “[The goats] don’t care how I smell or how I look,” he later wrote. “They trust me and have faith in me, and this is more than I can say about a lot of people.” […]
@Edna Burnette: the Goat Man was never wealthy, lived in a school bus after his travels, then a modest retirement home.
S A Langford:
I remember the goat man very well, my parents carried me and my brother to see him in Conyers, GA
My Mother also bought several of the VCR tapes about his travels and I still have them.
My mom says that I saw the Goat Man several times when I was little as he traveled through Rome, Georgia. I wish I remembered him, but alas, I was too young. She said he would sit out in front of city hall. After reading his story, it’s obvious he was a God filled man. I wish times were as simple now as then.
When I was a Senior in HS at Thomson-GA. I was taking a driver’s Ed Class. So it was my teacher and 3 other girls. I was trying to drive on a road going towards Linclon Co., Ga. . And the road was not a straight one and having hard time driving . We saw a man and goats pulling a wagon.
We stop and sure enough the stories we had heard about the goat man was true. Could not believe what I was seeing. We stop and talk to him and he was a very nice and down to earth person you would ever meet.
This was 1969
i saw the goat man several times as he came thru atlanta. usually around hapeville and east point. he always attracted a big crowd. as soon as he was sighted the radio stations would start giving reports of where he was and where he was headed. it was an experience
B. K. Johnson:
Does anyone have a copy of Mr. McCartney’s poem “In Memory of Old Billy”? I remember him coming through Macon, Ga. when I was a child… he did forevermore cause a big stir in the community!
@BKJohnson, no I haven’t read it, would love to. Great comments everyone, love seeing these personal stories!
I remember two times him coming thru Smyrna Ga back in the late 50’S. My Grand Mother told me a story about him coming thru Smyrna back in the thirties. He was camped by the rail road across from Belmont Hills just North of Smyrna. He received a telegram that a close relative had passed away and the family wanted him to come back for the funeral. My Grand Dad, J.C. Johnson Sr., let him keep his wagons in his barn there on Fleming St. A farmer across the tracks on Hawthorn St kept his goats. The Goat Man returned several days later and re-claimed his goats and wagons and proceeded on his trip.
I am a Roswell, Georgia native that fondly remembers the excitement and fascination of” The Goatman’s coming!”. My parents would drive me to the Alpharetta, Georgia camping spot mentioned above and give me some change to give to Mr. McCartney.It was amazing to a youngster to see such a sight at a time when there were three TV stations in Atlanta and life was simple. Growing up around here in the 50’s and 60′ was truly like many an episode of The Andy Griffith show.
Thank you Mr. Dominey and may you rest in peace goat man.
He was not always a welcome site. I remember once being in Carrollton, Georgia when he came through downtown. He left the square traveling south/east heading toward Highway 27 South. The street was a fairly narrow street with cars parked on both sides. The goat man with his carts and goats proceeded down the middle with all the paraphnalia bumping against the parked cars scraping and denting at random. The police could do nothing so they just let him proceed. It makes for an amusing memory.
Thanks, Charlene for the other side of the story! I guess damage from a goat counts as an “act of God.”
Growing up in Cobb County, Georgia in the 50’s when it was still a relatively rural area, I remember the Goat Man camping on the shoulder of US 41 (or as we old native Cobb Countians called it, the “4-lane highway”, since it was the only one we had). I just remember the junky old wagon and all of the goats around it doing exactly what goats are supposed to do. I never stopped to meet him, but now wish I had.
i had forgotten about him till i read the articles. i am from black mountain, n.c.
i, like al reece, can remember beeing let out of class just to see this amazing man. brings back old memories of him. GOD rest his soul.
SORRY AL, I MISSPELLED YOUR LAST NAME.
