For more than thirty years, Foxfire books have brought the philosophy of simple living to hundreds of thousands of readers, teaching creative-self-sufficiency, the art of natural remedies, home crafts, and preserving the stories and customs of Appalachia. Inspiring and practical, this classic series has become an American institution.
Foxfire 12 is the latest volume, the first in more than five years. Here are reminiscences about learning to square dance and tales about traditional craftsmen who created useful items in the old-time ways that have since disappeared in most of the country. Here are lessons on how to make rose beads and wooden coffins, and on how to find turtles in your local pond. We hear the voices of descendants of the Cherokees who lived in the region, and we learn about what summer camp was like for generations of youngsters. We meet a rich assortment of Appalachian characters and listen to veterans recount their war experiences. Illustrated with photographs and drawings, Foxfire 12 is a rich trove of information and stories from a fascinating American culture.
The first new volume in five years for this popular series has the familiar charm and, unfortunately, repetitiveness of the earlier 11. First published in 1966 as a quarterly magazine, Foxfire was a classroom project to pass on to future generations the Appalachian culture of northwest Georgia. Teachers Collins and Creek, with their students, have brought together a mixture of personal stories, folktales, rituals and observations that highlight a way of life that is quickly vanishing. Some of the memories recounted by elderly residents are quite engaging, while others are less so. Fred Huff, who taught school for 46 years and was Teacher of the Year several times, colorfully conveys the joy he took in his chosen profession and makes the modest claim that "I got more awards than I deserved." Eighty-one-year-old Fannie Ruth Martin stoically details a childhood full of poverty and hardship, yet then asserts, "[K]ids today have too much!" Devotees of Appalachian folkways will relish descriptive passages on square dancing, pottery and the way to construct a simple wooden casket. There is an informative chapter about Cherokee stories and some very interesting accounts by people who attended three different summer camps in the area. Photos.
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September 13, 2004
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Excerpt from Foxfire 12 by Foxfire Fund
Chapter 1 CHES McCARTNEY: THE LEGEND OF 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." -Qtd. in Patton 7 I am not originally from Rabun County. Because I am from the Lone Star State-Texas-I had never heard of the Goat Man. Although I now know that he has been in forty-nine of the fifty states of America (all except Hawaii), he is not as well known in Texas as he is in Georgia. I've lived here in Northeast Georgia for three years, and his name has been mentioned off and on in conversations with home folks. As everybody does, when, as an outsider, you're unfamiliar with a subject, you often tend to pay it no attention because the name means nothing to you. My lack of knowledge on the subject of America's Goat Man was about to change. After I was chosen to work at Foxfire during the summer program and had completed some unfinished articles, someone mentioned the Goat Man. I was intrigued. This man, for many decades, up to 1987, with and without goats (mostly with), traveled all over the continental United States. At the time, most did not know his real name or where he was from. I learned that the Goat Man always appeared, along with about twelve to thirty goats-which "he proudly called his maternity ward" (Patton 3) or his babies (Patton 19)-and wagons full of junk, around the time of Clayton, Georgia's Mountaineer Festival, a celebration that used to be an annual event. There are various accounts of Charlie, Chester, better known as Chess or Ches McCartney, aka the Goat Man, that tell of sightings of his strange caravan over the span of thirty-eight to fifty-five years. (For the record, I have found various names and many different spellings of Mr. McCartney's name, but in an effort to remain as historically accurate as possible, the spelling of Ches McCartney's name is the same as his signature.) The sightings became rarer until finally there were none at all. Georgia newspapers began reporting that the Goat Man had retired from the road, and folks began telling tales of his demise. I wanted to meet this national legend, so in trying to find out anything I could, I called local libraries and newspapers. My search ended successfully: Mr. McCartney was in a nursing home in Macon, Georgia. Having fractured his hip, he, at a self-professed one hundred and five years of age (he was probably several years younger), was in a wheelchair. His white hair peeked out from underneath his blue cap, and his blue eyes, set in his weathered face, sparkled and danced as he recounted the tales of the roads he has traveled. This article represents research from various sources: personal interviews with some eyewitnesses from Rabun County, Georgia, and others who have vivid memories of the Goat Man, and my own interview with Mr. McCartney, as well as quotes from the pamphlets he sold during his traveling years. Darryl Patton's book America's Goat Man (Mr. Ches McCartney), used with permission, was an invaluable resource. Some who met Ches McCartney thought he was a friendly genius; others thought him filthy and crazed. All, however, remember the Goat Man as a mysterious, eccentric, legendary character, a gypsy mountain man, a folk hero who followed his own way, herding goats from Florida to Maine, from Washington, D.C., to California. "Like a Knight of the Round Table," Mr. McCartney once averred, "I am in search of the Holy Grail" (qtd. in Patton 55). -Stephanie Dollar and Angie Cheek Ches McCartney was born in the early 1900s, on the farm of his parents near Van Buren Township, Keokuk County, Iowa, the son of Albert McCartney and Louise E. Russell McCartney. He lived there until he was fourteen year