Transcribed by Melody Carter
July 15, 1948
* CAL’S COLUMN *
This week’s “Colyum” will deal largely with reminiscences or the recalling of events of the years gone by. In 1910, we took the examination for teachers at Carthage and passed with “flying colors,” making the highest grade of certificate. This was in the days of the old School Director system and before we ever heard of a County Board of Education. So, after having been given our certificate, we borrowed one of our dad’s horses and proceeded to look for a school. We felt that it would not be wise to open our career as a teacher in our home community of Mace’s Hill, feeling that we had too many kinfolks there and we would be just “plain Cal” to the boys and girls with whom we had gone to school. So we left our native community and traversed the hills and valleys to Defeated Creek, where we met one Pendy Copas, then a School Director for the Fifth District of Smith County, which district had three or four schools. We made application for Dean Hill school, a school located at the extreme upper end of Salt Lick Creek of Cumberland River, and situated in a deep valley surrounded by green hills. We had never seen the place when we applied for the school. After giving us the once over and finding our appearance at least fairly satisfactory and also having been shown our certificate with the notation, “Best, certificate of this grade,” Mr. Copas gave us the school, writing out the contract which called for four months of school at $40.00 per month. This looked like a fortune to a hillbilly boy who had never before made that much in a month. It was all of $2.00 a day. So we “rid” back home with the good news to the family, our parents and brothers and sisters. Then followed a few weeks of as hard work almost as we ever did on the farm, to try to get ready to start school on the eighth of August. We put in almost every hour we could as our father was a hardworking man with a large family and the loss of our labor would be keenly felt. About the first of August, 1910, in company with our father’s sister, Aunt Martha Wright, we set out for the scene of our coming labors. We had imagined that we knew just how we would find everything. But hardly anything was even remotely like we had imagined we would find it.
We drove from the vicinity of Mace’s Hill in a buggy drawn by the old family mare, old Nell, and eventually arrived in the neighborhood of Dean Hill. From the top of the hill, we viewed the little white school house, set against a background of cedars and at the edge of a large bluegrass pasture. We did not descend from the hilltop to the school, but proceeded around the top of the high hill to the home of Mr. and Mrs. Tom Donoho’s sister, Aunt Bide Russell, the blind lady known to hundreds of our readers. There we found a welcome and as fine a dinner as we ever sat down to. Somehow we had gained the impression that we would find food scanty and we were joyfully surprised to find a long table loaded down with good things. Our Aunt Martha had been in the Donoho home on other occasions and was always a welcome visitor, which was our reason for going there first of all.
After eating of a hearty dinner or midday meal, we took up our work of visiting the homes of the girls and boys who were to be our students. We visited practically every home and became acquainted with our pupils before the opening day of school. School began on the morning of August 8, 1910, and we worried quite a lot about opening school, wondering if it would not be better to begin school with a brief prayer. This we did, although we were only 19 years of age and a convert of a year; and we never failed to have a short prayer daily during the entire 15 years we taught school.
One of the things dreaded back there by all young teachers was the coming of the County Superintendent to visit the school. The Superintendent of Smith County schools then was Joe C. Nichols, who is still living and residing on a farm near Gallatin. When we saw him drive up in his buggy, we had a wild notion of going out the window and were able to restrain that impulse only with difficulty. However, his visit was a very pleasant one and he did not criticize the work of the young teacher with his first school. He offered a number of helpful suggestions which we tried to put into effect.
School opened with about 40 students or pupils, and we were able to maintain an average of 32 per day for the entire term of four months. Some months ago we had an appointment at the same place, but only two of the 40 students of 38 years ago were present. Quite a number of those boys and girls have passed on into the great beyond, and almost all of them have gone to other places to make their homes. It was rather sad to look over the scenes of nearly two score years ago and find only two of the students of that distant day. Both these students were growing gray and the onward march of time was hurrying them from the scenes of this life. But memory ran riot as it were, back!! through the years, and we saw ourself a youth of 19, with a face just beginning to grow a few scattering whiskers, walking into the building with buoyant steps, with bright hopes for the future and with hardly a thought of the trials, toils and labors of the coming years.
