The Goat Man
The Junior High School in Tifton was located on Twelfth Street (U.S. Hwy 41). It was the main thoroughfare through Tifton if one was travelling North and South. Ever so often, as the kids were out to recess, we would hear a strange rattling and clanging sound coming down Twelfth Street from the North to the South in the Winter months and in the South to North direction in the Summer. We would generally hear this cacophony of discord before we could actually see the source. But, the "show" was coming!
Looking North on Twelfth Street we would finally see that which was making its way south. It was The Goat Man! Actually his name was Ches McCartney and he lived up near Macon, GA with his son in an old school bus that they had converted into a place to live. All my descriptive powers could never do The Goat Man justice. He traveled with two wagons. One pulled the other. They were very old with steel or iron rimmed wheels. There was no rubber on them and thereby one of the very loud sounds that was made as they turned on the pavement. The wagons were constructed of unpainted wood and were about ten or twelve feet long. Sitting all over those wagons and riding inside them were numerous goats ranging from the smallest little kid goats to nanny and Billy goats fully grown. Pots and pans swinging and jangling, clanging out a strange rhythm that only the Goat Man could author. In addition to all that "noise", there was another distinguishing thing about his visit. One could smell him and his goats almost before they could see him. There was a strange and pungent odor that followed him everywhere. It was a unique smell that I have never experienced since. The Goat Man was expressly unique. He never shaved or bathed it seems. His clothes looked old, worn out and dirty. Many times he would be carrying a small goat in his arms. He had a close relationship with his little "family." There was one well known man in Tifton that would buy goat's milk from the Goat Man. For the life of me, I don't see how that person survived drinking that stuff. There was absolutely no sanitation or disinfecting the process of procuring that milk. Dirty goats, dirty milk derived from someone a person could smell for a hundred yards. But nevertheless this well known citizen wanted his goat milk from the Goat Man.
The visits from this unique individual were a strange and interesting addition to the yearly happenings in Tifton, which, by the way, was not known for too many strange and interesting happenings. Everyone would talk for days about the arrival and brief stay of the Goat Man. He would make his way through downtown Tifton even on the busiest of days. Everyone would stop and stare and the drivers would pull over as far as possible to let him and his strange entourage pass. Right down Main Street he would go headed for a special spot South of town where he would always set up camp. Another spot for him to camp was at the Tift County fair grounds. He would set up there for a couple of days and sell postcards with his picture on it as well as other "poses" of some of his goats. If one could stand the smell, they would buy some souvenirs from the Goat Man and they would stand and talk with him about his life and travels which, by the way, were extensive especially in the Southern part of the nation. The Goat Man had a gracious demeanor. He was friendly and thankful in nature. He always thanked people for buying his postcards and other little things he might be willing to sell. But....not his goats. He would never sell one of his travelling family.
When The Goat Man would pass by our school a large number of kids would stand on the sidewalk and wave at him and call to him. He would always wave back and keep walking. In the winter, Florida was calling. In the Summer, cooler temperatures farther north were his goal. There is a book that was published a number of years ago and is now out of print entitled: The Goat Man. If one can be found, I encourage you to read it and enjoy the recollections of one of the most unique people I ever saw. He is a hallmark character of a by-gone era, one that will never be seen again. When I tell my grandchildren about the Goat Man, they think I am making up a story. They don't believe it is real until I show them my copy of The Goat Man. Then, they sit there wide eyed and amazed that such an individual ever lived. From a distance of fifty or sixty years, they too are amazed at The Goat Man.
William F. Harrell