Stories

As a child, I loved to hear the stories told by the adults of times gone by. It didn’t occur to me then just how valuable these stories were to genealogists. This blog is a place for saving our family tales, long or short, however far fetched or valid they may be. Please feel free to post your stories, tales, limericks, songs, and any old yarns involving our ancestors.
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Old Man Davis

I mentioned a while back that one time when we were kids we were shot at. Though I said I’d tell you about it later, I thought I should share it while it was fresh in my mind. Chances are getting increasingly strong that I’d forget it.
Anyway, Old Man Davis had the coolest lot in the neighborhood. The house has since been torn down, but it was heaven to me and all the kids who met there every day after school in the late 60s.

The house was made of stone, and set back far from the street in a jungle of apple, apricot, lemon and avocado trees. Behind the house there was a pond that was full of life, mostly gorgeous, gushy tadpoles. Once we delivered bags of them to the kids getting out of Sunday School and were disappointed to learn that the parents didn’t think it was such a great gift to give children dressed in their Sunday best. Imagine that?
Old Man Davis was the grumpiest man you’ve ever met. But we knew he loved us. On Halloween, he would make his homemade peanut brittle and never seemed to notice that we came back to his house three or four times to get this delectable treat. His wife, Anna, was soft spoken and the perfect adopted grandmother. We lived too far away to visit our grandmother so she became the neighborhood grandmom.
There was one special tree on Old Man Davis’s lot with branches that formed a great big tent. We had converted it into a clubhouse. You had to be “in” to get in and rarely did my older brother Curtis consider me “in” enough to get in. Inside the tree there were old tires used for seats, an old chest used to hold drinks, and a old Hillsboro Bros Coffee can, to hide the stash collected from pop bottles in case money was needed. Usually we could also get money, for movies drinks and candy, by picking the fruit off Mr. Davis’s trees and selling them down at certified market. They’d give us a quarter a bag. Anna wanted us to pick the fruit before it fell to the ground and rotted, so she never minded that we did this.
Anway, on one day I was allowed inside the clubhouse with my best friend Cathy. Her brother George and Curtis said they had a neat game they wanted to play, “spin the bottle.” We were playing that game even though I was totally grossed out, when Curtis kept spinning the bottle and kissing Cathy. Anyway, on George’s turn the bottle came to me. “No way!” I yelled and started to stand up. Then, outside we heard a yell, “Who’s there?”
“Get out of there before I blow your head off” we heard old man Davis yell.
Suddenly a gun went off and I nearly pe’ed my pants. Curtis grabbed Cathy and said run this way. And took off.
George grabbed hold of my hand and said “no we gotta go this way.” Before I knew it he’s pulling me in the direction of Old Man Davis. I let go and ran down the stone wall that lined the other yards of houses that bordered Old Man Davis’s lot. When I discovered I was cornered, I turned around. George was no where in sight. I looked and about 15 feet away, Old Man Davis, had a shotgun pointed straight at me.
He was squinting to get a look at me, so I squeaked, “It’s me. April!” Unfortunately, in addition to poor eyesite, he was quite deaf and didn’t hear me. Fortunately, what felt like the hand of God grabbed me by the hair and the back of my shirt and lifted me over the stone wall and into safety. Curtis had jumped one of the neighbors fences, climbed onto their big black dog’s house, and yanked me over the wall. Curtis never let me forget that he saved my life, risking the rath of blackie’s teeth to do it.
It was quite a while before I had the guts to play at Old Man Davis’s house again. Actually I only went back once or twice after that, at Anna’s request. The last time I remember going there, Anna had asked me to take out some old papers to the trash. When I did, I saw Old Man Davis crawling around looking for something. So, I started to help him. Not really knowing what it was I was looking for I kinda just turned things over then turned them back again. When I didn’t come back for my pay, Anna came out to see what was keeping me.
“What are you doing?” she asked me.
“Old Dan lost something,” I replied. “I’m helping him look but I don’t know what he lost”
“His mind,” she muttered, as she shook her head. She turned and went back in the house.
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What are Friends For?

My girlfriend Carol and I were very close. We were getting home late from school and we were so worried that we would get in trouble for being late that we decided to take a short cut through a junk yard. I’ll tell you right off the bat that this wasn’t my idea. Carol was tough. She was so tough you didn’t say no to anything she said for fear of getting popped in the jaw. So, I agreed and we climbed up over the chain-link fence.
We were casually strolling through the yard and had pretty much made it safely through when suddenly we heard the low growl of a monster. Carol grabbed my hand in fear which really shocked me because as I told you she was bad. I glanced over my shoulder and the mangiest dog you have ever seen was plowing down on us fast. I swear that dog was foaming at the mouth. I was sure that he knew he was about to get a nice dinner of two little lambs. The dog wasn’t more than a foot away from us when I realized we weren’t going to out-run him. Self-preservation kicked in and I grabbed Carol, turned her around with my arm locked around her neck, and used her as a barrier between me and the mutt. I dragged her kicking-and-screaming carcass backward toward the fence. With each kick, the jaws of that mangy yellow dog snapped inches from her toes. Carol didn’t know whether to hit me with her one free left arm or focus her attention on the dog. She flaled her arm behind her toward me in a vain effort to free herself. I WAS NOT letting go.
Finally, I reached the locked gate which opened enough for me to squeeze through. I dropped Carol as I backed butt first through the thin opening of the gate while the dog approached his unwilling victim’s kicking feet. I turned to run and realized that I was safe and I’d better not leave Carol for dog food. But if…I debated, if I do save her she’s going to kill me. Well my heart got the best of me and so I grabbed her by the collar and pulled her through the fence gate. Unfortunately, she lost her shoe to the dog and her pants legs were ripped to shreds but that’s the price you pay. Luckily, for me, Carol was so relieved to get out of there alive that she only hit me in the arm. 😉
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The Jenkins Story

