TexasEscapes.com HOME Welcome to Texas Escapes
A magazine written by Texas
Custom Search
New   |   Texas Towns   |   Ghost Towns   |   Counties   |   Trips   |   Features   |   Columns   |   Architecture   |   Images   |   Archives   |   Site Map

Texas Counties

Texas Towns
Texas Towns

Texas | People

The (Original) Wild Man of Borneo
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 history@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

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




Texas Escapes Online Magazine »   Archive Issues » Home »
Texas Counties
Texas Towns A-Z
Texas Ghost Towns

Central Texas North
Central Texas South
Texas Gulf Coast
Texas Panhandle
Texas Hill Country
East Texas
South Texas
West Texas

Rooms with a Past

Gas Stations
Post Offices
Water Towers
Grain Elevators
Cotton Gins

Vintage Photos
Historic Trees
Old Neon
Ghost Signs
Pitted Dates
Then & Now

Columns: History/Opinion
Texas History
Small Town Sagas
Black History
Texas Centennial

Texas Railroads

Texas Trips
Texas Drives
Texas State Parks
Texas Rivers
Texas Lakes
Texas Forts
Texas Trails
Texas Maps

Site Map
About Us
Privacy Statement
Contact Us

Website Content Copyright Texas Escapes LLC. All Rights Reserved