We are from Cobb County – never had the blessing of meeting the Goat Man – wish we had. Maybe I was just too busy when younger to notice. It saddens me to read about the muggings to him and the harm to some of the goats. What a priceless gem he was! We have our first 3 goats and LOVE them! Lost my 11 year old son 4 years ago and the goats are bringing back smiles for the first time – smiles I never thought would return. Mr. McCartney was definitely wise in his choice of companion and work animals. Thank you for keeping his story alive.
kelsie gregg baxter:
As a child in grammar school, I can remember the Goat Man coming thru our little town of East Ellijay every summer. When summer came the kids would listen for the sounds of his little wagon to reappear every year. It seemed you could hear him coming for hours before he got there. He would always stay in an ole warehouse building which sat beside the East town bridge along the edge of the river. This building was located across from the ole McArthur’s Grocery, and the East Ellijay Postoffice. We only lived a little ways from this building across from the East Ellijay Church. Late in the afternoon my mama would send daddy down to take the ole Goat Man, a pone of cornbread with beans and fried taters. Daddy would take us with him and he would always stay awhile and chat with the Goat man. As kids, my sister and I was always amazed by him, and when we would leave we would always talk to daddy about him getting cold, or wet, and not having a home. Daddy would tell us that he was a good man, and that God would make sure he was taken care of. I want to find the books about this man, and share with my grandkids about him. He is something from my childhood that I will never forget. He has left memories with many a child during his travels.
Ahh, I remember seeing the Goat Man and his goats, growing up. In 1955-56
Our family had moved , and I was to go to Ashburn school. in the fifth grade. But That summer they had had a fire, and bussed our grade to a old school out in Dakota. I hated it. no lunch room, wood/coal stove in the room. had Ms Jarman as my teacher. she was nice.
But that year, the school let us go out beside 41,( before they built 1-75.) telling us the goat man was coming..the whole school(2 grades) stood beside the hi-way to watch him go by with his goats. it was amazing.I thought he looked old then but guess it was his beard. he was nice and waved, as he went slowly by. I also remember the medicine shows which use to have free movies to watch sitting on a bleacher. growing up in the 50’s was good..not many had tv’s. you don’t miss what you don’t never had, And children used thier imaginations in play..The goat man was one of the things you never forget, growing up..I am glad to hear he lived his life out being took care of..he looks good in his pic. Every now and then i have been back to Ashburn, Ga, to visit some relatives, and see my old School , use to be Sycamore high school. before they built Turner County High. it is refreshing..And wonder where everyone is working in that small town. It use to have a movie theater, and a drive in in midway..gone now..so am I.
YESTERDAY, MY WIFE, KADI RECEIVED AN E-MAIL WITH A REALLY NEAT PICTURE FROM MY COUSIN IN ARKANSAS OF THE GOAT MAN ON HIS WAGON WITH HIS GOATS PULLING THE WAGON AND (A BLACK FRIEND OF HIS WAS SITTING IN A CHAIR ON THE GROUND EATING A WATERMELON). THE PICTURE WAS TAKEN AT THE GA. / FLA. STATE LINE IN THE LATE 1950’S. HE WAS CAMPED AT THEIR TRUCK STOP IN WOODBINE GA, BECAUSE THE FLA. POLICE WOULD NOT LET HIM CROSS INTO THE STATE OF FLORIDA.
TODAY I GOOGLED THE GOAT MAN AND WAS PLEASANTLY SURPRISED TO FIND THIS WEBSITE. I WAS BORN AND RAISED IN SOPERON, GA. (1942 – 1960) I REMEMBER RIDING ON HWY-80 TO AND FROM MACON AND SAVANNAH, (ALSO MANY OTHER GA. TOWNS AND HIGHWAYS OVER THE YEARS) AND SEEING THE GOAT MAN WITH HIS WAGON AND GOATS ON THE ROADS TOO MANY TIMES FOR ME TO COUNT. I REMEMBER RIDING BY HIS HOUSE AND LOOKNG TO SEE IF HE WAS HOME, SOMETIMES HE WOULD BE THERE. I WISH THAT I HAD MET HIM AND HIS GOATS AND I HAVE THOROUGHLY ENJOYED THE STORIES OF HIS TRAVELS. I CAN ONLY IMAGINE THAT THE PEOPLE WHO TORMENTED HIM AND SLAUGHTERED HIS GOATS AND MURDERED HIS SON HAVE RESERVED THEMSELVES A SPECIAL PLACE IN HELL AND THE GOAT MAN, HIS BELOVED GOATS AND HIS SON’S SPIRITS ARE WITH OUR LORD AND SAVIOR IN HEAVEN. THIS HAS BEEN A SPECIAL TRIP DOWN MEMEORY LANE FOR ME. THANK YOU!