by Sybil Knight Jenkins

Some time before the Revolutionary War, Jacob and Jerry Jeinins, (half English and half Welsh) came to this country. The chief difference in brothers was their difference in political beliefs. Jacob was a firm believer in the separation from the Mother Country of England. Jerry was very obnoxious to his acquaintance in the State of North Carolina that he was killed by his neighbors. The story goes that as he rode on his Coffin on the way to his execution, that he cried, “Long Live King George.”

Jacob married and had seven sons, all of whom were Revolutionary War Soldiers. Following the war, Jacob and his family moved to Barren River in Kentucky, by the way of Boone Trail. There, a large settlement of Jenkins grew up. Here it is noted that at this early date, the family characteristics were of extremes, rowdiness and respectability. A family feud developed over, for the want of a better term, “wild women.” Uriah and Sam, who were cousins, became particularly bitter enemies.
Some time before the Mexican War, Jacob (Grandsire) Jenkins, brought his family, consisting of Amos, Jacob, Uriah and a daughter, Nancy, to Barren Fork, in Hickman County, Tennessee to avoid the bitterness of the bloodshed in Kentucky. Uriah continued his “wild ways” in Hickman County, where he became known as “The Bull of Duck River.”
Jacob settled around Centerville, Tennessee and there is no record of his family. Uriah married and an Anderson and they had one daughter, Blanche, who married Wilson Overby. She died young, leaving no children. One day, Uriah got on his horse and started back to Kentucky for a visit. Before leaving, he told Zade Martin, that if he did not get back, he could have his wife. Arriving in Kentucky, he encountered his old enemy Sam, by whom he was killed. The story that his wife then married Martin and raised a large family.

Thoughts and Memories of My Father, part 2

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The Young Teamster
These are some notes from Gilbert Sullivan’s memoirs as transcribed by his son Dan Sullivan
Later on after the team of little blue mules I first owned, I had another pair of larger mules. The off mule (the mule on the left hitched as a team) was mean. You had to always watch her to keep from getting hurt. Uncle John Buttrey was working with me, he was getting to be an old man, probably 65 years old at the time, and we were hauling spoke timber. By the time Gilbert was 12 he was a professional teamster, and would hire out with his team to haul what ever needed to be hauled in the surrounding area. At times this was the only income the family had. By the time he was 16 he had become an expert teamster, maybe as good as there was around. He continues his story about working with Uncle John Buttrey hauling spoke timber. We called the cuts tough butts. They (the men cutting the timber) only cut two to four 36 inch cuts off the butt log of a tree. This was the very best wood in the tree. Usually straight clear grain and was probably White Ash. We rolled them up on skids from the back of the wagon and loaded them cross ways in the wagon frame. On the haul we had to make, we had a pretty steep hill to go down to get to the spoke mill which was about 200 yards down the road. It was a short haul so we loaded pretty heavy. We would lock the back wheels going off the hill. The lock chain would run from the coupling pole back to the wheels. They would either tie the brake pole down in a lock position, or tie up the back wheels with a log chain so the wheels would not roll, but scoot going off a steep place to keep the load from pushing on the mules. Where the road went off the hill we had to straddle a big stump. They would cut the trees close to the ground to get the best timber from the base of the tree to make spokes for wagon and buggy wheels. With each trip down the hill the back wheels, which were locked and scooting, would cut down into the ground a little deeper leaving less and less clearance over the top of the stump. Finally the ruts cut down enough to where on one trip the lock chain hung the top of the stump. I was sitting on top of the load, driving the team, and when the chain hung the stump the wagon came to a sudden stop. With the jolting stop, the front end of the wagon busted out and the spoke timber went rolling out between the mules, down the hill in front of the wagon. The rolling timber must have thrown Dad forward down on the mules from the top of the load, for in his notes he went on to say, I caught the harness of the lead mule and got on her back. One of the cuts got cross ways and landed on the off mules hocks and the double tree, and blocked the other cuts from coming on down on the mules. The mule must have realized she was in a dangerous place, because she just squatted and stood perfectly still. Uncle John and I blocked the other cuts so they could not roll any further, got the cut off the mules hocks, got the road cleared, and went on to the mill. I was really lucky not to have been hurt. Most of Dad’s work with his team and wagon was hauling some type of timber products. Most of the land for several miles around Turnbull Creek was timber land, and a significant part of the local economy was from harvesting various timber products. A lot of the stories he would tell me and my brothers when we were young boys were about working in the woods with a team. This next story he wrote about was one of those, and was about a time when he worked with his brother Norman. Another time Norman and I were hauling logs. I was driving the little blue mules I liked so much. I was trying to get them on the other side of the wagon to pull the logs on. The way logs were loaded on a wagon was to put two skid poles from the bed of the wagon to the ground so that logs could be rolled up the poles and onto the wagon. When the logs were too big to be rolled up by hand or the angle of the skid poles too steep, logs could be pulled up the skid poles onto the wagon by tying a log chain to the wagon, running it under and around the log on the ground, then across to the opposite side of the wagon where either one or two mules could be hitched to the chain so the mules could pull and roll the log up the poles onto the wagon. It took two chains to rig this system. Dad continues the story. There was a big patch of green briars that the mules had to walk through to get to the other side of the wagon, so they were going slow. Norman was known to be high strung with a mean temper, and apparently in this situation impatient. Norman was mad and contrary, so he hit one of the mules with a small stick. My mules were not used to being whipped so they got nervous. I got mad and told Norman never to hit one of my mules again. So he said “boy, I’m gonna whip you”. I had a real good string whip hanging on the lead mule’s harness, so I grabbed the whip and started backing away and whipping his legs. So he got enough of that and told me to load my own logs and he would load his. I got loaded and went to the sawmill with my load, and was on my way back to the woods when I met Norman going to the mill with only one log, and the back end of it was on the back hounds of the wagon instead of up on the log bolsters. He stopped his team and wagon and said “boy, you know I can’t load logs with one chain”. I said “yes I knew that when I left”. I had two chains so I had no trouble loading by myself. I guess they went back loading together, because Dad went on with another story about loading logs with his brother Norman. One day we were loading a big log with Norman’s team. Every time the log would get to the top of the skids, one of his mules would quit pulling. He tried three or four times, and when the mule would stop, the log would roll back down the skid poles to the ground. He asked what were we going to do. I think he was wanting me to load his load with my team. I told him I would load it with his mules if he wanted me to. So he said “all right”. I cut me a large switch about eight feet long, picked up the lines, and clucked to the mules to come up. When the log got to the place where the mule had quit pulling, I gave him a cut with that big switch and told him to “get”. He loaded the log the first time we tried.

