Transcribed By Elsie Sampson
There were two articles in this issue of the Times
This being the article that began on page 3.
June 14, 1951
* CAL’S COLUMN *
We closed our last article with the story of the “Big Collar,” which Elder C. B. Massey put on our good friend of other years, Uncle Haskell Kemp. We would like to give some other incidents in the life of this remarkable man, who was hardly able to speak at all without stammering. Yet he was a good singer and had an excellent voice. He would seldom make a blunder in singing, unless he stopped singing and commented on the song. Then he would have a lapse into his bad stammering or stuttering. He was also quite able in prayer and hardly made a blunder in his speech while engaged in public prayer. We are sure that the reason for his being able to sing or pray without much impediment of speech was due to the effort he had to make to speak his words as they should have been uttered. This indicates that much stammering and perhaps all of it could be overcome by a careful effort on the part of the “stammerer,” if he would but take his time in speaking and seek to form his words as he could have done. We once had a cousin who was about to develop into a “stammerer,” and his mother would stop him in the midst of an antimated effort to talk and say, “Now George, stop and take your time and say what you want to say.” This soon had a good effect on the boy’s speech and now he has entirely overcome one of the most embarrassing handicaps known to the human family.
Uncle Haskell was also an able auctioneer, in which calling some care has to be used in talking before a crowd. We recall that almost always he opened a sale by saying, “Gentlemen and ladies.” He also had a way of catching the attention of the crowd by telling some kind of tale. His many friends were nearly always “picking” at the stammering man, and yet he had a quick come-back quite often. We recall that he used to get his crowd of prospective buyers together with some anecdote. One of them was to the effect that his father was an auctioneer and that he would often “throw-off” on his own folks, saying “All Kemps will lie and a few of them will steal.” We recall Uncle Haskell’s crying a sale of the articles in a store that once stood at the top of Steam Hill Hollow, near Gibbs’ Cross Roads. Haskell was selling some flashlight batteries and got tangled up in trying to call the name of the item he was selling. He had managed to say, “flashlight” in a very good way, but got tangled on “batteries,” saying about as follows: “Bat, blat, blat, blatteries.” The writer called out, “Say that again, Haskell.” Quick as a flash, he came back, “Sirree, sir, shut your mouth.”
On another occasion, when Cal was present, Haskell was crying a sale of used home furnishings, including a lot of used dishes. We noted that a large dish was about to be offered and that it had a gap broken in one side. Uncle Haskell picked up that dish, being careful to cover the break in the dish with his hand. Then he said, “What do I hear for this good dish?” Cal said, “Haskell move your hand so that the people can see the dish.” Sirree, sir, shut your mouth,” came back in an instant from the auctioneer.
We recall another episode at one of his sales, but we believe we have already related this incident. But we feel that it will bear repeating in this Column. John A. Gregory, son of the late Will Gregory, had passed away at his home on Peyton’s Creek about four miles above Pleasant Shade, and it became necessary to dispose of a large amount of personal property. The auction lasted two days and Haskell was then in his “element.” The writer was one of the clerks or who helped to keep the record of the sale. The crowd was at the corn crib in which several saddles had been placed for sale. Elder C. B. Massey had managed to get Uncle Haskell’s own saddle in line for sale; that is, he was going to have Uncle Haskell offer his own saddle at auction and not even recognize it. The saddle was not very good, but the auctioneer cried out, “What do I hear for this good saddle?” The first bid was $2.50, then $5.00, then $10, then $15 and on and on up to $50, when the auctioneer called, “Going once, twice and three times, and sold to Cap Massey.” We are quite sure that he did not recognize his own saddle until the unusual and spirited bidding made him realize that something out of the ordinary was taking place. He tried to make C. B. Massey take the saddle at the $50 bid, but was unsuccessful. Later Uncle Haskell said, “Sirree, sir, sir, I ought to have gone down to Tom Sanderson’s and bought the best saddle he had and had it charged to Cap Massey.” The crowd, when the bidding for the old saddle was going merrily on, had a “whale of a big time” over the trick that had been pulled on the auctioneer.
We recall another episode in Uncle Haskell’s early life. He was about to get married and he lived at that time on Defeated Creek. It was a custom then to have a lot of guests invited to attend the wedding. On meeting his cousin, Miss Peggy Russell, the stammering young prospective bride-groom began, “Sirree, sir, Peggy, sir Peggy, sir Peggy, sirree sir.” And this was as far as he seemingly could get in trying to convey his message to his cousin. She, knowing his inability to say things as most persons could, and also expecting him to get married shortly, said, “Haskell, you are about to get married, or you not?” “Sirree, sir, sir, that’s right.”
“And you are trying to invite me to the wedding?” said the young lady.
“Sirree, sir, that’s right,” replied the bridegroom-to-be.
Several years after his marriage and after he had a family of children, he lived on the waters of Defeated Creek, with his house in the bottom of the valley and farm and pasture lands on either side of the valley. On one hillside, there was a field of corn adjoining a pasture in which the family cow had been placed. Uncle Haskell was on the other hillside several hundred yards from the cornfield when he discovered the cow, whose name was Rose, in the cornfield. In his efforts to arouse some member of the family which were in the house, he began to call from this hillside far up above the house, “Ercer, sir, sir, siree, siree, ercer, ercer, sirree,” and not being able to say one intelligible word. Some member of the family at the house called back up the hillside and asked what the trouble was. The stammering was resumed about as given above, with the poor man stretching his arms and pointing across the valley toward the cornfield in which Rose was enjoying herself. Finally he did manage to say, “sook Rose,” and this was all he could do to inform the family of the fact that the old cow was in the cornfield. But this was enough and the cow was soon driven from the green corn.