Thanks, Larry. Would love to post that picture (with full credit) if you’d be willing to send!
Ronald R. Johnson:
I grew up in Macon,Ga. and several times during the 1940’s and early 1950’s I was so lucky to get to see and meet with the goat man when he came through Macon and can still remember my dads nose hidden by his cupped hands. Other than the smell it sure was great to see him and his goats and he loved his goats as much as many people loved their children too! And I hope all of those who harmed him and his goats suffer very much and many times too!
I grew up in Duluth, Georgia where we saw the Goat Man in the late 1960’s/early ’70s. After a visit to his site, our whole family caught “Orf”, an infection from goats. While it was pretty comical at the time, despite the itchy pustules, we have enjoyed many laughs about that over the years and fondly remember The Goat Man! In fact, at the time I was 7 years old and my pet was a goat named Billy, no joke. I cried a lot when my parents sold him to a guy that picked him up in a U-Haul while my brother teased that they were going to barbecue Billy.
Wonderful story. Where can I read the poem “In memory of old Billy”?
Jackie, I don’t know where that poem is. You may want to send an e-mail to artist Larry Martin at http://www.larrykmartin.com/. He’s the real expert on the Goat Man.
Never heard of a goat infection. Yikes!
Since i began documenting Carolina panther sightings 10yrs ago,a curious thing; the elders of the low country to whom are my biggest source,(as well as most trusted) have twice made mention of the Goat Man but never where they saw him. Would any of his travels have been documented along coastal hwy 17 from savannah to myrtle beach? I have a plethora of archives quite ignored by most at my reach and would love a location to start from local to me. The archives I speak of are again, are some of the members of my community, along with a little google-fu . Heh heh, I simply love seeing the internet being used for something so respectful of a Man who is an amazing example of what it is to be American. Also my sincerest thanks to the moonlit road for making this man more known to me, and the time and efforts that are not known to most that makes this all possible.
I use to see the goatman about once a year heading south on highway 301 about 30 miles or so from the FL state line. I was always fascinated and watched him as he made his way South. As a teenager I always “assumed” he was going to FL for the winter. This was in the 50’s.
You have described him accurately from my memory and I don’t believe I have anymore to add.
I remember talking with Goatman back in the early sixties in Alabama, in Hoover as it is called now. He was set up at the intersection of hiway 31 and hiway 150 coming out of Bessemer. He would tell us stories and preach to us.
He was a very nice man.
Great article. Thanks for the information. Some folks from McDuffie County were wondering what happened to the Goat Man.
Nancy F Armstrong:
I remember him traveling through Bessemer, Al back in the 1960s. He made camp on a chert hill located on the corner of Hwy 150 @ Morgan Road. He had a roaring fire and goats were all over the hills. That place where he camped is still there, just a chert hill.
Thanks for this trip down memory lane. I often wondered what ever became of this man & who he was. Now I know.
In the Late 50s the goat man and “herd” traveled through Appling County (Baxley,Ga)…He would sometimes stop along the Blackshear highway next to a trailer park that we ran…He would set up camp and socialize with anyone that came to his camp…Once he needed a to see a local doctor…After the treatment he paid by check…The Doctor refused the check and call the police chief to investigate…The chief called the North Ga. bank that was addressed on the check and questioned the Branch manager if the check was any good..The bank manager stated that the check was good up to $50,000…
He was by far the biggest Free Spirit that I have ever met…My cousin Skeeter was second…
I remember the Goat man very well, my dad wrote a song about him and even sang it to him once in Decatur, GA. in the muddy, parking lot to be, of the Big Apple store on Candler Rd. My family actually saw him several times but lost word of him later on in his life.
Ben S. Dixon:
I am amazed by this website about the Goatman. I had no idea he was so well travelled or had suffered such tragic events in his life. The Goatman travelled through Sylvania, Ga. many times while I was growing up there. My wife Stephanie remembers him as well. One evening the Goatman asked my dad if he could park his wagon in front of our house where we had a pecan orchard. My dad allowed him to do so and he spent a peaceful evening with his goats in our orchard. Thank you for creating this web site so those of us who so well remember him from days gone by could find out more about his life and what eventually happened to him.