Rowdy Friends and Homemade Whiskey
Some time near to this period, the new road that was called Cox Pike was being built. It was in the winter and I hauled creek gravel on the road. It was about 5 or 6 miles from home, and I would leave the wagon on, or near the job and ride the mules to and from the job. After some two or three weeks going home at night, I started staying with uncle Nat Pewitt and his family at night. Guy and Ray Pewitt, (I assume they were sons of uncle Nat) had a still up a hollow from the house. It was a large still and they called it Steam Shot. One or two nights a week I would go with them to cook off a run of whiskey. Guy was working for a man they called Slim. I must it is inferred here that Guy had some business arrangement with Slim, where Guy and Ray would make the whiskey, and Slim would distribute it. Slim lived near Nashville, and Slim was the only name I ever heard him called. While hauling gravel, I broke a set of haimes, and so I borrowed some from uncle Nat. One Sunday morning when I started home Guy and Ray rode with in about __ miles of home. We had some whiskey so I was feeling pretty good, and Guy wanted to race me. He had a real good saddle horse, and he was fast. I was drunk enough I suppose I didn’t care, so I took him on. My little mule ran out of the road under some low hanging limbs and I hurt my arm. Soon after that we stopped at a friend house, and he brought out a quart of red whiskey and wanted me to have a drink. I did, and that is the last thing I remembered until I got to Liberty Church of Christ. That is where Ray left me and went his way. I don’t know when Guy left us. When I got within about a mile from home I came to myself, and I was walking and leading the mule. I wondered why I was walking, so I got back on the mule. When I got home it must have been about 12:00 o’clock. I unsaddled the mule and turn him loose, and went to sleep in the corn crib. I woke about 4:00 and went to the house. Some time after the job was done, I went on a Saturday evening to carry the haimes I had borrowed back to Uncle Nat. I rode a little 2 year old mule that was not broke very well. I met Guy and Ray about one mile from their home on the way to the still with a load of sugar in the wagon. They wanted me to go with them to the still. I hitched my mule in a shed belonging to a Murry Lankford, and went with them to the still. We carried in a load of sugar, and brought back a wagon load of whiskey. The weather was damp and cold, and it was snowing a little, to where the ground was well covered (about 1 to 2 inches of snow).

