Transcribed by Pat Stubbs
December 8, 1949 - Reprinted August 11, 1977
* CAL’S COLUMN *
Some of the funny thing of other years, particularly those that happened at school, have lingered in memory from boyhood till the present. Readers will recall that we mentioned one very poor boy who attended the old school at Mace's Hill a long time ago. We told of his poverty in a previous article. The story of his life was brief, lasting only into the twenties when he gave his life for his country. We recall a very funny thing, to us at least, that happened on a hot day about 45 years ago. A bumblebee's nest had been discovered in an old log on a hillside, about 90 yards from the school building. The log was in a rather rotten condition, lying on the side of the hill just as it had fallen years before. By the log stood a black walnut tree. Shortly after the discovery of the bumblebees, the boys organized to fight them, marching somewhat in order to the "scene of the battle," then stirring up the bees that came out of the log so angry that they struck together quite often in the air. The boys would stand their ground as long as they could; but by the time four or five of them had been painfully stung, the boy's would break their ranks and flee down the hillside. The boy above mentioned was in the "forefront of the battle," when two or three bumblebees got into his hair. He fought them off for a brief time and then decided that a "good run was better than a bad stand." So he came down the hillside as hard as he could run and stopped on a little bench on the hillside, on the exact present location of Mace's Hill church house. Here under some shade trees were the teacher, Prof. Geo. W. Goad, and our uncle, Wiseman Gregory, who dearly loved any kind of funny thing that happened. The boy with the bees on his head, managed to stop in his mad flight. He "squatted" on the ground, and instead of using his hand to pull the bees from his rather long hair, he picked up a small stick and tried to "rake" the bees from his hair. Our uncle was a witness to this and as the poor boy raked and raked with his left hand, it seemed that the bees stuck tighter and tighter. He never could dislodge his tormenters with the stick and finally had to use his hand. Our uncle watched this and he almost got down on the ground and rolled with laughter. We can still see in our mind's eye the poor boy who raked and raked through his hair in a vain effort to dislodge the bees.
While we are on the subject of fighting bumblebees, we presume that modern boys do not have this kind of fun(?). Many, many times in the past we have fought bumblebees. We recall one Sunday afternoon about 44 years ago when the writer had quite a lot of boy company and we needed something to do to entertain ourselves. Across the road from our father's home lived Mrs. Nora Wilburn and her son, Paul, who died a few weeks ago. Finally Paul said: "Boys, Mammy is gone from home and there is a big bumblebee's nest in the logs at the back end of our house. Let us fight them." This suited the rest of us to a "t," and we went at once to the log house in which Paul and his mother lived. Paul led the way for a time, going to the part of the house where the bees had their nest. Paul would advance, stir up the bees and retreat. Generally the rest of the group with brushes made of weeds, would fall upon the bees in reach and knock them to the ground and then crush them. When they got too hot on us, we would run and fall down in the high weeds nearby. The writer was wearing only a very thin shirt, and cotton pants, and had no shoes and socks. The weather was extremely hot and this was hard work, fighting bumblebees. So our shirt was wet with sweat and sticking to our skin. Just over the top of our pants and on the front of our body, we got the worst bumblebee sting we ever had in life, the thin shirt being no more in the way than mosquito netting. To us it seemed that the sting had gone clear through "to the hollow," and we resented the injury very much. About this time Paul called out and said, "Boys, wait a minute," and went into his home. He secured a rather large paper bag, tore out two places for eyes, pulled the bag down over his face and then said, "Boys, watch me." We watched as he marched boldly to the bees' hiding place. Soon they rolled out of their nest and began an attack on their enemy. Soon the mad or angry bees were hitting that paper sack with a force loud enough to be heard several feet away. Finallly the boy called out, "Boys, come to me," and yanked the paper bag from his head. Then the bees piled in on him from every side and his loud crying is still remembered till this day. We had to give up this fight and leave the bees in "control of their fort." We have often wondered how that poor widow managed to live in her home in the days that followed.
Many, many, events that were funny to us in childhood do not have the same force in provoking laughter they did then. We recall that Sam Wilburn, now dead, was once asked to write a sentence on the blackboard. He was a rather poor "scribe," and when he had completed his sentence, he was unable to read it. The teacher, George W. Goad, said "Samuel, read what you have written." The poor boy went to the blackboard and tried and tried to make out his own handwriting and made a dismal failure. Finally a small girl in school spoke up and said , "Mr. Goad, I can read it." Given permission by the teacher, she read the following: "My teacher is Mr. George W. Gouard." The pupil did not know how to spell the name Goad. This embarassed the youth very much, but it was a lot of fun to the rest of us. Years later this girl and young Wilburn were married.
A brother of Sam’s once got off a big laugh in school when he was asked in the geography class, the question, “Where is the Yellowstone National Park?” His answer was, “I think it is Africa,” and we wonder today why the larger students in the class got so much kick out of the error. It is hardly funny at all today, but the “Ha-ha-ing” that followed that answer made the school house ring, and shamed the one who had given the wrong answer. School children are sometimes cruel as they laugh at sensitive souls that are to timid to take their own part.
We recall another episode at the same place that we regret today. We were teaching there, in our second school in the year of 1911, and our brother, Thomas M. Gregory, was one of our pupils. He is only 14 months and three weeks younger than the writer and was in 1911 nearly our size. We were hearing the Tennessee history lesson and our brother, who knew the lesson almost by memory, was answering practically all the questions and did not give the remainder of the class time to answer. We remonstrated with him in a kind way at first to desist and let somebody else have a chance to answer. A second admonition along the same line was a little more urgent and our brother took out. When it came his time to answer, the question was, "What kind of guns did the pioneer settlers in Tennessee have or use?" Sulkily he answered, "They had guns with barrels about 75 feet long." We knew that he was better informed than to answer thus and that he was making this kind of response to our question in an effort to throw off on his teacher brother. We felt that this was an affront to the teacher not to be borne, that he was "sassing us." We were quite quick of motion in those days, and almost before our brother knew what we were doing, we had slammed that history book down on top of his head with a noise that could have been heard a hundred feet or more. We are sorry today for this, but we did not have enough of a forgiving spirit then to overlook our dear brother's peeve. And we might add that this one borther was perhaps closer to us in our boyhood than anybody else. We had one other brother, but he was about 19 years younger than the writer. So we had a special feeling for this brother, with whom we grew up, who was our bedfellow for 15 years or more, who ate by our side, who drank from the same little tin cup that served us both at the table, who was our charge in a way at school in his first three or four years as a student or even longer. It is true that we sometimes fought and he was almost as strong as the writer and sometimes got the better of our scraps. We always had to take the lead in nearly everything and this later proved to be a disadvantage to our brother, and many times, in those distant years did we hear him say, "Cal can do that." So even at this late day we apologize to our only living brother for tapping him on the head with the text book we were using that day almost 59 years ago. We forgive him for his threat made to other students to whip the teacher, a thing we never heard of until comparatively recent years.
Our brother has had a hard time, having served Kroger as a salesman and manager for many, many years, until he is growing old like the writer. Soon he will be "laid on the shelf" by his employer and will be forced to give up the work to which he has given the very best of his years.
Peace and happiness and contentment for him in his old age is our wish for him in the remaining years that may be his, and then a grand reunion with others who went on before in "Bright Mansions Above' about which our dear father, Pappie to us, used to sing.