This is part 3 of an excerpt from “Bryant, Sullivan, Gossett Family History” written by Robert Bryant.
My earliest memory of life on Mill Creek was playing with other children under the old house I was born in on Bluff Springs. During the 1800’s there was a store and post office included with the house. When I was two or three years old, Daddy tore down the old house and built a new one. During the 1940’s electricity came and enabled us to install a pump on the side of the hill to pump water from the spring up to the house. And at this point an indoor bathroom was added to the house, which had a tin roof that made the sound of the rain come in loud and clear. There was a swing on the front porch, and in the front yard stood a large apple tree. Our woodpile consisted of timber that we cut with a two-man cross cut saw and hauled out of the woods by horse and wagon. Deany and I split the wood with an axe and stacked it on the front porch. At one time it was our only source of heat during the long, cold winters. However, it provided little warmth for our bedroom. It was necessary to pile on blankets and quilts, get under them and hope to stay warm enough to sleep. The snows seemed awfully deep then, but it may have been because we were so young. After a good snowfall we’d have a snowball fight, build a snowman, make snow cream and help Daddy track rabbits in the snow.
There was a sage field on the southeastern part of our property, which was called the “Jimmy Field”. Between the house and the field was the barn where we stored corn and kept our mare “Old Bess”. I don’t remember where we got her but she was a good work animal. Deany and I used her to plow the garden and our other crops. At times we rode her bareback without a bridle, which pretty much put us at her mercy, but she was very gentle. However, I do remember getting knocked off her one day when she ran under a low hanging tree limb.
The smokehouse, where meat was cured and smoked after hog killing, was located at the edge of the back yard next to the garden. During the summer there was an iceman who delivered ice to families living on Mill Creek. Almost every week we bought a large chunk and stored it, tightly wrapped, in a hole in the floor of the smokehouse. It was used for tea, lemonade, etc, and sometimes lasted until the next week’s delivery. At the eastern edge of the yard was the outhouse. It sure seemed cold on winter nights when a trip to that place was necessary. The hen house was just across the old Jimmy Field Road from the outhouse. We raised a lot of chickens and one of our chores was to gather eggs every day. Occasionally one of the hens would go under the house to lay eggs, and we had to crawl under it to find them. The chickens also provided food when company came for Sunday dinner and for dinner on the ground at Church. After catching a chicken we prepared it by chopping off it’s head off, putting it in boiling water and plucking out it’s feathers. Our garage was located just northwest of the house at the top of the hill by the driveway coming up from the creek.
From the spring at the bottom of the hill to the banks of Mill Creek was about 50 yards. In order to get across the creek Daddy built a “swinging footlog” over it. Two metal cables were stretched across the creek, anchored by a big tree on the far side and to a tree or some other object on the near side. The cables were two or three feet apart and boards to walk on were put between and connected on both sides. Two more cable were stretched above these and used for handrails. As suggested by its name, it did a lot of swaying while crossing it. It was especially scary to cross when a big rain had caused the creek to rise up near the bottom of it; or when the wind made it sway more than usual.
There are a couple of incidents as a youngster that still stick out in my mind. One summer day I climbed a tree, apparently went to sleep and fell out, knocking myself unconscious and leaving a scar on my forehead. Another time my Sister Sue was playing in a chert gulley behind our house, slid down the bank and cut her leg bad on a stob. And the Christmas that Deany and I got our first bicycle, boy were we on cloud nine. On trips to Wrigley to play baseball, we took turns pedaling and riding on the seat. Going up the steep Wrigley hill was tough, but it was easy coming back down on the way home. Both of us loved baseball and spent all the time we could at the ballpark. We had a spot in the yard next to the smokehouse where we took turns pitching to each other and hitting. There was also a basketball goal in the yard where we played one on one during basketball season. Deany was a very good basketball player in high school. While I liked the game and was fair at it, I never played in high school. But I think my one-on-one games with Deany may have given him some good practice. Other summer activities included working in the field for Papa Sullivan and Bud; and swimming in Mill Creek. Not many summer days went by that Deany and I didn’t get in some swimming, either at the “blue hole” or the “long hole”. Catching crawdads, playing water tag and gigging hogsuckers was always fun. And how could I forget the fishing trips with Daddy to the Tennessee River. Fishing for striped bass was the order of the day, and Deany always caught a lot more than I did. Saturday trips to Centerville with Mama and Daddy, seeing a movie and eating a pimento cheese sandwich at Libery Pharmacy, was enjoyable. Picking blackberries around the fourth of July and fighting the chiggers doesn’t seem so bad now. The berries were worth all the trouble.
