Transcribed by Janette West Grimes
August 16, 1951 and reprinted January 12, 1978
* CALíS COLUMN *
†† We closed our last articcle with some remarks about being in the hollow that made up much of our grandfather and uncles' farm. We resume and will try to complete our reminiscences of the long ago, with this article.
†† On our recent visit to the "hollow," we went specially to see the little spring located in the head of the hollow and from which we drank hundreds of times. Part of the time there was an "oyster can" to use and part of the time, we just lay down and drank directly from the little pool. It was good† so far as taste was concerned. We sought out the spring some days ago, but could not get anywhere near the old location because of trees cut down and lying rotting in the little valley and also because of weeds and briers. We did find the "run - off" from the stream, but the old fountain was not as it used to be in the long gone years. We used to own a good hunting dog or dogs all the time. We recall that we have drunk from that spring many a time when it was still muddy from our dog's taking a bath in the pool. We weren't very sanitary we admit, but thirst will make one drink almost any kind of water, dirty or clean. Just why we did not put a coverning over that spring to keep out the dogs, terrapins and snakes, we do not know. We wanted one more drink from the old spring from which we drank 50 years ago, but we were denied the pleasure.
†† Just above the spring and to the south lay a large hillside from which the woods were cleared nearly half a century ago. On this hillside, near the woods on an adjoining farm, we saw our first balloon, one August day about 47 years ago. It had ascended from the Dixon Springs Fair and bore in it Bill Cleveland. He used a parachute to descend. He also carried a loft with him a small dog that he released high above the earth and which came down on a parachute. Our own father was present when the dog came down, virtually scared to death. The trembling of that dog, his forlorn appearance, his looking for help and other features of that dog's descent, as described to our father's children by our "pappie," remain in memory till today. We were at work in the extreme upper sidde of that "new ground" when the balloon appeared some three miles away.
†† We recall another episode connected with the clearing of †that hillside. A tree with a big crook in it was cut down, the crooked part striking the ground first and the butt of the tree being thrown into the air for some distance with terrific force. One of the men present said, "If somebody had been sitting on the butt of that tree, he would have been blown high enough to see Dixon Springs,"Just why so small matters registered so clearly in our little mind, we do not know. All those men at work that day in that big "clearing" are gone from earth and live in memory. Our grandfather, father, uncles, cousins and neighbors of that day have gone the way of the earth, except for a few younger cousins, who, like the editor, are growing old.
†† Just to the north of that piece of land and above the field that our father cultivated in corn, about which we have already written, was what, to the writer, was a big tract of timbered land. In fact to Cal it was like some of the big forests of which we had read. But it was in fact a very small tract of perhaps ten acres. The big trees, mostly beech, are now gone, and the land then given to large trees, is now largely given over to bushes.
†† To the south of that little spring and in the next valley occurred an event that will live long in Cal's memory. Over the hill from the stream was a farm owned by Bill Bob Gregory, who had married his first cousin, our own aunt Cinda. On the same farm lived a brother of Bill Bob Gregory, John Bob Gregory.These and other brothers were called "Bob" for their father. Robert Hawkins Gregory, known as Bob Gregory. John was cultivating part of the farm owned by his brother. Cal lived at that time, early in 1915, near his school at Piper's on Nickojack Branch, a distance of about four miles from the Bill Gregory Hollow. Cal lived at that time in a large log house in the midst of a section overgrown with cedar trees and bushes and undergrowth about as thick as we ever saw. He had at that time a wife and one child, our oldest son, Lawrence Gregory: and also four of his sisters, who made their home with him.
