by Bill Nye
Public Domain Books
A recent article in the London Post on the subject of somnambulism, calls to my mind several little incidents with somnambulistic tendencies in my own experience.
This subject has, indeed, attracted my attention for some years, and it has afforded me great pleasure to investigate it carefully.
Regarding the causes of dreams and somnambulism, there are many theories, all of which are more or less untenable. My own idea, given, of course, in a plain, crude way, is that thoughts originate on the inside of the brain and then go at once to the surface, where they have their photographs taken, with the understanding that the negatives are to be preserved. In this way the thought may afterward be duplicated back to the thinker in the form of a dream, and, if the impulse be strong enough, muscular action and somnambulism may result.
On the banks of Bitter Creek, some years ago, lived an open-mouthed man, who had risen from affluence by his unaided effort until he was entirely free from any incumbrance in the way of property. His mind dwelt on this matter a great deal during the day. Thoughts of manual labor flitted through his mind, but were cast aside as impracticable. Then other means of acquiring property suggested themselves. These thoughts were photographed on the delicate negative of the brain, where it is a rule to preserve all negatives. At night these thoughts were reversed within the think resort, if I may be allowed that term, and muscular action resulted. Yielding at last to the great desire for possessions and property the somnambulist groped his way to the corral of a total stranger, and selecting a choice mule with great dewy eyes and real camel’s hair tail, he fled. On and on he pressed, toward the dark, uncertain west, till at last rosy morn clomb the low, outlying hills and gilded the gray outlines of the sage-brush. The coyote slunk back to his home, but the somnambulist did not.
He awoke as day dawned, and, when he found himself astride the mule of another, a slight shudder passed the entire length of his frame. He then fully realized that he had made his debut as a somnambulist. He seemed to think that he who starts out to be a somnambulist should never turn back. So he pressed on, while the red sun stepped out into the awful quiet of the dusty waste and gradually moved up into the sky, and slowly added another day to those already filed away in the dark maw of ages.
Night came again at last, and with it other somnambulists similar to the first, only that they were riding on their own beasts. Some somnambulists ride their own animals, while others are content to bestride the steeds of strangers.
The man on the anonymous mule halted at last at the mouth of a deep canon. He did so at the request of other somnambulists. Mechanically he got down from the back of the mule and stood under a stunted mountain pine.
After awhile he began to ascend the tree by means of his neck. When he had reached the lower branch of the tree he made a few gestures with his feet by a lateral movement of the legs. He made several ineffectual efforts to kick some pieces out of the horizon, and then, after he had gently oscilliated a few times, he assumed a pendent and perpendicular position at right angles with the limb of the tree.
The other somnambulists then took the mule safely back to his corral, and the tragedy of a night was over.
The London Post very truly says that where somnambulism can be proved it is a good defense in a criminal action. It was so held in this case.
Various methods are suggested for rousing the somnambulist, such as tickling the feet, for instance; but in all my own experience, I never knew of a more radical or permanent cure than the one so imperfectly given above. It might do in some cases to tickle the feet of a somnambulist discovered in the act of riding away on an anonymous mule, but how could you successfully tickle the soles of his feet while he is standing on them? In such cases, the only true way would be to suspend the somnambulist in such a way as to give free access to the feet from below, and, at the same time, give him a good, wide horizon to kick at.