When I was growing up at Bluff Springs, we walked through the fields to see Mama and Papa Sullivan several times a week. Upon our arrival, they would be sitting in the living room, Papa in his favorite chair next to the front door beside the wood burning stove and next to a desk where he kept records for the Little Rock Church, as well as his personal papers. Mama Sullivan had her chair on the other side of the stove. While there Mama sat and talked to them while we tried to occupy ourselves. However, we must have gotten involved in the conversation at times because she often told us that we asked too many questions and made Papa Sullivan nervous. Their house was a white frame, two story building sitting at the mouth of a hollow beside Mill Creek. Large shade trees filled the yard and there was a swing mounted between two of them. The house had a screened in porch on the back, and at one end of the porch was a hand operated pump connected to a freshwater well from which their water was drawn. Just outside the porch were several grapevines that were normally loaded with grapes. Papa Sullivan had a dog named “old fuzz” that was pretty old and grouchy; and all the kids were afraid of him. They had several milk cows and I enjoyed watching Mama Sullivan milk them. I tried hard but could never get the hang of it. A family reunion was an annual event during the summer. With all the children and grandchildren the crowds were large and included Bryants, Sullivans, Gossetts, Rices, Cudes, Marakis, Laybhens, Coopers, along with Cecil Hatley and others. Food was spread on tables under the shade trees and everyone ate, visited and reminisced during and after the meal.
Daddy owned several cars during the years, but two of them stick out in my mind. It was probably in the late 1940’s that he bought a studebaker, which at the time was a very prestigious automobile. And about 1954 Daddy bought a brand new red and black Plymouth. By this time I was old enough to drive, and he would sometimes let me take the car on dates. One one of those dates I hung the door on something, slightly scrapping and springing the door. It really scared me but daddy never really said anything about it.
Life on Mill Creek taught me a lot of lessons that I might not have gotten elsewhere. Each day makes me more aware that growing up there kept me physically fit, while the lessons at school, church and home helped maintain my mental and spiritual health. Later in life this would help me to stay on course and not wander too far from the straight and narrow. As I often think about those days, one picture always pops up in my memory. That picture is of a bright, sunny, hot Sunday morning with everyone standing outside the Little Rock Church Building after services. I suppose events of the past week, as well as plans for the upcoming week were discussed. Of course a lot of us kids were ready to go, whether it was home for a meal or to a ball game in Wrigley. I really miss those good old days on Mill Creek when it seemed Life was a lot slower and simpler, unlike the hectic fast paced world we live in today. Now I realize it was truly an enjoyable and tranquil period of time in my life.
Some Families that lived on Mill Creek in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s
Spike and Reppie Lankford Hooper
Norris Randolph and Mary Lee Warren Randolph
Cherry Gossett and Ella Allen Gossett
Mr & Mrs Johnny Warren, parents of Paul and Hubert Warren
Dude and Johnnie Lee Gordon
Buford “Humpy” Litton and Emma Jane Temple Litton
Cliff and Stella Temple
Clarence Bryant and Mary D. Sullivan Bryant
Jake and Bea Sullivan Laybhen
Clarence Wiliams Family
Jim Gossett and Sadie McAllister Gossett
W. S. Sullivan and Addie Gossett Sullivan
Bud Sullivan and Geneva McCoy Sullivan
Armine and May McCord
Bud and Louise McFarlin
Porter and Docy McFarlin
Percy Gossett and Zippy Thornton Gossett
Less Gossett and Elsie Thornton Gossett
Bad Eye Victory
Some Families that lived in the Wrigley, TN Area in the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s
C. W. Bentley and Mildred Ferguson Bentley
Buster Bentley (Brother of C. W.) and Nannie Bentley
David Bentley (Son of Buster) and Sue Bradley Bentley(Dau of “Burly” Bradley)
Zertie Choate (Son of Vernie) & Nita Murrell Choate
L. C. Hudspeth
J. D. Bass and Oma Moss Bass
Vernie Choate and Lula Skelton Choate (Parents of Sandra Russell Bryant)
J. L. Hudspeth (Son of L.C.) & Alvena Choate Hudspeth (Dau of Vernie Choate)
Frank and Bertie Tilley
Dee Hatley (Son of Cecil) and Gertie Hatley (Dau of John Greer)
Jim Martin (Brother of Frank)
Frank Martin (Brother of Jim)
Arch and Lubell Cochran(Parents of Peggy who married Billy Henley)
Claude Bryant (Son of Jack Bryant) & and Lucille Rich Bryant (Dau of Ira Rich)
Hubert “Pug” England and Georgia Bryant England (Dau of Joe Bryant)
Hershel Jackson and Gracey Bryant Jackson (Dau of Joe Bryant)
L. P. Thompson and Lona Thornton Thompson (Dau of Pembroke Thornton)
Billy Hudspeth ( Son of J. L. Hudspeth)
John Brown — Superintendant of the Wrigley Plant
Preacher White & wife Nellie
Grover & Nola Vaughn
Ollie B. Parker
Jesse and Ava Jackson Wright (Dau of Hershel and Gracey Jackson)
Corky Gordon Family
Idella & Annie May McCoy
Pig Toe Williams
Mrs Willie Mitchell Family
Clifton Thornton (Son of Lewis P. Thornton)
J. P. Modina
Andy and Virgie Webster
Little Bit Modena
Big Bit Modena
My dad Clarence Bryant was a prankster and was always playing tricks on somebody at work, especially the blacks that worked for him and with him. His tricks included rubber snakes, etc. Once Daddy had Mama call Tink Modena to play a trick on him. She said to him “This is the telephone company. We need you to get off the line so we can blow it out”. Tink said “yes mam, yes mam I’ll get right off so you can blow the line out”.
