In all of the furor over the Medical College of Georgia's proposal to plan for a satellite medical school campus in Athens, one of the more galling aspects to local leaders is that they were kept in the dark about it.
University System of Georgia Chancellor Erroll Davis dismissed talk of a second public medical school as an "urban legend" last year, even as the planning for the satellite was going forward.
He later defended the need for secrecy as that required of someone submitting a "sealed bid," as apparently university officials viewed their quest for the Navy Supply Corps School campus in Athens, where the satellite is envisioned to go. That they wanted the property was hardly a secret to anyone. Gov. Sonny Perdue, who put his blessing on it, also defended the need to plan without doing everything "by committee."
THE WHIPPING BOY: No one is taking the brunt for this move more than MCG President Daniel W. Rahn. He looked a little weary after defending the decision to the Augusta West Rotary Club. One member, attorney Louis Saul, accused him of letting "politics" keep MCG from collaborating with community physicians.
While Dr. Rahn said he was welcoming more community involvement in student education, he also said, "I think if there is one thing that has become abundantly clear, it's that I'm not much of a politician."
And later that day, when he addressed his faculty to update them on the satellite planning, he told them, "This has been the most difficult several months of my adult life." And he shared a little of his characteristic humor.
"I apologize for dragging us into the editorial pages," he said. As if he were the only one to blame.
AH, MEMORIES: Not since I wrote about the mysterious screaming creature in Hahira, Ga., while working at The Valdosta Daily Times 20 years ago have folks responded the way they did over last week's reminiscences of the Goat Man.
"Omigosh! It's been YEARS since I've thought of him," e-mailed Mary Wise, a domestic engineer, wife, mother and grandmother. "My parents took us to see him once. He was camped on Schultz Hill. It was a cloudy evening. He spoke to his herd, 'Looks like it's gonna rain, goats!'
"That became a well-worn phrase in our house whenever the weather was threatening. In fact, it still is ... ah, memories."
JUST A WANDERING OLD HOBO: Troy Balliew, a probation officer for U.S. District Court in Augusta, noted that it's funny how a word can bring back childhood memories.
"I'm pushing 50, and I can still remember me and my little brother yelling, 'The Goat Man's coming, the Goat Man's coming.'
"I grew up in the mill village in the north Georgia town of Calhoun. Our back porch overlooked a long stretch of Highway 41. The Goat Man would be traveling north or south (depending on the time of year), and he would be pulling a raggedy small covered wagon that was towed by a bunch of goats. The wagon was covered with bells and pans and buckets and signs and all kinds of bric-a-brac, and it would make a distinctive racket. The Goat Man was dressed in raggedy clothing and had a long beard. He was quite a sight for two little boys. My mom would not let us get too close because she said he looked a 'little rough.'
"Some of the folks called him a bum and some said he was crazy. I think he was just a wandering old hobo. I am not sure if the Goat Man would make it today. That old wagon would travel slowly and would back up traffic.
"In those days, Highway 41 was a major route for Yankees traveling to Florida, but it did not have nearly the traffic it does today. By the time I was a teenager, he quit coming through. I heard he died.
"I would be interested to know what became of the Goat Man."
Well, Troy, according to old newspaper articles, Charles "Chess" McCartney spent 57 years, beginning in 1930, wandering 100,000 miles with his goats across 49 states, preaching the Gospel. He died in a Macon nursing home at more than 100 years of age.
OTHER LINKS TO THE PAST: ComputerOne owner Jimmy Bennett e-mailed to say he grew up in Fort Valley, south of Macon, and the Goat Man was a regular visitor in that area. He also sent these two links to articles about the old fellow: www.kudzucollection.com/goatman.htm and www.stalkingthewild.com/stw/americas_goat_man.html.
STOPPING TRAFFIC, WHAT LITTLE THERE WAS: Julia Petrides wrote to say she grew up in Dublin, Ga., and remembers seeing the Goat Man as a young girl when he came through town.
"He stopped traffic, not that there was much in Dublin in the 1950s. He was a goat colored old man, perched high on a tattered wagon which was surrounded by goats. I don't know how they pulled it because they seemed to be an unorganized crowd rather than a team. He had goats on the wagon as well. I guess these were the ones he hadn't yet trained to pull. He was a fascinating sight to me and my sisters. My mama thought he was 'buggerish.'
"He supposedly lived in a ramshackle house, more of a shed, near Irwinton. The rumor was that he had a son. To our childish eyes, this implied to me and my sisters that he also had a wife, and we used to wonder what kind of woman would marry the Goatman."
A lady from Sylvania called to say the Goat Man once camped for two or three days on her parents' property off Georgia 301. Her daddy took her along when he went to check on the old fellow. She remembers it well:
"You could not stay around very long. The odor was tremendous."
Interestingly enough, the Goat Man was quoted in a 1997 Associated Press article as being overheard saying the goats had taught him a lot through the years.
"They don't, for example, care how I smell or how I look."
THE NEXT BEST THING TO A TRAVELING CARNIVAL: Walter Kendrick, of Thomson, remembered when the Goat Man would come up U.S. Highway 41 to the edge of Griffin, Ga., and camp with his goats.
"He would sell goat's milk, and people would also give him money. My father took us several times to see him. But we never drank any of the goat's milk. The containers he used looked as if they had never been washed, and so did the goatman!
"It was the next best thing next to the traveling carnival or the gypsy wagons coming to town. My grandmother always told us to stay inside when the gypsies were in town, that they stole children."
I heard the same stories, Walter.
LOOKING FOR A MIRACLE? We have one: A beautiful male Finnish Spitz/Chow dog that was hit by a car in Harlem two weeks ago.
Animal control officers took him to St. Francis Animal Hospital, where his broken leg was put in a cast.
The shelter staff has taken care of him since.
"He is between 2 and 4 years old, and the staff tells me that he is very sweet, friendly and playful - even with that broken leg," Columbia County Emergency Services Director Pam Tucker wrote in an e-mail.
Since his owner cannot be located, he is now up for adoption and really needs someone who can provide a loving home and the follow-up veterinarian care he needs to get well.
If you are interested, contact the shelter at (706) 541-4077.
She also sent a few photos of the dog they're calling "Miracle."
City Ink had to choose whether to run a photo of the Goat Man or Miracle, so I asked Ernie what to do. He said, "The dog needs help now. The Goat Man is past it."
So Miracle it is.
We'd take him ourselves, but we're full up.
City Ink thanks Staff Writer Tom Corwin for his contribution to this week's column.
Reach Sylvia Cooper at (706) 823-3228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.