March 8, 1956
Transcribed by Pat Stubbs
* CALíS COLUMN *
†† Believing that a "little fun now and then, is relished by the best of men," we are here giving a few things that "touched" our funny bone.† Perhaps we shall be criticized by some of our readers, but we believe that the greater part of them will be glad to have a few things "of a light *with to be classed as a foolish fellow who could see only the funny "things of life" and neither does he wish to be considered a "killjoy."† We are sure that at the best we can do, all of us find an abundance of sad, sorrowful and grievous things.
[NOTE:*it repeated "to have a few things "of a light-" then there was an obvious omission and it continued] It is a obvious typeset error here.
†††† The writer has held or had part in about 3,000 funerals in the past 40 years.† If he could call to mind or remember nothing save the gloomy and sad side of life, he does not feel that he could carry on.† Memory calls up hundreds and hundreds of broken-up homes, sad, desolate and cast-down men and women, fatherless and motherless children, hopelessly sick people by the hundreds, disappointed human beings by the thousands and almost every other sort of situations that make the heart ache.† But we believe that "There is a time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance."† We are glad that, it is not, weeping and mourning all the time.† So if we should offend any of our readers, please be lenient in your judgment of one who has experienced some of life's bitter disappointments, and drunk deeply from the cup of sorrow, but who prefers to look for the brighter, happier things of life.
†††† Some of the things to follow may have already been related by us in some earlier articles appearing in our "Column."† Our father, Thomas H. Gregory, commonly known as "Dopher" Gregory, was the son of Stephen Calvin Gregory, for whom the writer was named.† Our grandfather was a very fine man, one of the very best we have ever known.† Many "funny" thing occurred in his lifetime of about 80 years.† One of them was his characteristic to bump his head† on everything in reach of his poor bald head.† He could not go into a tobacco barn scarcely without bumping his head on tier poles.† We recall hearing our uncle, William Joseph Gregory, commonly called "Bill Cat" Gregory, telling of two "whippings" he received many years ago as a boy that he felt, after 60 years, were unjust.† We are not arguing the justice or injustice, merit or demerit, of punishment meted out to our uncle by his father.† One of these occasions was as follows:† About 85 years ago when Uncle Bill was a lad of about 13, his father arose one morning to build a fire in a big, old-fashioned fireplace.† There were no matches in that day and time and people "had to keep fire." †Our grandfather's fire was so near out that he had only one "live coal."† He trimmed some shavings and then blew and blew and blew on that one live coal until he was dizzy.
†††† He raised up from his puffing and blowing, to strike his head against the arch with such force as to almost lift the keystone.† Perhaps the chimney which was nearly 40 feet high and made of stone shook under the impact.† Anyway our grandfather was "badly shaken."† He grabbed his head in his hands and went round and round, grunting and groaning and taking on something awful.† Our uncle, "Bill Cat", was standing near his father when he almost lifted the arch.† Our uncle, who never could "hold back" when anything funny occurred. burst out with a loud "haw, haw, haw."† As he began to laugh, he started as quickly as he could toward the other end of the large, 20-foot room, trying to get away from his irate and angry father.† He related that his father overtook him not far from the end of the big room.† His father, as well as the son, was barefooted.† When the father caught up with his laughing son, the father gave the son a vicious kick, which the son described as the hardest kick he ever had in his life.† So vicious was the kick that the "kicker's big toe was broken and our uncle said: "I did not care if it did break his toe."
†††† On another occasion about the same time, our grandfather arose before daylight and the room, the same one referred to above, was in darkness.† Our grandfather was feeling around trying to locate his work clothes, which he generally left lying on the floor.† He stopped to pick them up from the floor.† As he bent down, he struck one of the little round chair posts, the old-fashioned sort at the top of the back of the chair, in the "sink" over his eye and bringing a lot of pain.† Our uncle said he could not help laughing out loud and "haw, hawed" again.† Our grandfather rushed to the bed where his son was lying and the uncle said: "My daddy lacked to have beaten me to death through the cover.† That was another whipping I got that I did not deserve.
†††† On another occasion our old grandfather, then a young man, sent his son, the same one above mentioned, to put the bridle on his old plowhorse and to bring the animal to him that he might "to on the hill and plow." †The uncle told the writer that he went to the "stables" and managed to get the bridle on the old plow horse after a number of efforts.† But stated that he did not get the headstall exactly in place.† One of the animal's ears was "doubled down" under the headstall.† It was something that the youth had not before seen, its oddity suggesting to the boy that both ears "doubled under" the headstall was even funnier, giving the horse the appearance of being about to bite somebody.† All farm boys know that a horse always "lays his ears back" as he is about to bite a person or some animal.
