April 25, 1957
Transcribed by Janette West Grimes
* CALíS COLUMN *
Our Father As a Teamster
†† Some men are born teamsters, some acquire ability as teamsters and a few are made teamsters. Our earliest recollections in matters of being a teamster go back to our dear father, Thomas M. Gregory, commonly known as "Dopher" Gregory. The latter was a nickname. His father, Stephen Calvin Gregory, for whom the editor was named, had another nickname for our father and that was "Jack." Our own father, "pappy" to us, used to "guy" our mother, "mammy" to her 10 children, about calling him by the nickname by which his father used to call him. Our father said that our mother once tried to call him "Jack," pronouncing the name as if spelled "Jarck." Our mother denied this, but our father got a great kick out of accusing her of saying "Jarck." Our mother had a fair education for her day and time, while our "pappy" could not read nor write until he was 21 years of age. His ability to read and write came about as the result of having to appear at his county seat town, Cathage, and sign some legal paper by "mark." When he had to place his finger on top of a penholder and make his "mark" it so badly embarrased our father that he then and there resolved to learn how to read and write. He purchased a "copy book," which all our older readers will quickly recall. He also bought a bottle of ink and a penholder and began the laboriously hard task of learning to write. We still remember that red penholder that "pappy" used to use. We still remember how he made certain letters, specially his capital G, as in Gregory. He married our mother on October 7, 1890, with Elder Luther Smith officiating. The writer, who is the oldest of our father and mother's children, was born the next year. Our schooling began on Tuesday, August 11, 1898, and we I hope, may be pardoned for saying we got along fairly well in school, even if our first school lasted only three months. By the time we were ten or eleven years of age, we could "figure" fairly well. We recall learning the multiplication table through the nines in one afternoon. When our father was 40 years of age, his 11-year-old first-born taught him all the arithmetic he ever knew. We had but little trouble in teaching our father how to add and subtract; but teaching him multiplication and division was a horse of another color. In fact he never learned much of either division or multiplication. But this is not to say he was not "smart," for all things considered, we are sure he was the "smartest man" in many respects we ever knew. He was rather harsh in his manner of speech and many a time, he said to his first-born, ye editor, "you ain't got no sense." We† recall his making the same statement to our mother early on one morning when we had arisen before day and our mother, seeing the moon to the east some time before sunrise, remarked: "I see the new moon in the east." "Pappy" then explained that the moon that rose before the sun was never called the new moon, but was what was then called the "old moon."
†† We started out to tell something of our father's ability as a teamster. Our very first team, so far as we can recall consisted of a large black horse mule, called "Old Dick" and a bay mare called "Old Nelle." They turned our father's hillside land and then the old black mule was used to "plow single" and make the corn and tobacco crops. This was a very fine mule, as we thought in our boyhood days. He could go four miles per hour, hour after hour and was perhaps the best "walking mule" our boyhood ever knew. "Old Dick" pulled the double shovel to plow out our father's corn in the year 1903, and shortly thereafter he was found by "pappy" in a big gulley where he had fallen. He was helped to his feet but his working days were over and he finally fell into a sort of sinkhole and had to be shot. This, to us, was a tragedy.
†† Some time prior to the death of the old black mule, our father was plowing on the hillside below the present Mace's Hill Baptist church, of which the writer has been pastor for more than 39 years. Far up on the other side of the valley, our father's brother, William Joseph Gregory, was plowing a horse to a turning plow ans was breaking some steep land. The plow hanged on a rock and the sudden stopping of the plow threw the horse down on that steep hillside which we have plowed many a time. The horse fell with his back down hill. Our uncle then called across the deep valley to our "pappy," saying "What must I do with him?" Our father replied in a loud voice that reached his brother across the valley, saying "Turn him over." Our uncle replied, "I am afraid he might roll to the bottom of the hollow," a distance of nearly a quarter of a mile. Our father replied that if the horse was unhitched from the plow that he would get up as soon as he was turned over and his feet were "down hill." Our uncle did this and the horse quickly got to his feet.
†† We recall another incident in which our father and the old black mule again involved. "Old Dick" was not a very good wagon mule and our early home was located at the western foot of Mace's Hill, over which the old road, then and now known as the old "Fort Blount Road," ran. The road was very poor and largely covered with loose stones some as large as a man's "double fists." This made it difficult to pull a heavy load up the hill. A man, name not now recalled, stalled on the hill. He came to our father's home at the noon hour and asked our "pappy" to help him to get up the hill. Our father soon had "Old Dick" geared and then hitched him to the "end of the wagon tongue." "Old Dick" was one of the "swithch-tailed" mules that could not stand still when a hard pull was just ahead. Our "pappy" had a boil on his nose and that mule was switching that tail at a fast rate. Our father went close behind the mule whose tail was going at a lively clip, struck our father on his sore nose and burst that boil. It was a painful operation, but the boil did not need lancing. We are of the opinion that our "pappy" talked rather bad to that mule, although we do not suppose he ever cursed in his life. We never heard him use profane language and not one of his ten children ever used profanity.
†† But there were other episodes that showed our father's lack of ability as a teamster. However, he was as good with a sled, then called a "ground slide," as any man we ever knew. He could load as big loads on the "ground slide" as we ever saw hauled in this manner. But with a wagon, it was another story. We recall that our father and his brother, "Lute," as he called him, his real name being Luther, went down to Hartsville to mill, a custom that has almost ceased to exist among country hill farmers, to carry some wheat and get a supply of flour to last for some months. We still recall the name of that particular kind of flour, known as "Purity." Nearly all the flour our hill farmers then bought or exchanged for wheat either came in barrels of 196 pounds or in long "meal sacks," holding about two and a half bushels. Our uncle and our "pappy" made the exchange and started for our early home, about nine miles east of Hartsville. It may be added just here that that old mill that made the flour that our dear "mammy" made into delightful biscuits, still stands and is in operation today as it was then more than 50 years ago.
