Ches McCartney, the Goat Man

“The goats have taught me a lot in the past thirty years. They don’t, for example, care how I smell or how I look. They trust me and have faith in me, and this is more than I can say for a lot of people.”

 “I’d sleep with my goats if it got cold. If it was a fairly cool night, I might get between two or three. But if it got nasty cold, it might take four.”

– Ches (Charles) McCartney

During the first half of twentieth century a number of intrepid wanderers traveled the United States in wagons drawn by goats.

A legless man, Overland Jack, and the team of goats he drove all around the country in the early 1900s.
Overland Jack,and the team of goats he drove all around the country in the early 1900s.

Consider John Rose, a man who lost both legs in a train accident. Rose, better known as Overland Jack, was born in 1888 in Big Sandy, Texas, and died in 1962. He trained a four-up team of Spanish goats, and with his goats

A legless man, Overland Jack, and the team of goats he drove all around the country in the early 1900s.
An actual photo of Overland Jack.

hitched to a specially-made wagon, he traveled more than 30,000 miles, averaging 10 to 16 miles a day, visiting 19 states in all. He financed his adventures by selling postcards at 10 cents each or three for 25 cents. “No trouble to answer questions” says the blurb on these cards. Continue reading “Ches McCartney, the Goat Man”

Beware the Water Horse

Here’s another of my horse lore articles. It originally appeared in a long-ago issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.


Two water horses with fishes' tails in a fountain in Paris, France
Water horses at Paris’ Fontaine des Quatre Parties du Monde, sculpted by Emmanuel Fremiet.

Beware the water horse. He lurks in the deep, murky waters of desolate forest pools, and in icy northern fjords, and on bright, sun swept beaches–and he wants to eat you.

Beware the Scottish kelpie.  Kelpies are shapeshifters that take the form of bold grey horses, as grotesque humans with hideous sabre teeth, or as handsome young men with horses’ ears and seaweed draped in their hair. They haunt saltwater estuaries, inland rivers, and great, deep lakes like Loch Ness. Kelpies devour human flesh . Once aboard a kelpie’s sticky back, a rider is doomed. Off thunders the kelpie into the deep, where the human quickly drowns. Only his liver is spared.

And kelpies have cousins. Nickers den in Iceland’s frigid fjords, shoneys on Cornwall’s shores, and Scottish each uisges haunt desolate seaside tide pools. All of them are shapeshifters and blood drinkers, fearsome and cunning and mean. Continue reading “Beware the Water Horse”

Sheep or Goat?

Sheep or Goat?

If, like me, you shop eBay for goat and sheep memorabilia, you know that sellers often mistake sheep for goats and vice versa. They look a lot alike in many ways but there are obvious differences too.

A black goat sticks his head inside a roll of woven wire fence to see what's inside.
Goats’ tails stick up unless the goat is sick or frightened, then they hang down.

Goats’ tails stick up unless they’re sick or frightened. Goat tails are naturally short, with a cute fringe of longer hair at the sides. Sheep’s tails hang down, always. Most breeds of wool sheep are born with long, woolly tails that are docked (shortened) when they’re young lambs to help prevent flystrike, a nasty condition whereby blowflies lay their eggs in the wool on a sheep’s manure-encrusted tail. When the eggs hatch into hungry maggots,

A white lamb with a long tail.
Unless they’ve been docked (their tails shortened for hygienic reasons), sheep have long, woolly tails like this lamb

the maggots secrete enzymes that liquefy their host’s flesh and create an open wound. Nasty! However, hair sheep like Katahdins, Dorpers, St. Croix, and Barbados Blackbellies have hair instead of wool on their tails. Wool sheep from the Northern European short-tail group like Icelandics, Finnsheep, Romanovs, Soay, and Shetlands have short fluke-shaped tails, broad at the base and tapering to a hair-covered tip. None of these sheep breeds are traditionally docked but their tails hang straight down and can’t be mistaken for the tails of goats. Continue reading “Sheep or Goat?”

In the Blood

This is an article I wrote for The Chronicle of the Horse at least 20 years ago, though I’m not sure what issue it was in. At the time, I was working at a site administered by the Minnesota Historical Society, where the bloodletting of its human occupants was the norm. I wondered if it was used to treat animals as well, so I researched the subject. This is the results.


An 18th century book illustration showing a man preparing to bloodlet a grey horse.
Bloodletting a horse from an 18th century Hindi text
Credit: Wellcome Library, London.

Picture poking a hole in your horse’s neck to treat his ills. Imagine his blood coursing down his shoulder, down his foreleg, onto the ground. Lots of it, a gallon or two or more, perhaps until his knees buckle and he faints. And imagine repeating this gory process again and again, sometimes for days, until he gets better–or dies.

Insanity? Few twentieth century folks would disagree, yet as a medical procedure for man and beast, bloodletting, also called bleeding and venesection, persisted for a long, long time.

Hippocrates, writing and practicing medicine in the fourth century B.C.E., authored a comprehensive treatise on bloodletting. Building upon Hippocrates’ notes, the Greek physician Galan was first to stipulate exactly how much blood should be drained (for a human, from seven or eight ounces to as much as a pound and a half; in certain cases until the patient fainted).

And throughout the ‘civilized’ western world, for century upon century, the grisly practice persisted. Why? Because folks believed it worked. Continue reading “In the Blood”

Guinness World (Sheep) Records

According to Wikipedia, “Guinness World Records, known from its inception in 1955 until 1998 as The Guinness Book of Records and in previous U.S. editions as The Guinness Book of World Records, is a reference book published annually, listing world records both of human achievements and the extremes of the natural world.” Some of those records involve sheep:

The highest price ever paid for a sheep is £231,000 ($369,000), paid by Jimmy Douglas for the eight-month-old Texel ram, Deveronvale Perfection, in Lanark, Scotland, in August of 2009.