But another picture was unfolded before us as memory continued to unfold its record. We saw our first case of corporal punishment roll around, we gave the boy a “trial,” and found him guilty and then we had to lay the lash on. It was our first experience in such matters and it left a lasting impression. But the worst part of it all came to pass the next morning. We were nearly ready to call “books,” and we had some company that morning, Uncle Billy Canter, his son, Jim Canter; and a man named Williams. Two of these men were about the worst men to laugh we ever saw. When the mother of the youth we had whipped rode up, these three men got ready to have some fun. We took one of the worst “tongue-lashings” we ever had in life from the mother of the boy. We stood before her as she set on her horse, our head down and our face flushed and hot. We took time to peep out from under our hat brim, to see the three men ready to “burst with laughter.” I tried to “appease” this mother but my success was very limited. At last she rode away, to my great relief. Then I had to face the laughing men. Two of them have gone into eternity; but the other, Jim Canter, still lives, although he is in rather feeble health at his home now on upper Defeated Creek. He still gets a kick out of that episode of 38 years ago.
We boarded with Alvis Donoho, a son of Uncle Tom and Aunt Polly Ann. His wife, the former Miss Jennie Grandstaff, was one of the good women of her time, and took a motherly interest in the young teacher. We paid her the sum of $8.00 per month board, counted by the school month. This included washing and ironing, our home being 12 miles away and too far to go home each week end. They lived near the schoolhouse, and their old home stood until about 15 months ago when it burned. The writer passed that place on Sunday, July 11th, and looked about the place with sorrow and regrets. Alvis and his good wife have both gone to their long home; and all their children are scattered and gone. Only one of them, Mrs. Grace Law, lives in Tennessee, the others being in Kentucky and Texas.
We still remember what we did with part of our $40.00 we received for teaching that first month. We paid our board, and then took $14.00 of the month’s salary and spent it for one of the long-skirted saddles common in that day and time. The saddle had what was called a “quilted seat.” About as sweet music as our ears ever heard as a young man was the squeaking of that saddle. It lasted for years and was well worth the price paid for it. But a brand-new automobile costing $2,500, if given us absolutely free could not now bring us as much joy as did that $14.00 saddle. We bought it from Mann Sloan, Pleasant Shade merchant, who has long since gone to be with his God.
On last Sunday we stopped over at the old Donoho home, which still stands although its present occupant, M. H. Davenport, plans to tear the old house down and build a new and modern home shortly. Memories ran about the old place, one after the other. Just in front of the old home was the old windlass and line and wire that reached down to the cave spring. A long wire was attached to a tree or post near the spring, then a small house was built on the top of the hill near the Donoho home, a windlass was put up and a long cord reaching from the spring to the windlass was used to let the bucket down until it was under the stream that gushed out of the hillside. Then with the turning of the windlass, the pail of cold water came slowly up the wire, riding on little pulleys to ease the friction. It was a rather slow way of obtaining water, but the spring never failed and the water was of the best. But now a well has been drilled 94 feet into the earth and the old windlass house has blown down and lies prostrate on its side. The trees that once formed an almost solid wall at the break of the ridge and just below the old water house, now have a break through them and a new power line brings current into the Davenport home. The break in the timber enables one to look far down the valley now, a thing that was impossible 38 years ago. In the far distance can be seen the hills that lie many miles away beyond the Cumberland. We used to see squirrels playing in the chestnut trees that were then numerous about the old Donoho home. But these trees, like the inhabitants of the home in that day, are dead. Their gaunt forms here and there stretch into the sky, reminders of the past when chestnuts were to be found in abundance on all the Highland Rim, to the delight of boys and girls, and to dwellers in the forest. In the valley below the old water house, one can now see the home of Mr. Deering, where once lived Howard Donoho and family, all of whom are either dead or moved away.
Uncle Tom Donoho made a good living on his farm of about 115 acres, although he seldom used but one horse to plow his ground. We remember this old horse, old Selim. He was racing about the old home and happened to the misfortune of knocking the “cap” off one hip bone as he passed too close to the corner. But he has long since gone the way of all the earth. However, the present owner of the farm has a tractor, a truck and a car, and is seeking to conserve the fertility of his soil, to build up his lands and to improve his surroundings. He has a large amount of barn space, some alfalfa, and other crops, and is preparing to put much of the steeper parts of his farm into grazing lands.
In our next article we hope to give some of the events that took place in that section in the years gone by, part of which will show the manner of life there as in many other places, when the rush, the hurry and the confusion of present-day living did not rob people of their enjoyment of life.