When we got back to where my mule was tied, we stopped and I got back on the little mule. Guy wanted me to get out in front of the wagon, as we wet on down the road. The way we were going, there was a long hill, down grade for about a mile all the way. A deep gully had washed out on both sides of the road, and the road was narrow. Guy had a real goad team of mules and fat as mud. All it took to get them to run was to kick the front gate of the wagon, and they would run for life.
Going off the hill, when we got to a place where I had no where to get off the road on the side to let them pass, Guy began to kick the front gate of the wagon and holler to get his team started running. I had to run my little mule flat out to keep from being run over. I was scared half stiff. I kept thinking what if my mule fell. There was no way they could have kept from running over me and my mule. Guy ran me all the way down the hill. I remember 2 or 3 years after that I was riding along Parker Creek road, and I saw a fairly large still in plain view of the road. There were some 25 to 30 wooden 60 gallon barrels of mash. The still was operated around the clock with 2 shifts a day. They would blow the steam whistle when it came time to change shifts. They operated with a steam boiler just like they used in those times to run a sawmill. The steam was piped to the boiler to heat the mash. One time when I was bout 14, two other boys and I stopped in at Uncle Jim Green’s store. Dewey Beshears stopped by the store too. So we were on our way home and Dewey wanted to race his mule against mine. There had been some lose rock put in a mud hole in the road, and his mule hit them rock and fell against my mule’s chest, and she turned a complete flip. I flew though the air about 15 feet in front of her. When I went back and caught her there was dirt caked on top of the saddle horn. Neither me or the mule was hurt. This story took place before World War I had ended. Dad was logging, and he sent Grover and me to buy some corn from Mr Giles Paige. Corn was $10.00 a barrel. Mr. Paige lived where Matt Sullivan had lived for a long time, and was living there when he died. On our way back, when we got to where Dave and Nettie lived, we met Guy and Ray Pewitt in the forks of the road. Guy had a real good pair of mules but they had never worked very hard, and was not use to pulling very much. Our mules were a little heavier, and were use to pulling in the woods, and were much slower. Guy wanted to tie the back of the wagons together and see which team would pull the other back. I realized what Guy had in mind so I agreed. I pulled my brakes on knowing his mules would jump against the wagon and fly back. About the time they did that, my mules started pulling, and I took the brakes off, and started dragging them back. Guy began yelling to stop. His mules had no chance to ever get in a position to dig in and stop from being dragged back.

Mules, Wagons and Long Roads
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When I first started hauling on the road, Grover would go with me. We would haul spoke timber, staves bolts, lumber, and cross ties. I would always do the driving. In the summer time the roads would be real dusty, and in the winter lots of mud. One day in the winter it started turning cold, and the mud started freezing on the wagon hubs. By the time I got home that night the wheels were froze solid with no openings between the spokes. Once in the summer I was hauling lumber, and the mill where I loaded was close to where 100 Highway crosses the Hickman county line. That was long before the Highway was built. When I got to the top of the hill I ran in to the first crawler tractor I ever saw. It was pulling a large grader, grading the road all the way to Bon Aqua. The grading had left two or three inches of loose dirt in the road. I was already too heavy loaded before I hit that loose dirt. The loose dirt made the load pull all the more harder for the team. I should have left the wagon until the next day, and let some other wagons open up the tracks, but I kept going. I got to Bon Aqua about three hours late, and the mules were about give out pulling in the loose dirt. I watered them good and fed them so they could eat while I unloaded. That took about an hour. So they made it back home all right. One summer it was hot and dry. I always carried a bucket to use to water the mules with. One day about three miles from the station, (Bon Aqua Station) there lived a man named Gennis. He had a pond beside the road where we had stopped many times before to get water for the mules. On this day I was alone. No other wagons were with me. I stopped at the pond to water the mules, and had got over the rail fence ready to get the water, when Mr. Gennis saw me and made me get out without the water. I sure felt bad about that. I think Dad may have meant he felt that, it was mighty little of Mr. Gennis for not letting him water his mules. On a Saturday morning, I had gone up on the hill close to the house to get a load of firewood. I got back and was unloading from the back end of the wagon. The wood pile, where the wood was being stacked, was on a bank, and the wagon was down in a little hollow or dry branch. The mules kept pulling the wagon up and after several times the wagon was past where I wanted to unload. This apparently was aggravating Dad and made him mad. So they pulled up again, and I jumped up on the double tree and began to whip them with the end of the lines. Two hundred feet up the hollow the road went out of the hollow. On a bank at the place where the road left the hollow there was a solid rock wall. Although Dad does not describe exactly what was happening at this point, I think we can surmise that when he started whipping the mules they decided it was time to leave, and they got in a hurry doing it. Probably at a runaway pace, and when they approached the rock wall, (he picks his story back up at this point) the right side of the wagon got too far to the right up on a bank, and the wagon turned over throwing me against the rock wall. The front gate of the wagon caught my shoulder just enough to skin the hide. If it had caught me about three inches more it probably would have crushed me to death. I think I inherited some of that, take just so much and then explode, temper, and it has got me trouble a few times too. From the age of twelve until the age of eighteen I hauled stave bolts to two different stave mills, and tough butts to one spoke mill, and hauled logs to two different sawmills. I hauled staves, after they were manufactured, away from the two stave mills, and spokes, after the spokes were milled, away from the spoke mill, and lumber and cross ties from one of the sawmills. I hauled dye wood part of the time. Most of these manufactured wood products were hauled out to train sidings at Bellevue or Lyles Station, but most of the road hauling was to Bon Aqua Station. I have hauled with some of the best drivers and probably some of the worst in the county. As far as I can remember Mr. John Rainey was one of the best. He always had the best team and his harness was as good as money could buy. (When I was 8 or 9, he carried a load of hogs to Nashville for my Dad, and I went with him.) My Grandfather Green Sullivan, Uncle Oscar, and Uncle Turman always had good mules and harness. I had real good harness and some real good mules. Some that I was very proud of.