†† About eight o'clock one spring night, the telephone rang and the voice on the other end of the wire was that of our brother, Thomas M. Gregory, who greeted the writer with the following: "Hello, Cal! You better look out over there. John Bob Gregory saw two lions as big as yearlins, today and the last he saw f them they were going in the direction of your house. They ought to get over to that big thicket around your house by about four o'clock in the morning." The conversation revealed that John Bob Gregory in the very next valley over the hill from the little spring, had been plowing in a field which was surrounded at one end by woods, that his mule would snort and appear frightened at each approach to the end of the field next to the woods, that late in the day and high up on the hillside, Gregory had spied two strange animals having all the appearance of lions, that he had gone to where he had seen them, found their tracks, discovered where they had crawled through a barbwire fence, whose strands were two feet apart and found lion hair on both the top and bottom strands. They were our brother said headed in the direction of Cal's log house. Our brother also informed us that the lions were reported that day to have nearly killed a man on Dry Fork, about 15 miles to the northwest, and five miles southeast of Lafayette.
†† Cal began to do some "deducting." He remembered that Haag Brothers Circus, a wagon outfit, had a few days befor come from Carthage, to Dixon Springs, thence to Hartsville and Lafayette, and that the show had two large lions. He further surmised that they had gotten out of captivity and that they were most likely trying to retrace that route followed by the show. In the midst of his "surmising" his telephone rang again and the call was from his wife's grandfather, Mitchell Gammon, who resided then on Dry Fork, above Beech Bottom. He knew nothing about any man being badly hurt that day on Dry Fork, but he added that Alvis Andrews, a neighbor, had that night shot at a "big beast" in his yard. Whether he had hit the "wild animal" was not known.
†† All these things added to Cal's upset state of mind. He decided that the world was full of "wild things," part of which state of mind was attributable to stories in the daily papers which reported wild animals as being sen in a number of places in Middle Tennessee. He had also heard of wild beasts being seen on Dry Fork previous to that time, at the Gap of the Ridge and numerous other places. We wonder now just how much or how little truth there was in the stories that were going the rounds over a territory of perhaps 2,500 square miles.
†† Anyway, Cal was in a "fix," having a shtgun but not one load, and also having an old, muzzle- loading rifle without any bullets or pwder. He proposed to his wife and sisters that he walk down the valley from his home to the store, located across the creek from Graveltown and owned by Dixon Beal, a trip of a good mile or more. But the wife and sisters said they were going with Cal if he went, that they would not stay in that house in the head of that hollow alone even while Cal went for ammunition to defend his home. Inquiry about a light† revealed that we had no lantern nor flashlight and it was a dark night.
†† Readers will perhaps be inclined to judge Cal rather harshly or think that he was an abject coward. But please bear in mind that he was then only 24 years old, had a family composed of a wife, one son and four sisters, and that he was not much of a "pioneer." So instead of going forth from that valley that dark night, we decided to barricade the house. At first it was decided that all seven of us would go to the second story and sleep on the beds there. Then it was decided should the should the lions gain the lower floor and the stairway, it was "Good night, Katy, and throw the key away." So that idea was abandoned and it was decided to "take our stand" on the lower floor where we had two other beds. We barricaded the big window in that room the best we could, but did not like the "button" on the doors. These were made of very soft buckeye wood and would stand but little pressure. We called for the hammer and nails, took four ten-penny nails and drove them into heavy wood doors and sank the nails to about two thirds their length in the door and the facing. This was about ten o'clock in the night. Then we retired. Cal and his wife and baby in one bed, and four sisters, two of them grown and the other two, seven and 11 years of age, respectively. But Cal could not sleep. There was no air in the room and it was a hot spring night. Away down in the night he heard one of his sisters say, "I am just a-burning up." Finally the long, long night passed and the coming light of another day dispelled our fears of the night before. We took the hammer, extracted the nails and then said to the wife of our youth, "Mai, don't say anything about my nailing up the doors." In this we were betrayed, for the man on whose farm Cal lived, Tom Smith by name, came by about eight o' clock, after† Cal and his sisters had gone to school, and reported finding lion tracks perhaps eight inches across in the mud between his home and the old log house. The wife then told Smith about our nailng up the doors. If it had been published in the county paper, it would not have traveled any faster. We are reminded every little while of our nailing up the doors. It is funny and even lidicrous now, but it was not a laughing matter at all on that night when Cal had the care of seven persons, including himself.
