Saturday, February 13, 2016

Singleton tells of unusual encounter with dying deer near Haines Island

George Buster Singleton
(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Leaving wounded game alive can be hunters’ cruelest act” was originally published in the Feb. 4, 1988 edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

I am in no way speaking out against the many people who enjoy the sport of deer hunting. I am, however, going to relate to my readers the tragedy of an experience that I was confronted with a few days back.

To me, a wild deer is one of the most beautiful creatures to be found in this area. I have, on several occasions, forgot to shoot this beautiful animal when I would be on a so-called deer hunt.

To be truthful, I am not a very good hunter of any sort. Most times when I go deer hunting, I get sleepy and go to sleep when I should be watching and listening. And again, I don’t care anything about killing these wild and beautiful creatures. I suppose this labels me as being “chicken-hearted” by some. But that’s all right. It has been three years since I have purchased a hunting license.

Harmful but beautiful

I know, too, that wild deer damage the local farmers’ growing crops during the spring and summer. But I continue to say that they are among nature’s most beautiful creatures.

A few days back, I was enjoying a relaxing walk in the deer woods near Haines Island, along the river, near the ferry. It was cloudy, and it looked as if it might rain at any time. I was getting ready to return to my transportation when I decided to sit down for a few minutes and just listen to the sounds of nature. This was when I saw the large deer.

When I heard something walking in the underbrush behind me, I thought that it was probably an armadillo searching for lunch in the deep coating of leaves that lay on the ground. I turned to watch, and I saw this large buck deer staggering through the underbrush, gasping for breath. He had been a beautiful animal at one time, prior to being shot.

He had a large rack of horns, eight points in all. He would surely have been a trophy animal had the hunter been successful in retrieving him. I his right side, a large, ugly hole oozed blood where he had been shot with what seemed to have been a shotgun of a type. As he stood gasping for breath, blood could be heard dripping on the leaves beneath his feet.

He knew it was over

His whole body was wet with perspiration. As he tried to breathe, bloody foam seeped from his nostrils. I could hear him breathe with loud, raspy gasps. He made no effort to run; it seemed that he knew that it was over for him.

He looked at me as though he thought perhaps I would put him out of his misery. I did not have a gun of any type, only a small pocketknife. I moved closer to him. He shook his head ever so slowly. By now, I was almost close enough to touch his wounded side. His legs shook as he tried to stand.

We watched each other for about 15 minutes. I looked around, trying to spot something that I could use to end his suffering. There was nothing that I could put my hands on that I might use.

As he stood there watching me, I became aware that a greater amount of blood was coming from his nose. His breathing had become more difficult; his tongue had extended from his mouth.

He looked at me once again, then he began to walk slowly down the path that had been made for people like myself to hike on and enjoy the beauty of the deep woods.

Where was he going?

I followed him down the hill, watching him stagger and fall as he lost his footing in the heavy layer of leaves that covered the ground. Slowly he got up, each time with greater effort than the last. It seemed that he was trying to reach some special place. I continued to follow.

A small footbridge lay in the path up ahead. As I watched this dying animal struggling along, I wondered if he would cross the man-made bridge, or try to descend the banks and cross the small stream above or below the bridge.

The large buck staggered across the tiny bridge as though he had done it many times. He paused for a moment and tried to drink water from a small depression in the ground that had been filled by the morning rain. As he lowered his head to drink, the water turned red with blood; he raised his head slowly and began to stagger forward.

Seventy or so yards ahead, I saw the slow-moving waters of the mighty river, directly in the path of the dying animal. I wondered what would happen when he reached the river.

Saying goodbye?

When the wounded buck reached the river, he stopped. His breathing had grown much weaker; I wondered how he was going to swim the wide river in this condition. As if to answer my thoughts, he turned and looked one last time at me. Perhaps he was trying to say goodbye – who knows? He then staggered into the waters of the river.

He swam for about 30 feet before going under the first time. The waters around him showed red with traces of blood. He managed to get his head above the water; he swam for about 50 more feet. By now he was out in the current of the river; only his nose and horns could be seen.

He made one last effort to raise his head above the water. As he did so, he bleated once as he disappeared below the surface. The great river closed above him; his suffering was over.

Mother Nature has many strange and wonderful ways, far beyond our reasoning and thinking.

(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County, graduated from Sweet Water High School, served in the Korean War, moved to Monroe County in 1961 and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. For years, Singleton’s column “Somewhere in Time” appeared in The Monroe Journal, and he wrote a lengthy series of articles about Monroe County that appeared in Alabama Life magazine. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

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