History Leaves of the Methodist Tree
Compiled by Johnny Cordell
“The Deer Hunters”
When I first began this historical series, I asked if anyone had any inspiring or humorous stories that centered around Chapel Hill Church. I believe this story from Paul Powell demonstrates the light heartiness and humor that God instilled in the human race, and particularly the congregation of Chapel Hill.
One of the facets of attending church is the fellowship and socialization that occurs before Sunday School, before church, and after church. At the historical church some of this took place outside under a maple tree at the entrance to the church. In those days it was also the opportunity for a “smoke” break, and the weather did little to deter this activity. During the summer months, some of the men would take refuge from the sweltering heat under a great Northern Red Oak. This giant tree was about thirty feet from the church next to the cemetery. Its large root structure next to the tree was about a foot above the ground which afforded the smaller boys, like myself, a place to sit and listen to a myriad of conversations covering many topics. Unfortunately, this tree was struck by lightning and was taken down several years ago. I would state that this Northern Red Oak was one of the largest in Sequatchie County at that time.
During the autumn, when crops and fruits are gathered and falling leaves gently make their way to “mother earth”, the younger men would ultimately focus their attention on stories of deer hunting. In the discourse of a few minutes, many large deer with numerous antler points were harvested under the great tree. It was in this setting that Paul Powell relates to the following account.
It was early November in the year of our Lord 1981 or there about, that two young men, Paul Powell and Donnie Kell were outside the church immediately following Sunday School, when they noticed about three or four deer grazing on a mountain slope less than a thousand yards from the church. Included in this small herd of deer was a huge buck overseeing his domain. Instantly both men looked at each other with the same inquiring response “what do you think”? In those days most deer hunters always carried their deer rifles in their pickup trucks, so in this particular case it would facilitate a rapid response to their objective. But first a couple of decisions had to be made. Do we leave church to accomplish a task that very well may be unsuccessful, and do we stalk a deer in our dress clothes and Sunday slippers?
The preacher at the time was Ray Tumlin, who was a very rotund individual weighing over 400 pounds, and an avid deer hunter himself. Early on, Paul had shown Brother Ray a number of deer crossings, and the Pastor had killed a deer at every crossing. However, due to limited mobility, this feat was achieved from the cab of his pick-up truck. So, the pair of hunters surmised that the good preacher would not be sufficiently offended to their mission to put meat on the table. Besides, why would the Lord place such a bounty in full view of two fervent hunters? Donnie was at the time serving in the military as an Army Ranger so was not afforded much time to deer hunt except when he was home on leave, so the decision was made to proceed in full Sunday attire
As Paul recounts, Donnie circled left around Kell Loop, up Kell Lane to his grandparents homeplace, and exited onto the tree line above the herd of deer. Paul circled up Powder House Road (currently Randy Allen Road) and was proceeding into the tree line from the south, when he heard two shots reverberating just north of his position. Donnie had been successful and had bagged an eight pointer. The two intrepid hunters did a preliminary field dress, then hastily returned to the church just in time for “altar call”; and hopefully absolution.
Last month question: What landmark in Sequatchie County is part of the Southeast Tennessee Religious Heritage Trail? Chapel Hill Historical Church and is identified by a historical maker next to the church.
Next month’s question: What Chapel Hill Minister had an eccentric habit concerning two-dollar bills?
*Note: Anyone with a humorous or inspiring story; let me know and I will be glad to sit down to interview you. I will take notes and arrange it into an appropriate story subject to your approval.