Transcribed by Kathleen Hastings Whitlock
January 29, 1948
* CAL’S COLUMN *
The “Colyum” is here again this week after having had numerous setbacks, due largely to too much to do and not enough time in which to do them. Since our last article appeared we have had numerous requests for the Column.
We are going to give our readers few of the things we have seen that we did not exactly understand and part of which we still do not understand. Of course we do not believe in “hants,” although we confess to having seen a few things that “need explaining.” Many years ago when we were a young man, in fact just 19, we were teaching at Dean Hill in the extreme northeast part of our native county of Smith. It was our first school and we boarded near the schoolhouse with our friend, Alvis Donoho, son of Uncle Tom and Aunt Polly Ann Donoho who then lived on the Ridge at the head of the valley in which the schoolhouse still stands. We might say by way of parenthesis, that we preached at Dean Hill some weeks ago, with a large crowd present. Of the entire number present, only two of our students of 37 years ago were in attendance.
But back to our story. As was to be expected, the young teacher soon found a sweetheart and on one of his visits, he felt about nine o’clock in the night, to walk back down to where he boarded. It was a November night, with the heavens bright with stars that shone into the deep valley in which his girl friend lived. He had left the young lady’s home and was walking down the valley toward where he boarded, about a quarter of a mile away. There was no moon that night, but the stars gave off enough light for one to be able to see his way. Suddenly just as we set our large left foot down, a circle of light as bright as day and about five feet in diameter sprang up, or fell down on the road, we hardly know which. We stopped with our foot in the edge of the circle of light and waited to see what would happen next. This light appeared for perhaps five seconds and then disappeared, going away as suddenly as it had appeared. It was light enough inside the ring to have picked up a pin. Well, we did not get excited in the least at the time. But to this day, we do not know what that light was, nor where it came from, nor what it meant. No, the young teacher did not run, but pursed the “even tenor of his way,” until he arrived at his boarding place. We have wondered for these nearly 40 years just what that light was. We never thought to look up to see if there was anything above us, although there was nothing but the open sky above. No one part of the ring of light was any brighter than another. We just stood and stared at the light until it vanished as suddenly as it had appeared. For all these years we have wondered about this light.
We also saw an unusual sight four and a half years later. In June, 1914, we had arisen about three o’clock in the morning to get some plowing done before the day became so hot, the weather then being very hot for the season. We lived at that time on the farm of H.E. Porter, near Pleasant Shade, having had charge of Kittrell’s school the preceding term and having also the promise of the school for the next term. On this particular morning, we had built a fire in the kitchen stove, and then took a bucket or pail and went to a spout spring about a hundred yards from the house. The weather was dry for the season and the stream of water was small. While we waited for the pail to fill, we happened to glance to the northeast where the light of the sun was already slightly dimming the stars. Suddenly we noted one extremely large star as we thought. Then we noted that it was moving and moving at a terrific speed through the heavens, coming out of the northeast and heading toward the southwest. It appeared to be coming right at the writer, who even began trying to decide whether to go down the valley or up the valley to get out of the path of the coming monster that had made the earth as light as day. While we were trying to decide which way to go, the high-flying meteor passing far above our head and we thought then that it would surely strike the high hill just above the spring. But it went far above the hilltop and disappeared to the southwest. In the wake of the shooting star or meteor was left a shining streak across the skies as though it had been burned there. As daylight began to come, this streak faded out into what looked like a clouded way reaching from the farther point visible to the east bounds of the horizon to the southwest. Later reports in the daily papers said that this heavenly visitor had been seen in Clarksville, Columbia, and many other places in Tennessee, and also as far to the southwest as Vicksburg, Miss. It was the largest and brightest of all the shooting stars the editor of the Times ever saw.
Another brilliant heavenly visitor appeared in the heavens on Sunday night about 37 years ago. It was so bright that it dimmed the light of the moon. It was of a greenish color and passed through the southern skies. The writer had just retired when he saw the flash of the brilliant light and called his mother to ask her what was happening and she replied that a shooting star so bright that it was green had passed through the skies.