You’re welcome, glad you enjoyed it.
Donna Perry Ellison:
I am from Macon, GA, Twiggs County near Jeffersonville where Mr. Ches lived in his bus. I can remember seeing him and my Daddy telling us stories of The Goat Man as a child during the 1960’s. In 1984, I worked in downtown Macon on Poplar Street. One afternoon I noticed Mr. Ches leaning on the statue in the center of the road in front of my car and of course I knew who he was. When I left work, I asked him if he needed a ride home and he graciously accepted when I said I was going his way. A ride to never forget, as the smell of his clothing was strong, but I drove along Hwy 80 towards his home. We talked some about his travels and his goats. I remember him saying thank you and God Bless you for the ride to his bus. Several years later, I visited Eastview Nursing home on several occassions to visit friends and play Bingo with the patients as my mother and I often did when I noticed pictures of Mr Ches “The Goat Man” on the walls and to my surprise Mr Ches was there and playing his Bingo card with us. I was so excited and went and helped him with his card. I explained to him that I had taken him home one day 1984 but he did not remember. He looked so nice and happy there. I think he was even sweet on this nice lady that sat near him. I teased him about her because she not far away several other visits I was there. I read the story about the murder of his son as was just sick. Why this was never solved is beyond me. Maybe the NEWER SHERIFF Darren Mitchum in Twiggs County can COLD CASE and solve this one! Every Human Being, regardless of wealth, race, creed, religion deserves being worthy of getting their murder solved. It was not long after the death of his son, Mr Ches passed away. He was a true character and I am proud to have met him. I will never forget the sound of his voice or his laughter…a cute little chuckle…R.I.P. Mr. Ches and Gene McCartney. God Bless you both!
You’re right, Donna. Such sad tragedy in his family.
I grew up in Conyers, GA and remember the Goat Man well. As a child I loved
seeing him. My family would take Sunday afternoon drives and we’d see him
in other counties, cities, etc. I think most everybody in Conyers knew and ahad seen the Goat Man. Never knew he was so well traveled.
In the mid-1960’s, the Goat Man camped along US Hwy. 411, just south of Maryville, Tennessee. My father took all us kids to see him and Ches McCartney soon became a legend in our family. My older brother was a young teenager and was allowed to spend time independently with Mr. McCartney and still speaks fondly of him. He even has a few of the postcards that were supposedly sold for 25 cents each, three for $1.00! I was reminded of the Goat Man by hearing Chuck Brodsky’s song a few years ago. Chuck appears to have used your article as a major source for the song. Thank you for your part in keeping this tale the and memory of The Goat Man alive.
I remember the Goat Man as a child when he passed through our little town in Greenville, IN on Highway 150. He came through several times in the 60’s and my Dad always loaded us kids in the car and took us to see him pass through. I wish I had taken the time to talk with him a while. Now that I think of it he probably came through in the 50’s and 60’s. It was always exciting to watch him. Glad to know about his life, never knew back then.
I remember him coming through Cartersville, GA — you would hear the far away tinkle of little bells and you knew the “goat man” was coming! And yes, you did get the smell before you saw him. He would come down the 41 highway in front of my grandparents and you could stand right in the road as he went by.
In 1957, at the age of ten, while travelling with my parents to Florida along old RT 17 in Georgia. We came across the Goatman and his son. We had just heard on the radio that a “Goatman” was being barred from crossing the stateline into Florida. First, we saw a three-legged goat on the side of the road and, then, there he was! We stopped, chatted, (held our noses a bit) and bought some post cards. My mom filmed the encounter on her Brownie 8mm, windup movie camera. We talked about that day often. I’m hoping the film is still in my attic.
Terry, if you find the film I hope you can show the clip with this article!
I met the goat man at a campsite just out of Lake City, SC…My dad took us to see him every time he passed through our town..Maybe 3 or 4 times….
