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”

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?”

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”

Pliny the Elder on Goats

Gaius Plinius Secundus (AD 23 – AD 79), better known as Pliny the Elder, was a naturalist and author as well as a naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire. During his lifetime he wrote many books, the most significant being a 37-volume encyclopedia called Naturalis Historia (Natural History) that survived into modern times. He mentions goats hundreds of times in this vast work and some of the tidbits, especially entries about medicines involving goat parts, are astounding.

Note: It was not good to be a goat in ancient Rome.

Cures for Babies

“The brain of a she-goat, passed through a golden ring, is given drop by drop by the Magi to babies, before they are fed with milk, to guard them from epilepsy and other diseases of babies. Restless babies, especially girls, are quietened by an amulet of goat’s dung wrapped in a piece of cloth…By rubbing the gums of infants with goats’ milk or hare’s brains, dentition is greatly facilitated.” Continue reading “Pliny the Elder on Goats”

Frozen in Time







The early 1900s ushered in the golden age of real picture postcards. According to U.S. Post Office figures, 677,777,798 postcards were mailed in 1909 alone. Not surprisingly, camera makers honed in on a need and began producing cameras like the 3A Folding Pocket Kodak Camera that shot real picture postcards instead of film. In 1903 such a camera fitted with a quality lens cost as much as $78 (that’s roughly $2000 today).

Affordable postcard-format cameras like the Chicago Ferrotype Company’s Mandel-ette postcard camera soon emerged. These were simple box cameras with fixed-focus lenses. In the back of the camera was a black changing bag through which the photographer moved an exposed paper negative to the built-in developer tank attached to the bottom of the camera. The best part was that in 1919 the Mandel-ette, complete with tripod and enough material for 116 postcards cost the grand sum of $7.75 ($173.81 in today’s funds). Itinerant photographers snapped them up and took to the road. Continue reading “Frozen in Time”

38 things you should know before buying goats

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*Don’t get goats unless you know what you’re getting into. Goats are gentle, intelligent, sweet and loving but sometimes annoyingly independent, mischievous, determined, and frustrating. Meet some goats and talk to experienced goat owners before you commit. And don’t get goats unless you have a good sense of humor.

*Be aware going in that it’s possible to make money with goats, but don’t plan on it. If you raise commercial meat goats or top flight, registered dairy or meat goats, or you produce and market niche dairy products to a lot of customers—you might. Otherwise, probably not.

*Goats are social creatures. Don’t plan to buy one goat. Every goat needs a companion, preferably another goat. A single goat is lonely and sad and she’ll probably let you and your neighbors know it by screaming at the top of her lungs. The only exception would be a single bottle kid raised in the house with people, dogs, and other pets. But even a house-raised single needs companionship when and if he moves outdoors. Continue reading “38 things you should know before buying goats”