We may have related the following incident that occurred about 25 years ago, which concerned Brother Massey and Brother Kemp. But we repeat it for any reader that did not notice it in the paper. One night during a revival at Gladdice Baptist church in Jackson County, Brother Massey had left his car in a barn before going to the night service. At the close of the service it became necessary for him to get the car out of the barn, Haskell going with him to aid in any way he could. It was a very dark night, so Uncle Haskell told the writer. In fact he said. “It was, ercer, so dark you couldn’t see your hand before your face.” He stated that the two men entered the dark barn hallway to get the car, that Brother Massey was in front and that he was not able to see a large yearling calf lying down in the hallway of the barn, that Brother Massey walked right over that calf, which arose in a second of time, with a loud, “Baw!” Haskell said, “Sirree, you ought to have seen that preacher’s feet fly right over his head.” Then he related how that calf moved over to one side and was standing there trembling when the lights of the car were turned on. He spoke to Brother Massey saying, “Sirree, sir, kick that calf.” And the preacher, so Uncle Haskell said, hauled back and kicked that calf “plum up into a ladder and left it there.” Brother Massey kept quiet while Uncle Haskell was relating the above episode to the writer. Then he said, “Haskell, I wish you would tell Brother Gregory how you saw my feet fly over my head when you had just stated that it was so dark you couldn’t see your hand before your face.” Haskell had no answer to make to this, but Cal supplied him with one, “Just as the calf said, ‘Baw!’ there came a flash of lightening that lighted up that dark hallway,” but Brother Haskell was too well tickled over the episode to take such a turn on Preacher Massey who was very hard to catch in any way when it came to a funny incident or to a joke.
We will relate one more episode and we give it from the report made by Brother Massey. One spring afternoon when Brother Massey had preached at Gladdice church, and with Uncle Haskell with him on the trip, one of the members, Brother Drury Sircy, said, “Brethren, go home with me and we will rob some bees tonight.” This was very much to Uncle Haskell’s liking and he said, “Ercer, sirree, Brother Massey, let’s go.” The minister said, “All right, Brother Sircy.” In a matter of a few minutes the home of the beeman had been reached. Supper was prepared and the two guests ate of a good country meal. Several of the neighbors came in to help with the bee robbing, bringing their women folks with them. The removing of the honey from the beehives started between sundown and dark, with the minister and several of the women sitting on the porch of the Sircy home and watching from a safe distance. But Uncle Haskell was right in the midst of operations, walking back and forth and trying to talk and having a good time generally. Finally, he called out. “Brother Massey, Ercer, sirree, why don’t you come out and sirree, help us. The minister replied, “If I should get a bee sting about the face, I could not see anything tomorrow.”
The unique character about whom we are writing this piece, called back, “They won’t, sirree, sir, hurt you. Sirree, sir, just watch me.”
The preacher, who was a very wise man, then spoke in a low tone to one of the women, saying , “Give me a pin. That old man is going to want me to get a bee off him soon.” Whereupon, Mrs. Sircy handed the preacher a pin. In a matter of only a few minutes the stammering man rushed over to Brother Massey, saying, “Ercer, sir, sirree, Brother Massey, get that ercer, sir, sirree, sir, bee off of my neck.”
We will not accuse our father in the ministry, Brother Massey of being mean; but what he did to that poor, innocent, stammering man, is, we admit, not far from being mean. He placed the pin between the right thumb and the forefinger on that hand, something like a quarter of an inch from the point of the pin and then got ready to “remove Haskell’s bee.” He got just behind the man who thought there was a bee on him, so that he could not see what was about to come to pass. With that sharp instrument placed between the thumb and forefinger, the preacher “jabbed” that pin into the same neck on which he had years before placed that big collar. From the stammering man burst the words, “Ercer, sir, sirree, sir, my God, he’s a-stinging me.”
The preacher kept a straight face, but we do not know just how he did it. About thirty minutes later, he called out, “Haskell, is that bee sting swelling any yet.”
The poor man who had been sadly mistreated, began to feel about the back of his neck, finally remarking, “Ercer, ercer, sirree, sir, I don’t believe it is,” and then the preacher had one of the best laughs of his life over the trick he had played on his good friend.
Perhaps some reader may think that the writer has given these episodes in the life of one of the most unique characters we ever knew, with a view to “throwing off” on him. Far be such a thought from our purpose. We loved this old man and would never play any real bad jokes on him. We are giving them for the purpose of preserving them, for Brother Massey is now in his 84th year, to let readers see the lighter side of life, to show that a handicap that would have ruined some men did not interfere in a useful life for Haskell Kemp, and to go back over memory’s trail through the years when life’s burdens were far lighter than they are today, and to get a little mental relaxation. We visited Uncle Haskell in his last illness a number of times and it was our sad duty to hold the funeral services for one we loved and who made life brighter and happier for all with whom he came in contact. God bless his memory which we will cherish as long as we live.