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Twenty-three Deer to one Dear Boy

PFA Journal July 1972 Vol. 1 Number 2

Reverend John McLeod Purcell was the eldest of nice children born to Albert Leland and Marian Caroline McLeod Purcell. He was born 24 October 1861 in McKinley, Marengo County, Alabama. He married Miss Lel Red and was associated with Stuart Female Seminary in Austin, Texas, for ten years. His son Rev. Malcolm Lee Purcell was born during that time and this is the story of his birth.

Dr. R. K. Smoot, D. D., who was pastor of the First Southern Church in Austin, where the Stuart Seminary girls from all over Texas attended regular worship services, went hunting. He led several young preachers, including Rev. J. M. Purcell, on a deer hunt near Batesville, Texas, in the Upper Nueces River Bottom. Three hot days spoiled their hunt with sweat present and absence of a single visible deer. (Deer don’t exercise much as the heat approaches 100 degrees.)

On the fourth day everything changed fast. The thermometer plummeted to below ten degrees F. Most hunters hugged their campfire, but Rev. Purcell grabbed his greatest hunting opportunity of a lifetime. Enormous bucks were charging around and through the brush to keep themselves warm. They even ignored this hunter and his repeating rifle fire. He bagged 15 bucks with rocking chair type horns quite close to camp and five more the second day. Only three were hit the third day. They averaged 150 pounds dressed.

At noon on the third cold day a Western Union rider rode into camp showing frost bitten ears and a telegram for hunter Purcell. Never before had those hunters seen a telegram delivered while they were on safari. All camp activities ceased with the arrival of that shivering special messenger. Rev. Purcell had just thrown his third buck against a tree well away from their blazing log fire. His 22 other frozen deer hung from nearby trees two on each rope. Opening that yellow envelope he read aloud: “It’s a boy. Come at once,” signed “Lelery” (pet name for his wife). Hurriedly everyone loaded those 23 fat bucks, hunting equipment, and themselves on two ranch wagons, put out their fire, then drove Jehu-like to Batesville.

The fast SP Limited from Los Angeles to New Orleans whistled, stopped and joined in the holiday spirit, waiting while the Batesville agent and Austin hunters tagged 23 deer for the Capital of Texas. Many eastbound passengers were eager ‘window watchers’ during that unscheduled delay in the Brush Country. The Austin bound Katy Flyer also waited in San Antonio for that one hunter and party with such an unheard of herd of Texas big game. “There are enough deer to fill one end of a baggage car,” the SP agent phoned to his MK&T San Antonio counterpart. Wide-eyed wonder spread into Austin about midnight, enroute from the Katy depot to the Zilker Cold Storage plant. Moved by four manpower each of those three baggage trucks rolled slowly along an Austin street.

Later this proud hunter burst into his wife’s upper room at Stuart Seminary, a bloody unshaven replica of David Crockett after a bear hunt. “Lelery,” he blurted, “I give you 23 deer for Christmas with enough meat to feed all of your schoolgirls until next summer!” Reverend J. M. Purcell had a reputation far and wide as a big game hunter and a top flight raconteur of the hunt, as well as a powerful exponent of the Word of God. His son Malcolm was known over a wide area as a “seeker of souls for his God.”

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