World-record selling Texel ram, Deveronvale Perfection.
Deveronvale Perfection, a young Texel ram, sold for a record £231,000 ($369,000) in 2009.

The Guinness World Record-holding oldest sheep, Lucky, was a 23 year-old Polwarth-Dorchester ewe who died in Lake Bolac, in Victoria, Australia, in 2009. In 2006, the previous record holder, a Merino wether named George, died in Warren, New South Wales, Australia, at 21 years of age. Both were bottle-raised pet lambs. Continue reading “Guinness World (Sheep) Records”

Nursery Rhymes a la Chickens

Readers seemed to like the collection of Piggy Nursery Rhymes I shared earlier this month, so here are some chicken equivalents. If you know of other traditional chicken/hen/rooster rhymes I’ve missed, please leave a comment and I’ll add them to the collection.

An artist's rendition of a child sitting up in bed, looking at a crowing rooster perched in her open window.
This cute illustration of the nursery rhyme at the left is from a children’s book published in the 1920s.

Cock a doodle doo,
Yes, I’m calling you.
Get out of bed, you sleepy head,
And button up each shoe.

Cock a doodle doo,
The sky is very blue.
The robins sing because it’s spring
And all the pigeons coo.

Cock a doodle doo,
Now come to breakfast too,
For Lady Gwen, my old red hen,
Has laid an egg for you.
———–

Continue reading “Nursery Rhymes a la Chickens”

Thor’s Goats

Engraving of the Norse thunder god, Thor, and his goat-drawn chariot,
Tanngnjóstr and Tanngrisnir pull Thor’s chariot through the sky.

Goats appear often in world mythology. The Norse thunder god, Thor, is said to ride in a chariot drawn by two magickal goats, Tanngnjóstr (Gap Tooth) and Tanngrisnir (Tooth Grinder). The rolling of the wheels of his chariot creates thunder that rolls across the sky. Thor occasionally kills and eats Tanngnjóstr and Tanngrisnir, but by placing their bones and skin together, they return to life the following day. Once, however, the goats weren’t restored intact. According to Padraic Colum’s book, The Children of Odin, this is how it happened.

“As they traveled on in the brass chariot drawn by his two goats, Thor told Loki of the adventure on which he was bent. He would go into Jötunheim, even into Utgard, the Giants’ City, and he would try his strength against the Giants. He was not afraid of aught that might happen, for he carried Miölnir, his hammer, with him. Continue reading “Thor’s Goats”

Black Horse, White Horse

This is one of several short articles about horsey folklore that I sold to The Chronicle of the Horse in the early 1990s. I’m going to re-publish them in a free ebook later this year; watch for it at my Freebies page.


Black Horse, White Horse

One white foot, keep him not a day,
Two white feet, send him far away.
Three white feet, sell him to a friend,
Four white feet, keep him to the end.
~
One white foot, buy him,
Two white feet, try him,
Three white feet, deny him.
Four white feet and white on his nose,
Whack him in the head and feed him to the crows.

Gabet Gai-Lonna, aged Arabian mare out grazing.
Gabet Gai-Lonna, 31 year old Arabian daughter of Gamaar.

Horsey folks have voiced opinions about how the colors effect horses’ dispositions since humankind domesticated the horse.

Superstition? Mostly. Yet D. Phillip Sponenberg, whose works, Equine Color Genetics and Horse Color, are the best in their field, says, “A small amount of European research is beginning to point out that horses of certain colors do tend to react somewhat predictably to certain situations, and that reactions vary from color to color”.

Continue reading “Black Horse, White Horse”

Piggy Nursery Rhymes

Three KuneKune pigs looking at the camera.

Nursery rhymes are short, traditional poems sung or chanted by children in the United States, Britain, and many other countries. Some nursery rhymes in use today originated as long ago as the Middle Ages, though most first appeared in print in 18th and 19th century Britain.

Why pigs? Because pigs were the cottager’s annual meat supply. Pigs didn’t require a lot of space, and fattened on mast (forest refuse including acorns) and scraps, a pig produced a lot of meat. Every country child knew pigs.

Here’s a piggy nursery rhyme most everyone knows. Dating to the late 1800s, it’s listed in the Roud Folk Song Index, a database of nearly 200,000 references to more than 25,000 English language songs and rhymes collected from oral traditions all over the world:

To market, to market, to buy a fat pig,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jig;
To market, to market, to buy a fat hog,
Home again, home again, jiggety-jog. Continue reading “Piggy Nursery Rhymes”

Jacob Biggle’s Vintage Livestock and Farming Books

If you love old livestock and farming books as much as I do, visit the Biodiversity Heritage Library and download Jacob Biggle’s Biggle Farm Library books for free.

Biodiversity Heritage Library

The cover and frontpiece of The Biggle Swine BookWikipedia says, “The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is a consortium of natural history and botanical libraries that cooperate to digitize and make accessible the legacy literature of biodiversity held in their collections and to make that literature available for open access and responsible use as a part of a global ‘biodiversity commons.'”

What this means is that through them you can access over 200,000 vintage agricultural and natural history books and journals and download them as PDF files at no cost whatsoever. And their selection is outstanding! It includes all ten Biggle books including my favorite old-time sheep guide, the: Biggle Sheep Book: Something practical about sheep; all wool and a yard wide, mutton chops cooked to the taste of the most fastidious. Continue reading “Jacob Biggle’s Vintage Livestock and Farming Books”