Transcribed by Timothy R. Meador, Jr.
October 19, 1950
* CAL’S COLUMN *
On that Thanksgiving Day, November 30, 1911, we had a wonderful time, with scores of the people of the community present, with the children putting on their plays, recitations and other acts, with credit to themselves, their school and the teachers. One of the guests for that day was our own brother, Thomas M. Gregory, who had come form our home at Mace’s Hill, near Dixon Springs. He had ridden over on horseback and decided to spend the night with his brother, Cal. We went down to the home of J. B. Mathis, who was boarding the teacher for eight dollars a month, had supper there and decided that we would go over to Ebenezer school, which was some four or five miles away and on the waters of the extreme upper part of Little Peyton’s Creek. Late that warm November day, the two of us, happy as we knew how to be, rode horseback up the valley, over the dividing ridge and then down the valley to Ebenezer. Here we found quite a number gathered for a “spelling bee,” and we may say that we delighted to attend those old-fashioned spelling contests. There was only one drawback, and that was the tear that we might miss a word and be “turned down.” Cal was then a good speller if he does say so, being able to spell every word in Hunt’s Progressive Speller, the old, red back spelling book that many of our middle-aged readers will recall. It should be added that Cal could not spell all of those words at this time, for his memory is going back on him.
The teacher of the Ebenezer school was a Miss Beasley. She refused to spell but announced that she would be the “pronunciator,” or as we then called her work, she would “give out” the words. We managed to get our brother, Tom, on our side, and did he “mow’em down?” But finally Miss Beasley gave out the word, “flinch.” She called it as if it was spelled with an “e” instead of an “i.” Our brother did not “catch” the word and repeated it two or three times just as she had pronounced it. Cal wanted to open his big mouth, but dared not. One word would have shown our brother what the word really was, for he was a most excellent speller and had one of the finest memories we ever knew. But he did not understand the word; and when he could wait no longer, he spelled the word “f-l-e-n-t-c-h,” which was wrong and down he went. Then it fell to the lot of the writer to take over and we “entered the fray.” One of the best spellers we knew in those years was none other than, the late Daily Smith, the father of our good friend, Glespie Smith, of Mt. Juliet, Tenn. He was a born speller; that is, he spelled without any apparent effort. He soon became our opponent in the spelling match that November night, 39 years ago. We spelled page after page in that old red-backed speller. Finally on page 110, it fell to Brother Smith’s lot to spell the word, “ferrude.” He missed the word and Cal felt a little mean when he “turned down” his good friend. Brother Smith has been gone for many years, dying when quite young. Considering his opportunities for an education, he did remarkably well, and we honor him for his sterling worth and the excellent life he lived.
On Friday, October 20, 1911, while we were in charge of the Old Bottom school, we closed the school for one week, in order that the boys and girls might have the benefit of the revival. This was done at the direction of the school directors. We had been informed that at home our father and brother were sick and that Cal’s labors were needed on the farm. So as we closed the school that Friday afternoon, almost exactly 39 years ago, we informed the girls and boys of the closing of the school for the week of the revival, of our plans to go home and work on our father’s little farm, and also spoke to the children about their souls in a brief way. At that time we were laboring under the impression that sooner or later, Cal would enter the ministry. This was our first talk publicly to any group on the matter of personal salvation. Of course there may be those who objected to our brief message to those girls and boys. But they lived in a community in which all were of one mind in matters pertaining religion. So when our brief message ended, we dismissed school until the next Monday week following.
We went home and found our father and brother still indisposed and not able to carry on much farm work. We were strong then and “fell to” with a lot of vim and vigor. We had to make the year’s supply of sorghum molasses, cut wood, gather corn and do a number of other farm jobs. We put in a week of hard work and returned to the Beech Bottom section on Sunday, October 29th. When we reached the church house, we found not a soul there, but the ground about the building was dusty and showed the effects of much traffic since we had left for our home. We boarded, as has already been said, with J. B. Mathis, who lived down Dry Fork Creek, about a mile below the school and church. We were nearing the boarding place when we found the crowd we had expected at church. Elder J. H. Ramsey, now of Watertown, Tennessee, had held the revival. He was bowed in prayer near the water’s edge when Cal arrived. We can still see the staff in his hand while he prayed. It was a big “horseweed,” which plants are still common in many places. After the prayer, he made a talk on baptism and then led the candidates out into the water. The heart of the writer was thrilled when he saw among the number some seven or eight of his school children, part of whom, in later years, informed the writer that his little talk had led them to think about their souls and had been in a human way, one of the causes for their turning to God. We look back to that day, almost 39 years ago, with quite a lot of satisfaction.
On that day we were with the girl who later became our first wife, for the first time, taking her home from the baptismal service in our rubber-tired buggy. This resulted in part from a question asked by our good friend, Otha Gregory, now of Gallatin. He was then a good-natured, jolly, laughing boy of about 19. He asked, “Why don’t you take one of these girls home?” Cal answered, “None of them would allow me to take her home.” He insisted and finally we agreed to take one of them home if she would permit us that pleasure. Then he asked, “Which one of them do you want to take home?” Our reply, “Any one of them.” We finally had to make a decision and told him to ask the Gammon girl if she would allow him to take her to her home. The girl blushingly agreed, and that day we began a friendship and an association together that ended in our marriage some months later. For 14 years we journeyed through life together, finding many of the trials, the labors and the sorrows that most of us know in life, and finally terminating in her fatal illness of 17 months, and then our sad, sorrowful farewell to each other on June 1, 1926, when she went away to return no more.
We go back to Beech Bottom, God willing, on the coming Sunday to begin a revival meeting. The hills and streams are about as they were 40 years age, but other surroundings are almost entirely different. J. B. Mathis, Mr. and Mr. Jim Wilburn, Mrs. Bettie Shrum, and a very few more that were in that section 39 years ago, still reside there. But the years have taken their toll, and all of them are growing old. And Cal is feeling the weight of the years, his eyes are growing dim, his hearing is failing and the strength, the activity, the boundless energy and the fond, beckoning hopes of those happy years are all fading, slowly fading from the picture. These good friends of other years, who still live, will soon be gone and will leave to return no more. We still recall the tears of sorrow and regret that fell from the eyes of our pupils as we closed our one and only school at Beech Bottom just before Christmas, 1911. And somehow, those boys and girls of that day, nearly two-score years gone, are near and dear to us. They, like their teacher, are growing old and will soon fold their tents and silently steal away. The heavenly country is brighter today than ever before and the ties that bind us to earth are slowly relaxing, and those that bind us on to eternity grow stronger with the passing of the years. We drop a tear on the memories that linger about the old school and church of 40 years ago and wonder if we are to search Heaven for any of our boys and girls who with light hearts and bright faces, greeted Cal on that opening morning of school, September 25, 1911. God grant that we may not look for them in vain.
Transcribers note: Amen