The Turnbo Manuscripts

by Silas Claiborne Turnbo

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By S. C. Turnbo

In giving further accounts of hallucinations or in other words experience of hunters with impaired brains and defective minds I will relate a story as told me by two hunters of the name of Calvin Clark and John Nipps. I heard Mr. Nipps tell the story soon after it occurred. Mr. Clark furnished the account on March the 28, 1895. The substance of their accounts is as follows. They said they were not under the influence of cheap whiskey or bug juice of any sort and could afford to tell the truth about it. Mr. Nipps was a resident of Marion County, Ark., and Mr. Clark was living there also at the time. One night in the month of August, 1856, they both went on a fire hunt together for deer. It was on Sunday night. They had often hunted together on land as well as fire hunting together of nights on White River. At that time they did not observe Sunday any more than any other day of the week. It was as common to hunt on Sunday then as it was to kill game on Monday and Clark and Nipps said that they did not think it wrong to do this until that night. The weather was clear, but no moonlight, but the numerous little stars shed their twinkling lights and they pronounced that Sunday night in particular as being an excellent time for shooting deer. After they had prepared a big bundle of guel for a torch and with three well loaded rifles they got into their canoe at the mouth of Musics Creek where the Jones Ferry is now and left the shore an hour after night and drifted down the river with the current of water. Their dugout canoe was large and did not totter. The water in the shoals was shallow and they could hear their craft touch the stones on the bed of the shoals as they passed over them and ever now and then they would run aground but would soon push off again and away they would go until they reached the placid and more deeper water again. Deer did not pan out well. They seemed so scarce that they drifted a mile or more before they seen one and it ran out of the water and was gone before they could get a shot at it. They continued on downstream watching on each shore for deer but they saw no more until they had floated down near the mouth of Little North Fork when they saw the bulk of a deer standing on the toe head of a little island and when they approached closer to it they saw that it was a doe. The torchlight showed the outlines of the animal very plain. It was standing at the edge of the water broadside to them. Clark was guiding the canoe with a paddle made of a board with his rifle gun within reach of him. Nipps stood in the bow and of the canoe with a rifle gun in each hand. As the two men approached still closer to the animal it never moved. Nipps laid one of his guns down in the canoe and shot at the deer with the other and it never flinched.

Then the hunter laid the empty gun down and picking up the other one he aimed it at the doe and fired, and still the deer did not move an inch except that it began to bleat. By this time the bow of the craft was in a few yards of it, and seeing that Nipps had not touched the deer, Clark laid the paddle down and raising his rifle aimed at the deer and fired in close range of it, but the shot did not stagger the doe in the least. She stood still and bleated. They were astonished beyond reason. In all of their hunting they had never met the like before. They now landed the canoe in 15 feet of where the deer stood and it did not seem to be a bit afraid. It would stand and gaze at them and bleat. When they stepped out on the shore they reloaded the three guns and pointed two of them at the deer’s side and fired and saw no visible effects of the shots. Then Nipps fired the contents of the third rifle at it with the same result. The two hunters were dumbfounded. They had fired 6 bullets at it and the animal remained in the same position and continued to bleat. The two nonplussed hunters got to thinking pretty deep and verily believed that the deer was either protected by a charm or was the apparition of a deer and they dare not undertake to try to lay their hands on it. Though they could see its form quite plain as it stood within the circle of the torchlight, yet they wanted a better view of it and they collected an armful each of dry wood from the driftwood nearby that had lodged against the willows and put it in a heap and ignited it with the torch and soon had a big blaze and bright-light and they stood off a few feet from the deer and examined it thoroughly in order to solve anything mysterious about it, but they found nothing strange in its formation. It seemed to be only a common deer. They now resolved to shoot at it as long as their ammunition lasted and fell to reloading their guns again. Just as they had finished loading the deer turned slowly around and started away from them. Clark picked up some of the burning wood from the fire and Nipps took one of the rifles and they followed on behind it and Nipps did his best to discharge the gun at it as the doe walked slowly along but the gun flashed fire. The deer as it went on would bleat similar to a lost sheep. After the two men had followed it near 150 yards and Nipps’ gun refusing to fire they decided to not follow it any further and started back to the canoe. They felt very superstitious and was certain in their own minds that it was an apparition of a deer instead of a genuine one. Before they got back to the canoe their light went out and their pace grew faster and they stumbled over logs, chunks and driftwood and ran over bushes and willows until they reached the firelight at their canoe. They sit down by the fire and indulged in a long talk together concerning the strange deer and both agreed that it was an apparition sent in the form of a deer as a warning to them not to hunt anymore on Sunday or Sunday night and right then and there they both "resoluted" that they both would not attempt to kill another deer from Saturday night midnight until after midnight on Sunday night and as far as hunting was concerned they would not break the Sabbath. They said that was the Lord’s day and they must keep it holy.

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