The Goat Man
by Reno Bailey
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. Within half
an hour Ginny sent back the picture shown here. But 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.
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 a couple of internet
links that reveal who the Goat Man actually was. One is Goat
Man, the Legend Lives On. The other is
Legendary Traveler Not Easily Forgotten. Turns out he wasn't a
Nazi spy after all.