The Goat Man
Since childhood, the fragment of a memory or a myth or a rumor has been lurking in the recesses of my mind about an eccentric character known as the Goat Man, who used to come through Cliffside in the early ’40s. As legend had it (at least in my version of the legend), he traveled around in a little wagon pulled by goats, eking out a meager living taking pictures of little children posed in his wagon.
But the startling thing was: he was a Nazi spy! Unbeknownst to all of us, he would secretly photograph strategic locations in and around Cliffside, such as the mill, and the Duke Power plant, and heaven knows what else! He would somehow forward these photos to Berlin—on microfilm, no doubt, to be used for future targeting by the Luftwaffe. (Technology being what it was in those days, he would have had to use the U.S. Mail—now that would take a while.) How our little town was chosen to be spared, I still wonder.
Maybe I was the only one who knew he was a spy. I have no idea how this information came to me. Perhaps I got it all confused with some “Dick Tracy”or “FBI in Peace and War” episode on the radio.
In any event, awhile back I emailed my friends Ginny Anne Reid and Sam Davis and asked if they remembered any such person. Neither had much information about this mysterious man of goats. Then I asked my mother, who said that yes, she remembered him, but couldn’t place the time of his visits. She said that a lot of people at the time were troubled that he might be planning to rob them. And one of my aunts reckoned that, with his beard and all, he might be Jesus.
You just never know.
Photo courtesy Phillip White.
This article was read with interest by Bobbie Quarles, who remembered the same man coming through her home town, Lexington, S.C., about 50 years ago. Bobbie did a search and sent us an internet link that reveals who the Goat Man actually was: Goat Man, the Legend Lives On. Turns out he wasn’t a Nazi spy after all.