†††† So the youth led the plow horse to where his father lay asleep under an old locust tree that we have seen hundreds of times.† He led the animal as close to his father as he could get him for the horse not to step on his sleeping master.† The boy then touched his father, saying:† "Pa, here is your horse."††† Our grandfather awakening out of a sound sleep and seeing the horse standing over him, with his ears, "laid back," as if about to bite his master, the grandfather of the writer began to reach for a stone with his left hand, with which he did his throwing.† He called out:† "Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!!!!" growing more and more vociferous with each command to the horse to "Whoa." Imagine his surprise and chagrin to discover the kind, gentle, old plowhorse had no evil intentions toward his master.† The laughing son did not get a "Whipping " for this prank.
†††† At the same old homestead our father, Thomas M. Gregory, more than 85 years ago, laid claim to a young chicken, that he had named "John."† The fowl grew larger to the delight of our "Pappy."† But instead of developing into a loud crowing rooster, "John" began to lay, thus letting our "Pappy" down badly as a small boy.† Our father had another pet later, a crow of which he became quite fond.† This crow would occasionally fly to the high hills on either side of our grandfather's big log house on the headwaters of the present Nickojack Branch.† The "wild" crows would chase the "tame" crow which came swooping down from the high hills to the safety of the Gregory home.† Finally this crow began to eat eggs; or, as it was then called, "suck eggs."† When the crow made a raid on the henhouse, the hens would begin to cackle loudly.† Our father, who became an expert rifle shot as a mere boy, thought to scare his pet by firing a rifle shot into the henhouse which stood nearly a hundred yards from the Gregory dwelling.† The cawing crow ceased his cawing, our father finding his pet dead and his "egg-sucking" ended forever, one bullet from our father's unerring rifle having gone through a crack in the log wall of the henhouse and killing the pet instantly.
†††† Our father used to get a great "kick" out of his younger brother's spelling.† The boys in the Gregory family of the long ago had been brought up to hard work and with virtually no educational opportunities.† Our uncle Luther, commonly known as "Luke," had trapped an opossum, whose fur he wished to sell.† To let fur buyers know that he had an opossum skin for sale, he lettered a rough board, "Roysters for sale," not being able to spell "opossum," and put it up on a tree by the side of the road in front of the Gregory home.† He had no response to his advertising.† Little did the writer dream when he heard of this little episode that the greater part of his living would come in later years from advertising.
†††† We have only lately learned that our father, Thomas M. Gregory, would accompany his father and older brothers to work on the John Bell Winkler farm, some three miles to the southeast of the old Gregory home, our grandfather clearing a lot of the land and usually having the use of the land for two years for his crop of tobacco.† Our father, then too small to do any work, would often accompany the three others just mentioned to the "new ground," or newly cleared land.† The older brothers, who wanted "hot supper." would ask our father to return to the house and agreed to pay him to eat up all the "victuals" left from the noonday meal.† Our father did as his older brothers told him and returned to the house to eat and stuff himself that there might be no food left over from the mid-day meal, with the result that his mother had to cook "hot supper."† But there was one other result, even worse than a mother having to cook an extra meal daily.† Our father's stomach was almost ruined by such unwise eating.† We still recall many, many attack of an upset stomach and kindred physical troubles that disturbed nearly all his adult life.† This is not given as a ludicrous happening, but one that represented a lack of judgment in more persons than one.
†††† After our father had married, Miss Marietta Ballou, our mother, the one we called then and till today, "Mammy," he moved to the farm where the writer was born, July 8, 1981, about sunrise that hot Wednesday morning.† On our father's little hill farm, many things of a funny sort took place.† We recall that our uncle, the laughing man above referred to as "Bill Cat," once rented some land from our father.† He was plowing this steep, hillside land with one horse, when the plow hanged on a rock and the horse fell on the steep hillside with his feet on the unplowed ground above the furrow in which the horse lay.† Our "Pappy" saw what had happened, although he was on the opposite hill.† Our uncle called to our father, who was hundreds of yards away, and said:† "What must I do with him?"† Our father's reply was, "Turn him over."† Our uncle then spoke with a loud voice back across the deep valley, saying "I am afraid he will roll to the bottom of the hollow."† Our father informed his brother that there was no danger of such a happening, although it was nearly a quarter of a mile to the bottom of the hollow.
†††† Knowing of no way to relieve the situation except to take the advice of our father, his older brother decided to remove the gear from the horse and then turned him "over," quickly came to his feet and "thus saved the day."