Work In Nashville
The year I was 16 when I got the crops laid by, I went to Nashville to work. I was probably the first part of July. I had my clothes in a small suitcase and walked to past Hillsboro, where the road crossed the creek. ( Leipers Fork) It was a little after dark, and I had pulled my shoes off to wade the creek when I saw the lights of a car coming. I flagged him down and he stopped, and asked me where I was going. I told him I was trying to get to Franklin to catch the Interurban into Nashville. The Interurban was a little commuter rail line that ran between Franklin and Nashville for several years, but after Franklin Road (U S Highway 31), and Hillsboro Pike were built, and automobiles became the prevalent means of travel the Interurban went out of business, probably in the late 1930s. The man’s name was Mr. Cannon. He carried me into Franklin to the Interurban Station. I was real tired, and when I sat down to wait for the Interurban, I went to sleep. When the car came by and was ready to go the conductor woke me and asked if I was going to ride that car. I told him I was and he said he was ready to go. When I got to the transfer shed in Nashville, while waiting for my street car, I got on some scales and weighed. (probably the kind that were around in public places where you could put a penny in and weigh) I weighed 109 pounds. The car I wanted to go out on was called the Buenavista. I went out to 22nd avenue where I boarded with Uncle Charlie Lampley. Monday morning I went over into west Nashville and got a job with John B. Ransom Box Factory. I got into a real hot argument with the hothead I was working with. He went and told the foreman I was giving trouble. The foreman came over and said for me not to come back the next morning. I said I would quit now if he wanted me to. He said no, for me to work on till time to quit. Later on the foreman came back around and said for me to come back next morning. I did, and that was Friday. Friday night I told the foreman I was going home over the weekend, and might be a little late Monday. He said that would be all right. I was wanting time Monday to look for another job. I went home over the weekend, and got back to Nashville late Sunday evening. Early Monday morning I went on up the railroad to Buchanan Lumber Company. It was a large place with some 25 or 30 men working there. They manufactured doors, windows, and window frames, and had a huge lumber yard. They had a team of mules and a wagon, so I started driving them there on the yard, bringing lumber from off the yard to the warehouse where they worked it into whatever they had orders for. In two or three days, they would send me out on small orders up to two or three miles from the place of business. I liked that job much better than the one at the box factory. I had to walk about two miles between work and where I stayed at night. About one mile of that was on a spur railroad that ran behind a lot of colored houses. One evening a bunch of colored boys were playing ball. There were about 5 or 6 of them, and 2 of them were larger than I was. One of them knocked the ball out a ways, so one of the boys had to go and get the ball. They all began to laugh at him, so I laughed too. One of the bigger boys said, “what are you laughing for boy”? I said “because you all are laughing.” One of them said, “I bet you could whip the hell out off him couldn’t you.” I said, “hell yes if it is necessary”. With that they started throwing cinder rocks at me. I dodged several of them, and started running after the one that was the closest to me, and they all ran. I stopped and stood there for a few seconds, then walked on. I was very glad I never saw any more of them. I was making twenty five cents an hour, ten hours a day. Their lumber came into the yard in freight cars. They figured it took two men a day to unload a car. I asked the foreman if he would let me unload the car at night. He said he would see about it. In a little while he came back and said he would. I unloaded 2 or 3 cars that way. As I recall Dad telling this story, he contracted for so much to unload a car, and would unload one car during the night, and made a good deal of extra money that way. I worked 6 or 7 weeks, and had to go home and pull fodder.

The Last Story
Dad’s journal is a randomly remembered, randomly written collection of stories in no particular chronology. The journal was written in a bold but shaky hand about 3 years before he died. From the time I was just a little boy, on up until the last days I lived at home, and even after I left home and returned for visits Dad would tell about things that happened in his childhood. As you can tell from this recreation of his journal he especially loved to tell about rough and rowdy days with his mules and wagons. This is the last memory he recorded and was short, but no exception, it was about working with his mules when he was just a boy. A boy by age, but a man by deed. . One summer I helped build the road from Fernvail to near Linton. We graded it with mules, and then hauled creek gravel with wagons. It was a very hard summers work. I rode a mule about 7 or 8 miles there and back, in the morning and evening. I must have been 15 years old.