I so remember when the Goat Man would come to town, Rome, Georgia, he would camp down on Cave Springs Road and Daddy and Mama would take us to see him and we’d feed the goats, that was in the 60’s, I don’t know how many times we went. I remember that when he came to town we were just as excited as the first time to see him…..such good memories
for some strange reason i was thinking about the goat mam last week. I met him two times. I lived in East Lake ,a part of Chattanooga . He was on the main road just a few blocks from my home. I can remember asking my grandmother about him she said that he was some sort of a preacher but sort of strange. I went to his camp side which was next to the coal yard. I was not brave enuff to get too close but i do remember the event. I don,t remember any smells but i do remember a man and his goats. He made an impression on me that has stuck. How many people to you think are in heaven because of this traveler. He will be on my list of people i hope to talk with when i too make it home.After all we all are traveling , we all have our baggage and some times we just stink
There is a web site that is all about hunting the goat man. The goat man has been around for years. <ahref=http://www.goatmansbridge.com
Not the same Goat Man, Daniel.
Yes I can remember the sounds of the old steel wheel wagon and the goats on 31w in Bowling Green Ky out by Plum Springs Rd by the rail road under pass he would camp and tell his story’s and introduce his goats while people sat in silence listening ,it was very comforting and life was very simple then I miss those days
I grew up on Jeffersonville Rd and remember when he went missing in the mid 80’s. I had no idea that he was so well known. It wasn’t uncommon at all to see him walking up and down Jeffersonville rd when I was a small boy. In my 20 years in the military occasionally someone would bring up the goat man. I always thought that we were the only place with a goat man… Never realizing it was the same guy..wow.
I GREW UP IN WELDON NORTH CAROLINA HEARING COUNTLESS STORIES OF THE GOAT MAN. HE HUNG AROUND WELDON FOR A WHILE AND MY FAMILY GOT TO KNOW HIM WELL. WE HAVE SEVERAL PICTURES OF HIM. HE GREW FOND OF MY GRANDMOTHERS SISTER AND EVEN GAVE HER A NOVELTY RING WANTING TO MARRY HER. THEY SAY HE WAS A VERY KIND MAN. OUR GENERATION WILL NEVER HAVE A CHANCE TO SEE ANYTHING LIKE THAT.
I remember the goatman, you could smell him before you saw him. Almost all the goats had bells around their necks. I saw him on 411 South in Blount County Tennessee in around 1952. And again on Morganton Road in Blount County around the same time. he had a sign on top of his wagon that said Jesus Saves. We always showed respect for the goat man and treated him just like a celebrity and he was about the only one I saw except folks like Chet ATkins and Archie Cambell at the Mid Day Merry Go Round in Knoxville. I remember the smells and the sounds of the goatman and his wagon and all those goats. We all went to see him by standing alongside the road as he passed. Wonderful memories.
I remember the goat man as a kid ….He would come thru cedartown ga set up camp ..As a kid my mother told me that he went around and cleaned up to make things look better …1965 …I will never forget the goat man wish we had more people like him today …. And people put him down for smelling eating and sleeping with goats But how many of those people did he out live?At 103 i say alot …. Somthing to think about before i speak
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The goat man stopped in our small town of Danville Kentucky back in the mid fifties. I was only ten or so, but I remember him well. I would say he’s not an easy man to forget. A true folk legend!
This was awesome.
The most interesting story I have ever read. Considering my parents, brothers and sisters have met him also. I probably met him but I was too young to remember. W were from a little town called Beaver Dam, KY. I know he probably made it to every city as well as all the states except to Hawaii. I always hated history in school but if they had taught us history such as this I would have been more interested in learning. Thank you for the story.
I recall back in the sixties..may have been 66 or so..the goatman visited statesboro, ga.on the way down 301 south…I was working at wwns..radio…and interviewed this man…seemed a very knowledgeable person and spoke of many travels and how God kept watch over him and his “brood”… the smell was very non appetizing, ha. ha….anyhow after a short visit this man moved on south down 301…great memory…RIP goat man and goat boy…
I remember seeing him in the mid 60’s in Kilpatrick Alabama I was just a lil kid and he scared us because he was preaching and we thought he was just yelling at the people around him. Now I know what he was doing. As we’d travel you’d see the marks the wheels from his wagons left on the pavment.”The goat mans been this way” we got so excited. We were a simple people.