†††† This same uncle was one of the best men we ever knew, even though he sometimes "played off" on our brother and the writer when we were small.† We recall that one day our "Mammy" had us to gather some dead crabgrass for hens' nests.† We gathered a big "grass" sack of the nest material and left and bag for a short time.† We came back later to move the contents of the bag to the house about a half-mile away.† We found that there were perhaps 200 pounds of rocks or stones in that sack, and it was so heavy we could not budge it till we had emptied the rocks.† Our uncle never did admit he had done the trick, although he was "tickled to death" over what had happened to his two nephews.
†††† On another occasion, in the years begone we were large enough to "bind Sheaves," it fell to our lot to gather the bundles of tied grain into piles for the purpose of placing them in shocks.† Finally we came to a bundle so large that we could scarcely carry it.† Sheaves were bound by hand then, perhaps a dozen wheat straws, with the heads, being used to tie a bundle.† We found that the big bundle had been tied with two lengths of binds and in the same bundle was tied a fork used with tobacco poles in the curing of dark tobacco.† Our uncle would not admit he tied the big bundle, but we are sure that he was guilty.
†††† On another occasion perhaps 70 years ago, he and a brother-in-law, Albert Wilburn, went hunting one night without any kind of light whatever.† The place where they were hunting was then called the "Bradley Lot," a large tract of land with many cedars, thorn trees and small timber.† Our uncle was in front and could not see his way.† Suddenly he found himself falling down into a gully, perhaps ten feet† deep.† As soon as he struck the bottom, he rushed up the other bank till he was on a level with his fellow hunter, who missed the man in front.† Then he called out, "Where are you Bill?"† Our uncle called, "Here I am, come right on."† Soon the man behind had come to the brink of the big gully which he could not see.† As he stepped off into the gully, he went down and down.† Finally he struck a thorn tree in his descent.† In relating this to the writer Uncle Bill said he heard his brother-in-law say, as he struck the thorn-covered tree: "Lordy!"† Our uncle's sense of humor did not desert him on this occasion.† On the top of the high bank he "got down and rolled," with laughter.† The man who had landed on the thorns, said: "Sorn, all that keeps me from whipping you is that I am not big enough."
†††† This little hunting episode reminds us of another.† About 40 years ago, Ike Gregory, a second cousin of our father, and his neighbor, George Earps, both then about 65 years of age, went hunting.† They had no light, not even a match.† Finally their hunting dog "treed" up a rough-barked tree, which is called here in Middle Tennessee, the hackberry.† The dogs seemed to be able to see whatever varmint was in the tree, judging from his actions.† Each of the men declared to the other that he could not climb the tree.† Both were rather fat and "stuffy" and were not much on "cooning a tree," a hillbilly word for climbing up the body of a tree without limbs to support the climber.† Finally Gregory says, "George, if you will give me a foot lift, I'll try to climb it."† Earps agreed to give the desired help.† So Gregory grasped the tree around the trunk, his arms not reaching much more that half way around the tree.† With Earps holding a foot "to give the foot lift," Gregory wore off a lot of bark.† Pausing to rest some from his strenuous efforts at climbing the tree and being unable to see the ground, he said; "George, how high am I?"
†††† Uncle George, as he was familiarly known, stammered somewhat, and said:† "ya! ya! ya! Just stretch out your feet and you will be on the ground."† It is needless to add that the tree was not climbed that night by either and the opossum or coon was perfectly safe.
†††† We recall another little episode in the life of George Earps, who was one of the best men in all his community.† He was a deeply religious man and generally a leader in the activities of his church at Mt. Tabor.† Years and years ago one Sunday while he was in charge of the Sunday School, a young man named Henry Oldham, who had just begun to pray in public, entered the church. In looking over the congregation, he soon discovered that he (Oldham) was the only person present who prayed in public with the exception of Uncle George, who was reading the Scripture lesson.† Young Oldham decided that he was going to be called on to lead in prayer.† Like Jonah of old, he decided to flee from his duty.† While the old deacon was reading and with his face turned the other way from the young man who wanted to get out of the task, Oldham jumped out of the window next to the "Amen" corner of the church. He had barely gotten out of the window when Uncle George, concluding his reading, said: "All of you bow your heads while Brother Oldham leads us in prayer."† Oldham heard what was said but did not respond and finally the old deacon himself lead the prayer.† Brother Oldham grieved a long time on account of his neglect.† Both men have now gone "the way of all the earth" and have gone to be in the presence of Him who knows all our "uprisings and our down-sittings."