My thoughts
At times I ponder the question. How do you measure the worth of a man? I’ve asked Mary that question several times. I know the immediate response of many, perhaps most would be, “it’s simple, look at his financial statement”. Or others may suggest that you have to look at the totality of the man. Nice try, but that one can be debated for as long as man has the capacity to think. Comprehending, and then measuring such a thing becomes cosmic. The definition of the word cosmic as used here is, “the inclusion of everything, but the description of nothing”. We then are left simply with our regard for the man, or if you will, our feelings. My world is limited I know, but Gilbert R. Sullivan was the greatest man in my life. I know that measurement is based on feelings, on love, and respect, but it’s all I need to know. A part of him was reborn in each of five sons. I think all of us had similar regard for him, and each in their own way struggled to measure up. I think each of us knew the futility in that task, and dealing with that, played out in it’s on way. Yet having something of him in each of us, even if only a fraction, is enough to cherish the life in us, and the ability to pass a bit of that on.
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Thoughts and Memories of My Father Gilbert Russell Sullivan

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These are some notes from Gilbert Sullivan’s memoirs as transcribed by his son Dan Sullivan

Within hours of my Father’s death I sought to be alone, and found myself in a bedroom of my parent’s home, the one away from the rest of the house, the one over the garage. As I grieved his death I felt all of a sudden very much alone, and I asked:
Where have you gone Father, and why have you left me alone. Who will I turn to for advice and counsel for the thousands of choices I must make. Who will teach me of the old signs. When to plant corn.

When to dehorn cattle so the blood will not spurt, but only seep When to castrate the bull calves so they will not suffer and bleed When to plow to kill the Johnson Grass When to plant potatoes Who will teach me the wisdom of the moon
Without you I’m only a man, a soul of no particular distinction With you I was a boy of special renown I was the son of Gilbert Sullivan, someone to take note of and be reckoned with I was the son of the Sheriff, a man of the people, elected by the people in An election campaign conducted in the fields, on foot, horseback, and T-Model Ford The Sheriff who put out the boiler fires making illegal whisky The Sheriff who cleaned out the road houses on Nashville pike, and Columbia Pike between Brentwood and Spring Hill
You were my unshakable foundation, my connection to the beginning of time You were the Taproot by which I stood tall, firmly attached to the core of the earth I could withstand any tempest with you to turn to How will I now withstand the winds of time alone
Can you look down and see the messes I make Do you know about all the things I do that I should not have done Do you know about all the things I don’t do that I should do Where have you been when I’ve needed you so much Will you scold me when at last we meet again Will your firm hand on my shoulder reassure me that things are all right
Will I see those steel blue gray eyes again Those eyes that said so much That heaped praise and made me proud That burned holes in my soul and reduced me to elemental matter That gave me comfort when I was down That made me feel special when I did good That made me feel a wanted part of creation That made me feel an unnecessary crack in human frailty All this and more said without a word
The world seemed less secure the day I saw the bright gleam fade from those eyes The day he tried to get out of his death bed because “I’ve got to much to do to stay here” The day he appollogized for dying The day he squeezed my hand an said “You’re one that I can count on” A complement that I will cherish, but wonder if I deserve
The following narrative is based on a hand written journal by my father as he recalled things that happened in his childhood in Williamson County, Tennessee. Words in bold print are his words from that journal.
Williamson County Roots
“Gib”, as some close friends called him in the early days, was born in a small frame house on the banks of Turnbull Creek, about one mile above where Highway 100 crosses over the creek. It was the fifth day of January, 1907. “Gib” was the fifth of ten children, but as was so common in those days two of the children died at birth. Turnbull Creek drains a section of the western “Highland Rim” in Williamson County Tennessee, near present day Fairview. The soil along the ridges was never fertile like the deep silty loams of the “Middle Basin”, a few miles to the east. It took a hardy group of people to settle and survive there. A few years after James Robertson and John Donelson lead the Cumberland expedition to settle the territory around French Lick (Nashville), Jeremiah Sullivan brought his family to settle those ridges and hollows of the western highland rim. They with other families like the Lampleys, Mangrums, Lankfords, Buttreys, Whites, Tidwells, Thompsons, and others raised livestock and lived off the land. I can remember it being said in my family that they settled there because there was plenty of water and the game was plentiful. I suspect there were other reasons, like the land being cheaper there or that some had land grants in that area. By the time Gilbert was born to Allen Judson Sullivan, and Liza Elizabeth Roberts, generations of the Sullivans had been there for over 100 years. As my father wrote years later of the place he was born , this was my Grandfather Green Sullivan’s farm. Green Sullivan (William Green Sullivan) was the Grandson of Owen one of the original settlers to the area. In 1984 at the time Dad wrote about his childhood the house and barn still stood on the left side of the highway going west, about one half mile below Union Valley Methodist Church, one mile from Hudgins School where I went to school. He wrote, I went to school very little. I never finished the fourth grade.
Memories of Early Childhood
The first thing that I remember in my life, he writes, I must have been 3 or 4 years old. I was trying to follow my father, and I got up the road to Mr. Robert Stinsons home, (he lived about 200 yards from Union Valley Church) where there was a large Mulberry tree. Mr. Stinson knocked off some mulberries and gave them to me to get me to go back home. .My father bought and sold livestock, and he was going on a trip to buy livestock He was going with Mr. John Wess Sullivan. My father and Mr. John Wess Sullivan worked and rode together. Several years later, I remember when I was about 14 years old riding to Columbia (TN) on a Sunday to take mules to the big mule sale there. I had 2 mules on my right and had two tied behind to my horses tale. I don’t remember how many my father and Mr. Wess had. Dad wrote about another recollection when he was about four. We went to my uncle Londe Sullivan’s to visit, and I was playing on the stairway, and found some tobacco stamps in a can. I took a big yellow one with the name Old Statesman, the name of the tobacco pouch it came from. I put the stamp in my pocket and when I got home I showed it to my mother. She scolded me for taking it and said I would have to take it back. So the next time we went to see uncle Londe mother made me carry the tobacco stamp back and give it to Ante Hattie. Gib told about other troubles he had about that time. Along about that time we had two goats. Every time I would go out of the house by myself, those goats would get me down and really work me over. I hated those goats. Children learned about work early in life in those days. When I was six years old I would go to the fields with Nettie, Dixie, and Grover to chop weeds out of the corn. It seemed that Gib became a good hand with horses and mules at a very young age.