†† There was no "breeching" for Gregory teams in that dya and time and that reminds the writer of another little episode. The very first "breeching" ever bought by our uncles, Luther and Monroe Gregory, was at Dixon Springs, our trading center. They had no idea that "breeching" came bound in sets or pairs; and when they went into a store to buy the first "breeching" for their team, each man picked up a set of breeching, supposing that they were sold in single units instead of pairs. When they arrived at their wagon in the present town of Dixon Springs, they had enough "breeching" for four horses or four mules. Of course they returned the extra pair of "breeching." So far as we can learn there was not a buggy in our branch of the Gregory family for many years. The very first time Jabe Gregory, a relative, who owned a buggy came to our grandfather's home, he reported that our uncles, Lute and "Money," had unfastened the harness and then laid it back into the buggy as they were in the habit of doing with their plow gear when the noon hour came and the plow and gear were left in the field. This greatly "tickled Uncle Jabe."
†† But to return to the mill trip. On their way home at the little hill just in front of the present Lee Martin home, with no brakes on the wagon and no wagon wheel "locked" the driver, "Uncle Lute," was trotting the team down hill to keep out of the way of the rather fast-moving wagon. He was sitting on the end of a 196-pound barrel of flour and the team began to "lope" to keep out of the way of the wagon. Suddenly our uncle's "perch" gave way and the barrel of "Purity" flour turned over with him. He was thrown forward toward the running team. He dropped his lines or reins as he went down. Our father grabbed them and brought the team to a halt near the foot of the hill. Our uncle was not hurt, although he was clinging to the wagon tongue with his feet, hands and legs and was hanging under the bottom of the wagon tongue, his back perhaps not six inches from the rock-surfaced road.
†† Not far from the same time, the same two men, our uncle Lute and our "pappy," made a trip by wagon to the same mill. On their return trip and not far from the barrel episode, a wagon wheel ran off because of the loosening of the tap or nut. The axle dropped to the ground and our father set out on foot to try to locate the nut that had been lost. He walked a mile and a half down the pike as the highway was then called, and finally found the part that held the wagon wheel on the axle. On his return the two brothers managed to get the wheel back in position and reached home without further mishap.
†† We believe that we have related most of these events that have a funny side to them, but suppose we will be forgiven for repeating them. Another event that took place when we were about 16 and our brother, Tom, was about 15, occurred at the ford then at the mouth of the Young Branch, on which the writer "discovered America" on July 8, 1891. The ford, since removed by a bridge, was about two feet deep in the spring of the year, when this episode occurred. The same two men had been to Dixon Springs with a wagon, driving a mare named "Dinah," as one of the team. We believe that the other member of the team was a half-brother to "Dinah," named "Ned," although we are not certain as to name of the other member of the team. Anyway, our father was driving and was riding on the wagon frame with his legs dangling over the side of the frame. Just before reaching the ford, he had let down or released the bridle reins of the team so that they could drink at the ford. Our father, as we have intimated already, was not a very good teamster and did not watch "Old Dinah" very closely. The mare got through getting a drink and then sought to remove a fly on her neck with her left hind foot. She reached the fly successfully, but putting the foot down was "another story." When she attempted to put down her foot, it became entangled in the check reins or wagon lines, between her mouth and the hames. So the more she tried to get the foot down, the worse position she got into. Finally as she struggled, the mare fell over the wagon tongue into about two feet of water. She gave a tremendous effort to "get her breath," and at the same time kicked mightily back toward the wagon. Her left hind foot just missed our father's thigh by perhaps six inches. By this time matters were desperate and our father decided action at once was imperative if the mare did not drown. So our father "loped" into the creek and rushed to the mare's head and held up her head until Uncle Lute could use his knife to cut the gear or harness and release the unfortunate animal. After she had been "cut out of the gear," she managed to get to her feet, and saved the day or rather the mares life.
†† The editor and his brother, both thoroughly disgusted on learning what happened, offered our father the comment, "Why didn't you let the old fool drown?" Our father's reply still lives in memory after 50 years have passed away. He looked at his two sons, boys of 15 and 16, and offered this comment: "You ain't got no sense." This kindly cut us down to our proper size which was that of two teen-age sons trying to tell our father of our way of looking at things.
†† Later, in the year 1914, our father borrowed the editor's rubber-tired buggy to go to Dixon Springs. On the bridge that had replaced the deep ford, our father and our brother were crossing the creek. The animal pulling the buggy was "Old Ned." Of all the "senseless" horses we ever knew, we believe he was the "champeen." Invariably he would run away on sight of a white horse or white cow. That spring day on the bridge, "Ned" spied a white animal beneath the bridge. He bolted and managed to turn around on a one way bridge. Our father, taken completely by surprise, did not hold him and our brother was reading a paper that he had gotten from the post office at Dixon Springs. The "turn-around" on the narrow bridge had broken one shaft from the buggy and had driven an axle through a wheel, tearing it down. The horse got entirely loose from the buggy and started back toward Dixon Springs, from which he had come only a few minutes before. We still recall how our father blamed his son, Tom, saying, "Tom, the sorry thing, was sitting there in the buggy and reading an old paper." We recall Tom's remark when he said "you tried to hold the horse by grabbing a buggy wheel." Anyway our father came by our little home late that day and said, "Well, Cal, I have torn up your buggy, but I will have it repaired." And he did. This was in the spring of 1914 and our father died in November of the next year. He was a good man and we loved him for his real worth. God bless his memory and grant that we may meet again some day where there will be no misunderstanding or accident while the peaceful things of eternity roll on.