Grew up in Pulaski Co Ga. saw the goat man many time going down the Eastman hwy
It was an event when the eccentric Goat Man came to Anderson, SC. He parked in caravan in the same spot on the road to Broadway Lake. Since I was a kid, I assumed people like him were common. We also had “Walking Joe” and “Trashcan Annie”, but those are different stories…
he came through stone mountain ga many times when i was a child i saw the picture of him on here and i remember his face i am very good with faces i remember the bells clanging on the goats and the smell my grandmother lived on main street he came by her house i’m sure she knew him well
I remember the Goatman visiting Stone Mountain GA in the 60’s too. He camped in the field behind a fruit stand at the intersection of Rockbridge Rd and Stone Mountain Lithonia Rd. He probably stopped there before traveling down Main Street. Also, he camped at the intersection of Hugh Howell Rd and Stone Mtn Lilburn Rd before the Chevron station was built on that site. My father would carry us to see the Goatmen. He spread the gospel to his visitors. His smelly wagon was piled high with old blankets and dirty clothes. I remember watching him milk his goats. I had never seen anyone do that before. I didn’t know people drank goat milk or ate goat cheese before I met the Goatman.
I remember the goat man as a young boy. He would travel on North Franklin Street in Dublin, Ga to avoid causing a traffic jam on HWY 441 as he traveled home.
For those wanting to find a copy of his poem “in Memory of Old Billy” it is recorded in the book entitled “America’s Goat Man” by Darryl Patton page 51. I have had the book since 1994 . Published by Little River Press.
I remember as a child we would be going down coastal 17 in Richmond Hill, GA to my grandparents and see him with his goats pulling the wagon. Daddy would tell us there’s the Goat Man. Sometimes he would be stopped letting his goats rest. Wondered what happened to him.
I remember the Goatman staying in our town(Bloomingdale,GA) when I was a kid during the 1950’s. He came through on US 80 several times as I remember. I have very fond memories of his visits and especially playing with the goats.
My dad loved to go visit the Goatman!! Everytime he would come through Jesup, GA and park across from ITT Rayonier Dad would rush home in a hurry and gather us all together to go see him! I don’t remember the smell being that bad but then he was parked across from a pulp/paper mill so the smell would have had to be horrible to be worse than that. I had forgotten all about him over the years but I am glad I ran across this today it brings back some really good memories!! My dad envied the goatman I think for his wonderlust and his freedom since dad always wanted to travel but settled down for us kids!! Thanks again for the story I loved hearing about what happened after he quit his travels and I am sorry he had such a hard time he was a sweet man!!
I remember the Goatman in the 70s in Macon, Georgia…..saw him crossing the 2nd street bridge…..:) I’m guessing he was taking the goats for a NuWay.
My two younger brothers and my best friend and I met up with the Goat Man who was camped a little south of our town of Blue Ridge, GA early one morning in the summer of 1961, and we walked beside him all day. He received so much attention from passing cars it was like travelling with a movie star. He seemed to enjoy our company. He told us that he had considered running for president the previous year, but Kennedy was a younger man and he personally liked JFK so he decided not to run. As we passed by our house our Mother was sweeping off the front porch. We waved and she waved back knowing full well her three wayward sons and friend would be home in time for supper, and had not ran away from home with such a famous celebrity. The Goat Man made camp a little north of town and only a few miles from the Tennessee border late that afternoon, barely off the pavement, and gave a couple of teenage boys who had stopped by a grocery list and some money. They came back a few minutes later with a whole raw chicken, some unwashed potatoes, carrots, cabbage, and onions – all of which went into a boiling pot of hot water. We politely declined an invitation to share supper with our new friend, and walked home just before dark. It was a good and very memorable day.
he came through Sylvania Ga in the 1940 . I remember. Seeing him downtown.
In the early to mid 1940s my Dad owned a service station in the small town of Abbeville, GA on US Highway 129. The Goat Man would always stop there on his through town and Daddy would let him and his goats “set up camp” for the night on the vacant space next to the service station. Although I was very young, I vividly remember seeing the Goat Man many times, and listening to the conversations my Daddy and Mama had with him…and the stories he would tell about his travels. He was a nice man.