We somehow stand in awe of these bright visitors, no feeling exactly frightened, but nevertheless realizing that there are forces and powers over which we have no control and about which we know but little. We have seen a few meteors after they struck the ground. They are made up mostly of iron and have come supposedly from some other world. One of these struck the ground a number of years ago near Pleasant Shade, penetrating the earth and losing itself in the ground. Although interested parties dug down five feet into the earth, they failed to find the missile that had struck the earth with a roar like thunder. In the days before planes were known, a number of men were engaged one cloudy day in clearing some land. They heard some heavenly body go roaring through the skies, invisible to them but apparently not very far away. No doubt it would have produced a brilliant light if it had occurred at night instead of the day time.
In later years we saw a few other things that somehow aroused our curiosity and part of which we do not at this time understand fully. One of these occurred a few years ago at the bridge below Monoville, toward Riddleton. We were driving along the highway there shortly after dusk and we saw what appeared to be a live coal crossing the road and giving off sparks whenever it struck the surface of the highway. We never did know exactly what this was. The wind was not blowing and it was in the dead of winter, so we are still wondering what we really saw. We are aware that glow worms sometimes give off the appearance of fire, but this was not the “glow worm season.”
About three and a half years ago we had an appointment to preach at the Carthage Baptist church. We had with us on the trip our youngest son, Charles, who soon went to sleep as we drove back toward Lafayette. On Peyton’s Creek, near the home of Pole Beasley, we saw in the distance by the car lights what appeared to be a large, shaggy animal, apparently larger than a goat but hardly as large as a yearling calf. This thing, whatever it was galloped on somewhat toward the car, not being in the direct light of the car, but rather to one side, until we had passed it by. We do not know what this was, although it is possible it was a very large, shaggy goat. We thought once we would turn the car around and see if we could get any further sight, but decided it was not worth the time. However, we have regretted our not turning around and trying again to identify whatever “animal” it was.
We had another unusual experience in 1915. We lived at that time in a deep, and largely wooded valley not far from Piper’s School house, where we were teaching. Our home was located far up this valley, with no other family living in the valley above us and with two families living at the lower end of the valley. The house in which we lived was of logs, with a porch on the upper side, and with practically all the flooring having been removed from the porch. However, there was a strip of flooring in the porch as wide as the door which opened on the porch. It was early spring time and our sisters who resided with us then, had been going barefooted. They had washed their feet and then set the pan of dirty water outside the door on this narrow bit of floor. The family had all retired except the writer who was at that time doing a great deal of reading and studying. It was perhaps ten o’clock in the night when we heard some four-footed animal coming down the valley toward the house from the northwest. The animal appeared to be running for dear life. We distinctly heard its feet or hoofs on the flat rock that was the floor of the valley for some little distance, the footfalls coming closer and closer. Finally the animal, or varmint or whatever it was left the rocky road, crossed a small grassy place and then came right on toward the house. It struck the little floor left in the porch, turned over the pan of dirty water and then went out of hearing up another valley that came down somewhat from the northeast. We took or Aladdin lamp and went to investigate, but found nothing except the overturned pan and a wet place on the porch. Now there were no sheep or goats in the area up the valley that came down by the house, and none to the northeast. We would not think this very strange except for the fact that Len Ballou, who died a few years ago a few miles from Lafayette, once lived in the very same place, and he heard something of exactly the same nature as the writer heard, even to the hoof beats, etc. He lived in the old house some years before the writher moved into it. He never knew what the animal was and neither did we ever learn what it was. We are of the opinion that it was a deer, although we wonder why one would run toward a brightly lighted window and come within two or three feet of the door of the house. In a later article we hope to tell of the worst fright we ever had, one that made our hair stand on end and push our hat up until it was ready to fall off our head.