Saturday, January 9, 2016
Grieving for the Times of the "Goat Man"
I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the Trump phenomena. The common dominator of Trump supporters seems to be anger. Then I recalled that anger is a stage of grief. That led me to the conclusion that well-intentioned Americans are grieving the loss of our Country, as we knew it. Our grief has manifested itself in anger. We’ll never be able to go back to those carefree times. Those times when we were tolerant of each other and didn’t fear for our families or ourselves. Then, that led me to think about the life and times of Charles “Chess” McCartney.
Unless you are a senior citizen (as defined by the AARP), and a native Georgian, you have probably never heard of Charles McCartney. However, you have probably heard of the legendary “Goat Man” from your parents or grandparents. The Goat Man died in 1998 in a nursing home in Macon at the age of…nobody knows. One thing for sure, there will never be another Goat Man because an era of tolerance for eccentrics was buried with him. Nobody would be allowed to live the way he did in today’s society.
The Goat Man was a wandering, itinerant preacher who created the “Free Thinking Christian Mission” and he traveled the Eastern United States, in a cart pulled by a bunch of goats. Unless you experienced seeing the Goat Man, I know it sounds incredulous.
I feel so fortunate to have the memories of the Goat Man. It speaks volumes of my childhood in White Oak, Georgia, in the 1950’s when I say the most exciting thing that happened each year was the arrival of the Goat Man. We would hear of his pending arrival days, sometimes weeks in advance. Tourists traveling U. S. Highway 17 would stop at Daddy’s service station and mention they had seen the Goat Man. Upon hearing this, I would make it a point to ask customers if they had seen the Goat Man and how far away he was. I would constantly stare down the highway hoping to be the first one to get a glimpse of our “guest.” Then you would hear shouts, “The Goat Man is coming!” He would usually arrive on a Saturday. That rattletrap cart, pulled by those scraggly goats, was a beautiful and exciting sight. Oh, did I mention you could smell him coming before you actually saw him?
The Goat Man would pitch camp across from the service station and locals and tourists would stop to visit and often times laugh at the vagabond. Occasionally someone would buy one of his postcards depicting his travels. The highlight of his visit was his preachin’. I knew the Goat Man was special because my Daddy, who only left the house on Sunday’s to “go see a man about a dog,” would make a special trip to White Oak to take Mama and I to attend his Sunday afternoon preachin’. He preached fire and brimstone with a ragged Bible in his hand. It was obvious he couldn’t read. When reciting a verse and his memory failed him, he always blamed it on the goats eating that page.
An idiosyncrasy that I have today is because of the Goat Man. One day he milked a goat, put some in a tin cup and urged me to drink it. Hot goat milk! Yuck! To this day, I don’t drink or taste something totally unfamiliar.
So, I grieve over the loss of the Goat Man and what he symbolized–a time when things weren’t so complicated and if a person wanted to be “free” they truly could be. The Goat Man cometh no more.
The truth is, we can’t go back to those times that seem so great in hindsight. We are all grieving. However, we don’t have to let hate and anger cloud our good judgment and hasten the demise of this great country.