I saw the “Goat Man” twice in my life. First as a young boy, I saw him with his goats grazing in a large kudzu patch one evening. Second as a teenager I had the privilege to witness him laying his wagon after dark reading his Bible by lantern light in Indian Springs State Park. I remember this as a special moment.
I first saw this Goat Man at the age of 5yrs.old in Oakridge, Tn. and was thrilled to see him and his Goats. He let me pet them.
The Goat Man | The Goat Game:
I have some great pictures (copyright quality) I took of him about 1961 at a Stuckies (sp?) shop parking lot not far south of Atlanta. We were on out way to FL. He had sewn up, with needle and thread, one the goats that had been injured. I would like to hang the pictures on a wall at the nursing home if I knew where it is located.
The retirement home was in Jeffersonville, GA but I don’t remember the name.
I to remember seeing Mr. McCartney twice around the mid nineteen fifties. Traveling U.S. 129, for years the highway northerners took to go to Florida. he would pass through our small town of Abbeville, Georgia. I can remember the excitement amongst all of us kids was like awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus. He would set up his camp down by the city bridge over the railroad tracks just South of town. Some of the older boys would go and stay with him over night till he left out the next day. I was too young so my parents thought but I believe my older brother did. To be honest, the first time I got to actually go see Mr. McCartney, I was scared to death. I had never seen anyone that looked the way he did.
He was truly a legend in his own time and a fondly remembered throughout the South.
As a young boy living in CONLEY,GA. on hwy. 42 when my dad was station at Fort Gillen, the GOAT MAN stopped at our house
and wanted water for the GOATS.I remember the smell of the GOATS and the bearded old MAN. My brother and I played with the
GOATS while my mother gave water and food to the GOAT MAN and his TEAM of many GOATS. Returning to play my brother and
I smelled just like the GOATS. Several years later, dad had several goats on our farm, one named “OLD BILLY”.
David R. (Danny) Johnson:
Tonight in Callahan, Florida after eating supper, my wife, our youngest grandchild, and I went for a walk, he stated there is a lot of stuff on the side of the road. That made think of telling him about the Goat Man who came through our town many times. Even though I have thought of this Gentleman many times over the years. Tonight I decided to look him up on the internet and I am glad that I did. When my Grandson wakes up in the morning I will share this with him.
I saw the goat man a few times in grade school. I went to Wacona [Ware County] from ’bout ’62-’68, except 1 year in Bainbridge, GA. [Think I heard ’bout him there, too.] I think he came by the school twice a year, as he traveled around. The school wouldn’t let the kids out to see him, but recess comes [most] every day, so most us saw him anyway. We didn’t know much about him, except he looked dirty, traveled w/ goats, & apparently collected junk. Years later I learned that, aside from those ‘bad habits,’ he was well thought of, too.
I remember him when he lived in that school bus on Hwy 80 in Twiggs Co. He had a horse then he would ride to Jeffersonville and Macon. I would run up on him from time to time at the little convenient store up the road. I remember seeing his son a few times too. I miss those days. I think he was a fascinating person. Seems like people just wanted to make his life harder-what with killing his goats, mugging him, and then finally the worst -murdering his son. I sure wish they could find out who did that.
I remember the Goat Man, when he came through Piedmont SC. It was in the 60’s. He would come up Hwy 20 and stop at Petes restaurant on 20. There was a field out back and he would stop and stay to feed his goats. How long he would stay I don’t remember. I was just a small child. The rumor was that the state would not allow him to come back through. So we never saw anymore of the Goat Man.
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I remember seeing the Goat Man when he came through Tullahoma, Tennessee in 1955 or 1956. I was 19 or 20 years old at the time. He parked on the square on West Lincolin Street. I had never heard of the Goat Man but I remember him vividly and when my wife read me a 2005 article from the Nashville Tennessean newspaper the memories came rushing back. What a story to pass on to my two grandsons Evan and Seth!!!
When he came through Dalton Georgia he passed by our Sterling jewelers and on hot summer days my mom had me give him a Coke with ice and he said “bless you “
I remember sitting on my grandmother and grandfather porch, he would stop by and my grandmother would fix him a plate of food. He would sit and watch us play as a child