Jewish World Review Dec. 29, 2004 / 17 Teves, 5765
The Goat Man he had the whiff of greatness; most expensive movie explosion ever; more
Q: Years ago, my family would take drives around Georgia and often into Tennessee and the Carolinas. Having no interstates in those days, we drove highways and back roads. One of the big thrills was when we would run into the Goat Man, a strange fellow who walked with his herd of goats throughout the Southeast. I have often wondered who this man was and whatever happened to him. - Martin Hope, Rock Hill, S.C.
A: With his long beard and hair, Charles "Ches" McCartney looked like a goat. He smelled like one, too, folks said. Maybe worse.
For decades he walked the back roads of the Southeast. Bored kids on car trips would spy the Goat Man from the back seat, and many now say his caravan was as Martin described - one big, filthy, bleeting miracle.
Sometimes there were as many as 30 goats. One team would pull a large wagon while baby goats and nannies rode. Great big billies walked behind to push the wagon up hills and to act as brakes. The Goat Man kept injured and sick goats, even one with no front legs that hopped like a kangaroo. One of his favorites, Billy Blue Horns, may have lived to be 30.
"People are goats, they just don't know it," McCartney was fond of saying.
The old iron-wheeled wagon was piled high with garbage, lanterns, bedding, clothes, an old pot belly stove, and plenty of scrap metal that McCartney gathered and sold. (There were sometimes several washtubs, apparently for purely ornamental purposes.)
McCartney would wander five or 10 miles along country roads each day, then pull over into a field in the late afternoon. He'd light a bonfire, which was never complete until he hurled an old tire on top. (Again, many, many witnesses made this extremely clear: The Goat Man did NOT smell real good.)
Curious townspeople would see the black smoke and wander to his campsite. There he would preach the Gospel, drink goats milk and sell picture postcards of himself. (These he reportedly kept in an old garbage can.)
How does one get started on a 100,000-mile trek - with goats?
It all started when young Charles McCartney ran away from his family's Iowa farm at 14. He wound up in New York, and was soon married to a Spanish knife-thrower 10 years his senior. They became a team in bars: She'd throw, he'd tremble. When she got pregnant they tried to make it as farmers, but bad weather and the Depression wiped them out.
McCartney, always fond of goats as a boy, had an inspiration: He and his bride and baby would travel with a goat cart and preach. This didn't go over so well with the big-city knife-thrower, who left one day before dawn.
So it was McCartney, the goats and the open road. He never looked back.
Ken Elkins, a longtime photographer for Alabama's Anniston Star newspaper, took many portraits of McCartney. "I liked him," Elkins said. "He was very talkative and outgoing. And, of course, you could smell him before you saw him."
In his 80s McCartney became infatuated with nighttime soap star Morgan Fairchild. He made his way to Los Angeles to woo her, but got mugged before he could win her heart. Later in Tennessee he was beaten severely and some of his goats' throats were cut. He ended up in a Georgia nursing home where he found romance with a retired nurse. He died there in 1998, believed to be in his late 90s.
Perhaps no one but Johnny "Appleseed" Chapman walked more of this country than The Goat Man. Read more about him in the book "America's Goat Man" by Darryl Patton (Little River Press).
Q: What's the most expensive movie explosion ever?
A: According to Guinness, an explosion sequence in the movie "Pearl Harbor" cost $5.5 million to film. In it, six ships - each measuring 400 to 600 feet - were blown up with 700 sticks of dynamite and 4,000 gallons of gasoline. The scene was filmed by 12 camera teams and took a month to set up.
Too bad they didn't work that hard on the script.
Name that city!
1. Population: 445,000. Important trading center during Gold Rush in 1840s. Became state capital in 1854.
2. Population: 517,000 (and booming). Occupied by Mormons in 1855. City changed dramatically after gambling was legalized in 1931.
3. Population: 646,000. Settled by 1819. City's most famous resident died - rather ungracefully - at his home there in 1977.
4. Population: 600,000. Settled by Scotch-Irish immigrants, 1740s. Named for wife of George III.
5. Population: 1,479,000. First settled 1638. Declaration of Independence signed here in 1776.
2. Las Vegas
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Jeff Elder is a columnist for The Charlotte Observer. Comment or try to stump him by clicking here. If you send him a great question, he'll send you a Glad You Asked T-shirt.
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