When I was about 7 or 8 years old, he wrote, we had a big brown jenny, (female donkey) and Dad had several yearling mules and some were probably near 2 years old. I remember on several occasions in the winter (on trips to sell mules or to move them to other pastures) Dad would get me to ride the jenny and the young mules would follow the jenny, and he would follow behind the mules on his horse. I recall my Dad telling me on several occasions that as a young boy many of his friends were years older than he. I always had more friends of people being much older than I was. One of the best friends was Albert Brashears a large man, about 40 at the time.

He would always play very rough with me. One winter day we went out with young mules to do some trading for older mules to sell. About dinner time we stopped at Mr. George Lampley’s, and were out at the barn showing young mules. A real steep hill covered with large trees sloped away form the barn. There were two or three other boys there about my age. Mr. Brashears grabbed me and said out loud so the other boys could hear that he was going to chew my ear. He started chewing on my ear and told me to start hollering loud like he was chewing my ear off. One chubby boy was lying in the sun on a bed of leaves. About that time Mr. Brashears turned me lose and started for the big chubby boy, and the boy started rolling to get away from Mr. Brashears. He started rolling down that steep hill and couldn’t stop, but before he got to rolling very fast he rolled against a big tree. That probably kept him from getting hurt real bad. It must have been a long way to the bottom. One of Dad’s sisters, Dixie Clara, had married Monroe Buttrey on December 25, 1917 at the age of 16. On April 15, 1919 she gave birth to a son, Harley, and she died one month later, apparently from complications form the delivery. When Dixie died she was sick for some weeks. I was eleven years old at the time and would walk with Nettie, (an older sister) about 3 miles along a path through some old sage fields and woods at about 12 O’clock at night to sit with her until daylight, then walk back home. It was in the early spring. When I was 10 or 11 years old Grover (a younger brother) and I had two hunting dogs. In the winter we would go rabbit hunting and the dogs would tree rabbits in hollow trees or logs. We always carried an ax so we could chop them out. Some times we could run our hands in or jab them out with a small pole and catch them. When Dad would tell stories about his childhood, he would talked about his Dad’s drinking from time to time, and what a burden it was on the family. He would tell us how hard it was for his mother and the children. In his notes he wrote, I was about 12 years old when my father left home. He moved up the road about one half mile. Pretty soon Grover went to live with him, and that left my mother Hazel, Gertrude, Zelma (Dad’s sisters) and me alone. Zelma had asthma real bad. She was sick a lot in the winter time. I had a little mare named Kate, and on several occasion I would ride late in the night to get Dr. Zerbie to come see her. My mother had a real hard life. Kate was about the best piece of horse flesh I ever saw. The other boys and I were always having a horse race. I don’t remember her ever loosing. I also had a pair of little blue mules about that time. They were the first mules I ever owned. I broke them when they were coming two years old, and they were the best pair of broke mules I ever saw. They were always ready to do anything I would ask them to do. After my Dad left home he bought a grist mill, and a blacksmith’s shop. I worked with him part of the time in the shop. I also ran the mill when he wasn’t there on Saturday. When people would come by to get their horses shod they would bring their own shoes and nails. We would fit the shoes and put them on for $0.40 per head. I was 14 or 15 years old when Luther Daugherty brought two mules and one horse to get shod. There was no one at the shop. He came on to our house. I was in the bed with the measles. I got out of the bed and went with him and shod his horses, and as far as I can remember it never hurt me at all. Mother didn’t want me to go, but I went on. One story Dad told illustrated the skill required of a self reliant people to repair their tools and machinery without the availability of modern parts stores or machining equipment. Shortly before I was 12 years old, my Dad had borrowed a seed drill to sow wheat with. For some reason he had me carry the drill home. I had to go about a mile or maybe a mile and a half. The road was rough all the way. Two or three hundred yards before I got to where I was to take the drill, the road went into the creek, and had a rock bottom with little two or three inch falls in it. The drill wheel dropped off one of those falls and broke the axle in the drill. I remember helping my grandfather getting the axle out and carrying it to his shop to weld. He heated both pieces in a forge using a charcoal fire, and when they were white hot, he hammered them out like he wanted them. Then he put both pieces back in the fire and heated them to welding heat. I held the long piece, and he held the short one, and he welded them together, and beat them out to the right length. We put the axle back in the drill and it fit. I have always thought that was some mighty good blacksmith work for a man that only did his own blacksmith work. One time Dad swapped one of the mules I had been working off to Robert Edwards for a little bay mule. She was a pretty little mule, and in good flesh. But one of the mules he had