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    The (Original) Wild Man of Borneo
    And The Ballad of Zack Hargis

    Photo and Text courtesy of Kelly Haight
    Editor’s Note: Maggie Van Ostrand, one of our most loyal and talented contributors, forwarded an email that was sent to her by a reader who noted similarities between her Great Uncle and “The Hairy Man of Round Rock.” The author of the email was Kathy Haight, who wrote: “this sounds much like something that my Great Uncle would have told folks about himself... and our family was in Texas for awhile during the 1800's.” The following is an account of Uncle Zack, who, like many before him, left the Ozarks to sell pelts. But in Uncle Zack’s case, he went all the way to Hollywood and the pelt he “sold” was him.

    Uncle Zack Hargis was a showman, and he was exceptionally HAIRY. He also wrote an autobiographical poem about how he acquired his coat of hair during a time when our family was involved in a Ozark feud (Cockrills and Hargises). In the poem (which follows) he speaks of himself as a young lad, who, when the enemies came a-knocking ran out the back door, and became separated from his family (not really). He claimed that as he roamed the Ozarks for many a year, nature gave him a coat of hair... then some movie folks from out west caught sight of him and lured him to Hollywood and put him in some movies... which in part is true.

    Zachariah Thomas Mackey Hargis
    "The (Original) Wild man of Borneo"
    Zachariah Thomas Mackey Hargis
    Photo courtesy Kelly Haight

    He was featured in a lot of sideshows for various circuses and carnivals. He was once the original P T Barnum's "Wild Man of Borneo" but after a falling out he left. Unfortunately he is not mentioned in the museum today because his replacement stayed with the circus and was given the title. But my mother use to tell of the story of seeing him at the circus, where they would wheel him in, in a large barred cage... it would have straw in the bottom of it, with old bones strewn around like a caged animal who had been eating raw meat etc. Under the straw he had a can with a rosin string on it, that he would reach under and pull on to make a kind of roaring sound, then he would jump up and grab the bars... shaking them like he was going to get out. They had a couple bars that were made of lead and those he would bend enough to get out of the cage then he would run through the crowd scaring folks to death.

    His full name was Zachariah Thomas Mackey Hargis, and besides being "The (Original) Wild man of Borneo", he was also known as "Ozark Red Hargis" and other names that I am unable to recall at present. My parents have been long gone but they knew what movies he had appeared in.

    Uncle Zack also posed for an artist in California who was painting the Last Supper (sometime between 1930 - 1950 ). The artist was supposed to have been famous, but I do not have a name to offer. Somewhere there are photos of Uncle Zack in the garb the artist had him wear while he was sitting for him.

    Zack was also a member of the Masonic Lodge and his brother Fred was a Knight Templar. Zack’s mother was considered one of the "Women of the Wise, or more commonly known as a “Backwoods Witch and Healer"

    Uncle Zack was also a snake handler and in his later years, traveled with shows where he handled snakes as part of the entertainment. He also milked the snake venom for profit. A newspaper in Oregon once published an article on Zack and one of his rattlesnakes, "George", biting him. He explained that he could not be mad at George since he was a snake and it was “just in his nature to bite.”

    One of his favorite pastimes was putting on a kind of loin cloth and carrying an old crooked walking stick... he would ride the trolley cars in San Francisco, and while on them growl at folks and watch their reactions, then come home and tell the stories of what had happened that day... he found it to be huge amounts of fun and entertainment for himself.

    © Kelly Haight
    Grand Niece of Uncle Zack

    November 5, 2012

    Ms Haight asks if anyone knows anything about the Harrell family. Who were from the Oklahoma-Texas-Arkansas region. “I have a Gr Grandma Francis Harrell Ratliff, and I have been looking to find her parents for years and YEARS... without luck. I know she was related to Jacob M. Harrell, how>>>? and that when my grand dad went to prison for bootlegging, [Oklahoma Governor] Alfalfa Bill Murray's wife, was a Harrell relative of my granddad's, There seems to have been some family pressure applied to getting a pardon, but no matter who I know were relatives, I cannot know who g grandma's parents were. “I sure would like to know before knowing won't matter.” Anyone with information on the Tx/Ok/ Ar Harrell,s may write to editor@texasescapes.com and emails will be forwarded to Ms. Haight

    “The Ballad of Zack Hargis” By Zack Hargis

    My name is Zack Hargis
    I was born in Eighty Four
    In the wilds of the Ozark mountains
    Where many varmints roar

    In eighteen hundred and eighty eight
    when I was only four
    My folks they got all mixed up
    in that terrible Kentucky war

    Chorus:
    But I'm going back to the Ozarks
    I'm going back where I belong
    When I get back to the Ozarks
    I'll sing a different song

    Come friends, I'll tell you a story
    A story that I know well
    Now you folks a living in the West
    will say that sure is H*LL

    T'was early in the nineties
    perhaps t'was ninety four
    there came a band of enemies
    a pounding at our door

    I'd hate to tell you what I think
    that happened there that day
    but I escaped through the back door
    and quickly ran away

    I roamed them Ozark hills alone
    T'was for eighteen years or more
    that I never knew the way of a home
    I never entered a door

    While I was roaming them mossy hills
    my feet were always bare
    I wore no clothes upon my back
    so, nature gave me a coat of hair.

    Now there was some Movie folks
    that came in the hills
    they told me a lot of funny jokes
    and finally got my will.

    I played in many pictures
    and sort of liked it too
    but, I'm going back to the Ozarks
    I know that is really what I should do

    Yes, the movies they did lure me
    to come away out West
    for many years in Hollywood
    I did my very best

    The West's all right for you that like
    the Western life you see
    But, I'm going back to the Ozarks
    it's the only place for me.

    We never need any money
    down in the Ozark hills
    nature has given us plenty
    and nature always will.

    When I get back to the Ozarks
    my shoes and shirt I'll throw away
    to get back too them wonderful hills
    I'm longing every day.

    - From “his handwritten copy dated, Sept. 1934.” – Kelly Haight

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