THINGS I WOULDN’T CHANGE ABOUT GROWING UP ON MILL CREEK
Picking blackberries among the chiggers and snakes
Spending so much time swimming and playing in Mill Creek
Going to a one room school house at Little Rock
Putting up a Christmas Tree at school every year
Going on school picnic every year and roasting weiners and marshmallows
Going to movie on Saturday to see Western Hero
Working on the farm for Papa Sullivan and Bud for $2.00 per day during the hot, humid summer days.
Picking corn by hand
Loading hay on wagons with pitchforks
Putting hay in the barn loft
Using mule and scratcher to plow corn
Hoeing fields of corn by hand
Shooting marbles at school
Going to Church at Little Rock
Big Meetings and Dinner on the Ground
The beautiful singing
The sincere prayers of the men of the congregation
Riding the iron wheel wagon to Grandpa Bryant’s home after church on Sundays
Helping raise a garden each year
Carrying water up the steep hill from the spring
Walking to school, skating on frozen creek, etc
Cutting fire wood for the winter
Walking thru the fields to Papa Sullivan’s home
Family reunions at Papa Sullivan’s and Grandpa Bryant’s
Listening to Joe Sullivan play the harmonica
Playing under the leaves in the fall
THINGS I WOULD CHANGE ABOUT GROWING UP ON MILL CREEK
Would put God and the Church first in everything
Less complaining about the work I had to do at home
Would listen better and try to understand when Mama or Daddy said “no” to something I wanted or some place I wanted to go.
MOST MEMORABLE EVENTS THAT HAVE OCCURRED DURING MY LIFETIME
Watching on TV as Neal Armstrong, an American Astronaut, became the first man to set foot on the moon in 1969.
Invention of Television
Invention of the Computer and the Internet
Fall of Communism and tearing down of the Berlin during Reagan Presidency
Assasination of President John F. Kennedy
Today, September 11, 2001, I began putting the finishing touches on this history. And today one of the most memorabe events in my life took place. Four commercial airplanes were hijacked by terrorists. Two of the planes were purposely crashed into the World Trade Center Twin Towers in New York City; while another crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, D. C. The fourth which crashed just outside Pittsburg, PA was apparently intended to crash into either the White House, the U. S. Capitol or Camp David. The World Trade Center Towers, which were about 110 stories high, were set on fire by the explosion and crumbled to the ground a short time later. About 40,000 to 50,000 people worked in those buildings, and it is not known at this time how many died, but estimates are about 6,000 — 7.000. Television cameras caught the events in New York. Watching the planes crash into the buildings; watching people jump out windows to their death on the street far below; and watching the buildings collaspe to the street was something I’ll never forget. Remarkably, one man who was on about the 92nd floor rode the building down and survived. Late in the day President George Bush spoke to the Nation by television, assuring everyone that the terrorists did not succeed in their efforts to change the way Americans live, that the Miitary was the strongest in the world and ready to act; and that our economy would not be affected. He also made it clear that the United States would track down those responsible and bring them to justice. And he emphasized that countries that harbor terrorists will be treated the same as the terrorists themselves. He further stated that this was the beginning of a war on terrorism worldwide. This was truly a black day for the United States, but the citizens of this great country will no doubt unite, and the nation will be stronger than ever as a result of this unity.