Frank’s pet deer

At the Chester Historical Society we have a glass plate negative of a spike-horn buck. He’s a small deer and wearing a collar. In the 1916 Vermont Fish & Game annual report is a photo of Frank Clark of Popple Dungeon. Frank is standing on his porch with a large buck standing on its hind legs with his front legs on Frank’s chest. This is the same deer in both photos.

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Frank Clark pet deer in 1916. Photo by Vermont Fish & Game.

I figure data collected for the 1916 report was probably collected in 1915. Using 1915 as a date and thinking the adult deer to be three to four years old, I conclude the deer was probably born around 1911-1912.

In a recent Ted Spaulding donation is a photo of a very young and spotted fawn. This is again the same deer. Frank’s wife, Emily, holds a baby bottle while the fawn happily feeds. This pet deer was well known in the area. It was a big deal at the time, but why?

Because Vermont had been 70 percent cleared of trees for sheep and cow pastures, there were few wooded areas for deer. Deer were so scarce in Vermont that the State went to the Adirondacks to live trap deer and introduce them here in Vermont.

With deer everywhere today, it is difficult to imagine seeing a deer in the early 1900s as something out of the ordinary. This oddity was likely the reason Frank Clark saved and raised his pet deer.

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Frank Clark’s pet deer being bottle fed by Emily Clark. Circa 1911-1912. Photo provided by Ted Spaulding.

Some may remember Winslow Hale. Winslow was the manager of the town dump down on the Dump Road. For years, Winslow picked over rubbish as townspeople dumped their trash. It was probably around 1980 when Winslow called to sell me some antiques he had salvaged from the dump.

The dump was now closed, and Winslow had retired. I was curious to see what Winslow had salvaged so I went to see him. At the time, Winslow lived up in Wymans Falls.

Well I arrived at Winslow’s and was surprised to see the treasures Winslow had saved. I was getting ready to leave when Winslow asked if I wanted to see something unusual. We walked to the rear of the trailer where Winslow slowly opened the back door.

There were two or three deer at the edge of the mowing. Winslow started calling and to my surprise the deer started walking toward us. They came right up to the backdoor and took apples right out of Winslow’s hand. He had spent months or more working with the deer. It really was neat to see. Ken Barrett also remembers Winslow’s deer.

  Explanation of an old saying:

Last week I used an old saying that needs to be explained it seems. Ted Spaulding told me the story of a Mrs. Andrews. She lived at the top of the Ox-bow in the farmhouse there. This story dates to the 1920s.

Old Henry Wilson told Ted about Mrs. Andrews vocabulary. Mrs. Andrews probably didn’t have much education and as a result often used the wrong words when she spoke.

Let’s look at what she said and what she meant. “‘My house is being reconciled with a new condition, indecent lighting and a lunk head.’ Another time someone had died. She said, ‘He died of spontaneous combustion.’”

Reconciled was her word for reconstructed. A new condition was a new addition. And one of the best was indecent lighting. Mrs. Andrews heard the electrician say “incandescent lighting” but heard “indecent lighting.” Lunk head is a great one too. A lunk head would be a bulkhead. Mrs. Andrews must have heard someone in her life being called a lunk head. When the carpenter told her he was putting in a bulkhead, she heard lunk head.

So here is the translation. “My house is being reconstructed with a new addition, incandescent lighting and a bulk head.”

When someone died, Mrs. Andrews would often buy flowers for the family of the deceased. One time when Mrs. Andrews had an armload of flowers, someone asked who died. She replied with the man’s name adding, “He died of spontaneous combustion.”

In the old days, there was an illness somewhat like what we know today as epilepsy. She was trying to say, “He died of ‘spasmodic convulsions.’”

I remember when I was young listening to some of the old timers talk. It was very entertaining to hear their language. I bet Mrs. Andrews was a constant source of humor.

The next meeting of the Chester Historical Society is Thursday, Oct. 25, upstairs of Chester Town Hall at 7 p.m. There will be a slideshow of old Chester photos. All are welcome.

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