Well-known traveler to be remembered during Williams Station Day
Published 9:11 am Wednesday, September 20, 2000
By By ROBERT BLANKENSHIP
Advance Managing Editor
For those who grew up in Atmore during the 1940s, 50s and 60s, this year's Williams Station Day T-shirt may look a bit familiar as an old friend makes a return visit to town.
Ches McCartney, better known as The Goat Man, will be featured, along with his goats, on this year's T-shirt arriving at the Atmore train depot. Emilie Mims, director of the Atmore Chamber of Commerce, said they always look for unique ideas to go on the shirts and that when the Goat Man came up it seemed to fit perfectly.
Manning, who has done several pieces of the Goat Man, provided the artwork for the T-shirt.
Mims said many people who have grown up in Atmore will recognize the familiar drifter who made several stops in Atmore during his journeys across the nation with goat-driven carriages.
McCartney spent almost 40 years walking through the rural peaks and valleys of the country. With a boxed-shape wagon (sometimes two) pulled by a team of 12 to 20 goats, the Goat Man, as he was affectionately referred to, became a folk hero to all those who had a chance to see and befriend him.
The tall, lean, white-bearded man began his adventure from his native Iowa, where his family farm was one of the many victims of the Great Depression. According to one account, he left Iowa with the only things the bank left him: the Bible, a copy of Robinson Crusoe and a herd of goats. Over the next 38 years, he walked from town to town as a welcomed visitor and teacher of the gospel. As the years passed and his face became more recognizable in communities throughout the South and other areas, many may recall the familiar declaration of The Goat Man's coming.'
Manning's print, which depicts the Goat Man with a herd of goats and wagon at the Atmore train depot, is a collage of color and memories.
The artist from Brewton said the work, which will not only adorn the T-shirts, but also cups, prints and other merchandise, did not take very long to create.
A big part of McCartney's travels centered around religion. Throughout his years of leading his team of goats and a wagon filled with pots, pans, hay and many other things that others would have considered junk, he spread the word of God which seemed to be his only goal.
He would live off of goat milk and whatever food may be passed his way along the road. He would make a little money at his stops by selling pictures and postcards of himself.
Legend has it that from 1930 to 1987, the Goat Man walked 100,000 miles and preached in 49 states. Like any legend, a variety of stories have emerged about the traveler: that he wrestled a bear, was almost lynched by the Ku Klux Klan and that he was mugged in Los Angeles whiling attempting to get a glimpse of his favorite actress Morgan Fairchild.
McCartney made his final trip cross-country in 1968. During his final years, he lived in a school bus with his son Gene near Jeffersonville, Ga.
The Goat Man died in 1999. His exact age could not be verified, but accounts range from 97 to 105.