†† Neighbors gathered in that hollow over from the hill from that spring a little later, with rifles, pistols, shotguns, axes and other things with which to "slay the beasts." They beat through the bushes, canebreaks, forests and fields, but "nary a trace" of the lions was found. It developed later that a neighbor John Gregory's had sheared his two large red shepherd dogs, leaving them with a "switch" on the ends of their tails, and leaving the long hair that shepherd dogs have from the shoulders "eastward," providing the dog was headed in that direction. So the biggest fright know in that section in the past 75 years came about or had its origin just over the hill from the spring that furnished Cal with water to quench his thirst as a farm boy in the long gone years.
†† Just what could have given ris to so many stories of wild beasts being seen or heard, and from such wide spread places, virtually all over Middle Tennessee we do not know nor do we even hazard a guess.
†† Cal was not the only fellow to nail up or barricade his home, Casper Shoulders, lived now near Mace's Hill, nailed up a window and kept it that way for some time. Our recollection is that he said his wife asked him to do this, and she is now dead and unable to "defend" herself. Our good friend and relative, Len Ballou, "heard something" one night when leaving Mace's Hill and starting across by the "Knob Spring" to go into a valley in which he lived. He retreated and came back to the Nickojack Road and went down to the place where the valley in which he lived emptied its waters in Nickojack Branch and then went up the valley to his home, a distance of perhaps two and a half miles out of the way. Jeff Gregory, now of Old Hickory, "saw something" on Dry Fork in broad, open daylight that he could not identify. Wiseman Hargis, son of Billie Hargis, Dry Fork farmer, saw something coming up through a plowed field and never did† know what it was. So Cal did just about like the average in his fear. He acted foolishly, but he still wants to apply the injunction."He that is without sin, let him cast the first †stone."
†† Not far from the spring so many times referred to, and somewhat to the southwest. was a low hilltop in woods 50 years ago. About 1905 our father "cleared" this land, getting the use of it for two years for tobacco. Many memories cluster about this rather flat land cleared by our father and his sons. One incident stands out above all others in connection with this field, so far as Cal is concerned. It was tobacco cutting time either 1905 or 1906 and Cal had been sent to get some forks† and poles, to be used for hanging the green tobacco that might be partially cured or largely cured in the field. We were wearing a pair of brogan shoes that hurt Cal's large "footsie," and he had taken a knife and cut away the part that was pressing on his foot, some four inches back from the end of his toes. His father always had a sharp axe. With this axe, Cal was engaged in† in cutting off part of a "tobacco fork," or part of a small tree that had a fork in it. He had no log on which to chop the "too-long" fork in twain. So he set the butt end of the fork on rather hard ground and held it with his left hand, the axe in his right hand. We struck that piece of wood a blow or two, then turned the fork around to chop it from the other side. The first blow on the "other side" glanced off and that sharp axe descended on our right foot, going right into that opening that had been made with a pocket knife to relieve the pressure. The sharp blade cut into the top of Cal's foot, perhaps half an inch deep, but he thought it was two inches deep. Our father saw what had been done and ordered Cal to go "to the house" a distance of a mile and a half. We left our blood over the entire distance and finally arrived at home. Our mother wrapped up the foot as best she could, but there was no thought of calling a doctor. Our father, who thought he was a pretty good doctor, then gave the injured foot what he thought was all the treatment it needed. The writer's "pappie" first washed away all the blood he could, as well as the dust and dirt, but he did not use a drop of any disinfectant unless turpentine is a disinfetant. He placed some cotton over that cut, put on some sugar and then saturated† the cotton and sugar with turpentine. Then he bould up the foot with clean cloths. Work was out of the question for the time being, except we could "hobble about" and cut the stove wood. That cut should have been closed with the needed stitches, but it was not. It did not heal for weeks and weeks, remaining a kind of dark blue mass of blood and pus. We were quite active in spite of that hurt foot and learned to disregard it somewhat. In that state we recall that we walked to Pleasant Shade once or twice, a distance of six miles each trip. Finally about two months after sustaining the cut, our father who would not allow Cal to go into the dew with his sore foot, ordered him to build a hog pen of rails. We had some help from a sister or two and were geting along, we thought, quite well in the task just assigned to us. That foot was still unhealed after two months, an unclosed cut of about two inches and a dark blue mass of blood and pus still remaining. We were carrying a very large, heavy fence rail to put into that hog pen. Just how it happened, we do not know and probably never will. But Cal somehow droppd that big rail. It struck his right on that open, unhealed cut in his right foot. We do not recall anything so painful before or since in all our sixty years. The bloody, pus-filled wound was smashed by the dropping or falling rail and blood and pus flew from the cut. We did not want to cry, but we could not help it. Our helper sisters were much alarmed and wanted to go for "pappie," but we would not allow them to go. In a matter of a few minutes the pain began to subside and in a little while the foot was easy. It began to mend from that very day and in a matter of two or three weeks was entirely well. It was rough treatment, but it was about the best thing that could have happened to the wound that had not even started to heal for two months or more. We still have that scar and the place is a little tender, but that is all the discomfort we now suffer from the boyish act of nearly 50 years ago.
