It "tickles me to death" when a sophisticated magazine like Southern Living has a writer, Rick Bragg, the best in the South and maybe the best in the country, and they let him do his thing. How do I know? This month the March edition on page 122 is his monthly article, and it is titled, "Return of the Goat Man," with the subtitle, "For years, one small Alabama town had a sure sign that spring had sprung."
Brothers and sisters, if you don't know about the Goat Man, Ches McCartney, it's time for you to learn. Buy the magazine and turn, immediately, to Bragg's article and get educated. And, if you did see the Goat Man, and you were over 5 years old, then you do remember and you are prepared to share your "Goat Man story" with anyone who will listen.
Last weekend, Janice and I, along with our guests, Carol Horton and Faye Wilson, plus about 800 others attended the reunion of Fort Valley High School's 1960s band, The Malibus. What a show it was! Part of the conversation at our table grew out of my mentioning Bragg's article and everybody in hearing had a Goat Man story to tell. Everyone that had ever seen him, and smelled him, had a story. And, let me add that the crowd was mostly over 50 years old, so most everyone had at least one story to share.
Enough about the Goat Man. Let me quote a couple of lines from Bragg's article that had to do with his growing up in the rural South. "Some people, unaccustomed to the long, rolling nothing of a cotton field, would have said that there was not too much to do in Spring Garden, Alabama, in 1965. We fought boredom, my brother and I, the best we could."
Most folks would have said the same thing about Perry or Fort Valley, the Malibus notwithstanding. Well, if what we did in the '50s and '60s was boredom, I wish we could call back some of it, or, almost all of it, so our grandchildren could be bored.
Do children still play out at night? Do they catch lightning bugs and put them in a jar? Do they tie a thread around a June bug's leg and let it fly round and round until both the thread holder and the bug are exhausted?
I must have played in at least 1,000 games of basketball with other youngsters in my backyard on Swift Street in Perry. It might have been one of the Perry Panthers -- maybe Sam Nunn or Percy Hardy, and I'll bet that some of that Fort Valley Greenwave crowd, my age, were Ed Beck or Pat Swann.
By the way, basketball was really something in Middle Georgia in the '50s and '60s. There were outstanding coaches, great players and really close games. Fort Valley had Tee and Perry had Lee. Roberta's John Matthews could shoot as good as Larry Bird, but probably not quite as good as Perry's Dwayne Powell. I could go on and on, but let me just say it was for Perry and Fort Valley folks almost as memorable as the Goat Man.
We had a science club at our house. We had jars full of all kinds of insects that we kept at the club's location -- a big fig tree in our back yard. We must have had six or eight active members.
I must have been Roy Rogers 500 times. And, I was Lash LaRue and Hopalong Cassidy a few times. I could shoot, rope and ride a horse -- at least in my mind, I could. I could shoot a pistol off of a black-hatted cowboy and not even hurt him.
I played "Pop the Whip" and "Red Rover, Red Rover." I even went to a few prom parties when I was in the eighth grade. And Teen Town dances at Perry's National Guard Armory will never be forgotten. In fact, The Malibus brought back memories of Teen Town.
I helped dam up a creek and "muddied" for fish -- and caught a few. I hunted rabbits at night, and dove and quail in the daytime. I even hunted and ate squirrel. And Pierce Staples and I killed and ate some pigeons and robins that Mrs. Staples cooked for us.
I worked. I did many different kinds of work. Daddy was serious about me working. The lessons of work have meant much to my life.
I could go on and on, but must close. But, let me say this: If this was boredom, I wish it on my grandchildren and today's young people. What I experienced would mean much to their lives. And I really wish they could have seen the Goat Man, and his goats. It would have given them a lasting memory and good tales to tell their grandchildren.
Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.