October 21, 1999 - Dallas Morning News
Man or beast? Goatman lore reborn in Fort Worth
The Dallas Morning News
By Jacquielynn Floyd, October 21, 1999
The summer of '69 left a lot of people reeling with disbelief. Woodstock happened, and Chappaquiddick. Neil Armstrong strolled on the lunar surface, and there was a rock festival in Lewisville with naked hippies. The Goatman didn't seem much less plausible than anything else.
He was the local Sasquatch, a hairy apparition detailed by credulous sightseers and wild-eyed teenagers and even improbable news accounts. For a few glorious weeks in 1969, as summer stretched toward fall, Fort Worth was feverish with Goatman delirium.
"Everyone talked about it. It was in the newspapers," said Robert Hornsby, then an imaginative 9-year-old with an avid interest in monster stories. "It was as real as a man going to the moon."
Mr. Hornsby, a New York artist who grew up in Fort Worth, has revived the Goatman legend with a series of stories, pictures and sculptures. His exhibition opens this weekend to coincide with the downtown public library's reopening after an elegant renovation.
It's a logical site, since Mr. Hornsby spent months researching the Goatman's history at the library.
The creature's story
According to Goatman lore, the half-man, half-goat lived on a scraggly island in Lake Worth, which was accessible to the shore by a muddy car track, making it a popular venue for necking and beer ingestion.
Teenagers spread tales of being chased and hooted by a 7-foot-tall, 300-pound Goatman. A posse of Goatman-seekers reported the monster appeared on a bluff and hurled an old tire at them, frightening one man so badly he backed his car into a tree.
Mr. Hornsby dug up pictures of a Goatman statue sculpted by an Azle man at the height of the hysteria and used them to produce his own series of sculptures.
The result is a long-necked, flop-eared, slope-shouldered, pot-bellied, Neanderthal-browed, unihorned anthropoid goat with an expression of undeniable malice but also of a certain cunning charm. Like the legend, he is temptingly believable and utterly memorable.
Because the Goatman was sometimes attributed to a prank by kids at nearby Brewer or Castleberry high schools, Mr. Hornsby invited art students from those campuses to contribute their own interpretations of the legend to the exhibition.
The legend died out long before these students were born, but they loved the story Mr. Hornsby related.
Two halves, two sides
Their artworks reflected two obvious schools of interpretation on the Goatman's character. Some, like an ominous silhouette of a slouching, menacing beast, suggest a sinister, malevolent Goatman, angry and bent on violence.
Then there's a tragic, misunderstood Goatman, a lonely figure exiled by his hybrid status from both human and goat societies.
"I don't think he's really evil," said Brewer senior Melissa Rodriguez, whose Goatman is a series of mournful sketches. "It's like people were scared of him, but it wasn't his fault."
The story faded with time. The only remnant of the myth is that the unofficial name "Goat Island" stuck to the weedy little spot where the Goatman capered and howled and hurled tires so many years ago.
Maybe he was enraged, or maybe he was lonely. Maybe he was just curious, according to one young artist, who wrote:
He creeps at night through brush and tree / Or scraggly grass to peek at me.
Or maybe the Goatman was just passing through, camping out on his way to someplace more private or more scenic or more hospitable.
After all, it was an awfully strange summer.
© The Dallas Morning News