The collected thoughts of modern and ancient hermits, eccentrics, solitaires, wanderers, mystics, and others who inhabit the monastery within.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ches McCartney, The Goat Man

The Goat Man
Pardes 2009

Ches McCartney, The Goat Man, lay fallow in my memory as my own personal property. Prone to extravagant thoughts and debatable visions in childhood, I was never quite sure if the Goat Man was real.

He seemed real enough with his small junk-laden wagon pulled by goats when he took up temporary residence in an empty lot across from my home in central Florida in 1959. The odor of his clothing was real enough, stringent and potent. The smile that crinkled his eyes under his railroad cap was real enough.

I was thirteen, my father had just died, my mother and I were living on the outskirts of poverty, so is it any wonder that I was profoundly moved by the freedom of this wandering Goat Man who spent a lifetime moving on. Forever moving away quickly enough that pain could not settle around him.

I hung out behind a crepe myrtle bus for several days before gathering the nerve to speak to him and learn his secret of how to escape the world. I clutched the last box of Brownie Scout cookies under my arm, a gift, a token of exchange for the Goat Man to tell me his secrets.

He refused to accept the gift and insisted upon a barter. The cookies in exchange for a postcard of him traveling down the road. There were other terms too. I had to agree to eat the cookies with him.

Was it goat milk that he served with the cookies? I don't remember. It tasted of garlic and was on the verge of curdling. The cookies were stale but sweet.

We sat silent and watched the sun go down behind the centuries old live oak tree that was as gnarled as his hands and as lightning-struck as my heart.

In the morning, he was gone.

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  1. I love this post! The photo tells it all. You can see the bond between Ches and his goat. I raised 22 goats and love them. I bought my first from a guy who had them living in cardboard boxes next to an old gas station.

  2. Then you would have loved what I saw. Sitting on top of his wagon was a goat with only two legs. Ches walked beside his small wagon rather than on top of it since it would be too hard for his goats to pull; but the sweet legless goat road on top in style.

  3. Great story - thanks for sharing, Pardes.

  4. I had the pleasure of getting to know Mr McCartney in his latter years and produced a 2 volume video documentary about his life.

  5. What heart warming memories of the Goat Man. He came through our neighborhood many times during my childhood, and it was HUGE!! He always stopped there along US 27 and saw us grow up. He was always the same: shabby and oh, so smelly. It was truly a fascinating event, one which made the local papers every trip. A couple of times he camped about a football's distance away, and I remember the same feeling the next mornings when he was gone. Where? Would he be ok? Would he ever come back? Who was he? We never knew much about him, but we never, never forgot him.
    Jay Wright

  6. I met the goat man several times in my young life in Bishop, Ga. He came through every year and all the kids in the small town would run to him and he was always nice to us, although rather smelly!