†† On our return from the valley about whichwe have been writing for some time, we passed a place on the hillside not very far from the old tobacco barn. Here we went back in memory to one Christmas about 51 years ago. Most of our men folks and the boys went hunting at Christmas time. Our first cousin, Howard Wilburn, who is about six years our senior, was one of the hunting party, which included our father, brother, uncles and others. Howard is now a Dixon Springs merchant and one of our deacons in our church at Mace's Hill. That Christmas long ago he had a comparatively new shotgun and was highly pleased with it, but he could not find any rabbits to shoot. Finally our father, Howard;'s uncle, spied a whitish-looking rock in a brush pile or under some weeds, called Howard to him, pointed to the rock and told Howard to "shoot that rabbit." Howard blazed away with that shotgun, the shots striking the stone that he thought was a rabbit. Our father got a great kick out of the incident and so did all the party except Howard, who was, much chagrined over what he had done. When we passed the place of this event of more than 50 years ago, on our travels over the old farm on July 20th, our mind went back across the years and we saw that group again. We saw our father carring a long, muzzle-loading rifle, with which he was the best shot Cal ever saw; our uncle Monroe also carrying a long rifle; our uncle Lute carrying a shotgun, Howard Wilburn and his brother, Sam, with shotguns; and Cal and his brother, Tom, going along to carruy the rabbits or other game. Our father went first, dying in 1914, about 14 years after the hunting trip. Our uncle Monroe went next. Then uncle Lute, and then Sam and then Sam Wilburn. Left are Howard, our brother, Tom, and Cal, and we are growing old.
†† One more visit of a month ago remains to be narrated. We came by the field in which we took up hay on that old farm in August, 1909. We are thus engaged in haying on the afternoon of Aug. 3rd, of that year. Cal had been attending a brush arbor revival at Mace's Hill, a quarter of a mile above his home. This meeting was in charge of Elder Ernest Corum, a young Baptist minister. Cal was brought up largely without church surroundings. He had become convinced that he was a sinner, without God and without hope in the world. Not a word had been said by Cal to a living soul concerning his terrible mental and soul distress. The afternoon of August 2nd, he had made a vow to God to seek the Lord, but he had gone back on his vow. The next afternoon as he was loading hay a small black cloud arose in the West, the lightening flashed and the thunder rolled. We can still see in our mind the streaks of lightning that flashed from the clouds down toward the earth, and hear the heavy thunders that followed. In this sad state of utter condemnation, we felt that a bolt of lightning that would destroy our useless life, a sinful and vain life, would be our just deserts. With a heavy heart we carried that load of hay to our home. We dressed and went to church or "big meeting" that night. Our terrible burden grew more heavy and more unbearable. At last after the most bitter sorrow we ever knew, and when all else had failed, the writer submitted himself unto God and found a blessed peace that followed him through the years, and we are facing our long home unafraid and in the greatest assurance that "the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." Prov. 4: 18.