traded off was from a pair that he had broke together, and I had worked together. You could take them both to the field and work one until about 10:00 o’clock, then take her out and work the other until dinner. The first time I worked the new mule, we were plowing in a little creek bottom breaking it. Dad was following me with another team. The mule did fine until about 10:30, and she quit and didn’t want to go any further. I was already mad because he had broke my team up, and got this little young mule that couldn’t do the work like the mule he had swapped off. I was trying to get the mule to go when he caught up with me, and said, “what’s the matter boy, can’t you work that mule. I looked to my right and there lay a wagon standard that had fallen from the wagon sometime before. So when he said that I saw blazes and said yes sir. I stepped over and got the stick, walked up beside the mule and hit her right behind the ear. The mule fell to the ground and quivered, and the blood began to ooze out of her nose. Dad said, “boy, you’ve killed that mule”. I said, “I hope I have”. But of course I didn’t really hope that at all. In a little while the mule got up, and in a few minutes we went on to the end of the row, and it started to rain a little. So Dad said that we had better take out. That evening I hauled a load of rock with her. Before I could work her again Dad swapped her for a bigger mule. This one had long hair, and was stubborn, and one of those kind that would work like she should.
Good Times With Dad on the Road
When I was 8 or 9 I would go with my Dad to Nashville on the wagon. We usually carried a mixed load, shelled corn, molasses, dried peas, hams, and sweet potatoes. Coming back home, most of the time we would be just about empty except for a few odds and ends, probably coffee, sugar, a few yards of cloth, or a few house wares, except in the spring on 2 or 3 trips we would bring back a load of fertilizer. Mother would fix a box of food and we would sometimes take a piece of side meat to fry at a camp on the road. When staying over in Nashville, we would put the mules and wagon in a large stable. At that time in Nashville there was some 8 to 10 large stables that would hold twenty or thirty wagons. We would sleep in the wagon at night. On two or three of those trips I remember going to a silent movie. One time we had a pretty team of sorrel mules that were not well broke. A section of their route between Nashville and home took them down Harding pike through Belle Meade. Out in Belle Meade on the Harding Pike where the road crosses the railroad at an angle, the railroad ran parallel to the road for a good way. We were close to the crossing when Dad looked at his watch, and said it was about time for the train. We looked and sure enough, here come the train chugging down the grade. About that time the whistle blew. We must have been some 30 or 40 feet from the crossing. The mules got scared and started raring up and jumping and got turned across the ditch by the road. Grandfather Judson must have been able to hold them in check while the train went on by. Dad continues by saying the train passed and we drove on. Shortly before World War I, there was an army base on Whites Bridge road just outside of Nashville. I remember from there on into town we would meet now and then an army freight wagon coming out of town. There would usually be six mules to the big wagon, and they would always be at a fast trot.
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Two men would be on the seat of the wagon, one to drive and one to brake when it was needed. To me that was a grand sight. On one of those trips to Nashville, we left from down town in the early morning and drove to a fertilizer plant in West Nashville and loaded with fertilizer. We came back across the Whites Bridge road to the Harding Pike. On the way home it was beginning to get dark about the time we got to the top of Whippoorwill Hill. We stopped and made camp for the night. It was right cold, probably in the middle 30’s, and the wind was blowing right sharp. We hung a blanket between some trees to brake the wind and built a big fire, made some coffee, ate supper and bedded down for the night. There was another wagon with us, camped near by. The next morning when we woke we noticed that the teams had got lose and went down in a hollow to get water. Dad and the other man went to hunt the horses. When they found them and brought them back, we hitched up and were on our way home. On another trip with Dad it was a Monday and the weather was hot. When we got near the backbone hill on Harding Road, we came up on a Mr. McPherson. He had one of his mules lose from the wagon, and had pulled the harness off. The mule was rolling in the dust, and was grunting and groaning something awful. Mr. McPherson asked Dad what he thought was wrong. Dad said she acted like she had the colic. He had turned the mules out on grass on Sunday and thought she must have eaten too much grass. He ask Dad what should he do. Dad said if she had the colic he could bleed her and she would be all right. Mr. McPherson told Dad to go ahead and bleed the mule. So Dad got out his knife and cut little gashes in the mules upper mouth along the first ridge behind the upper teeth. The mule would wallow her tongue around and swallow the blood, and in a few minutes she was up. Mr. McPherson hitched her back to the wagon and drove with us on to Bellevue. He stopped there to unload. He was hauling lumber. Mr. McPherson would talk about that every time he would see me after that. He was very grateful. He lived on East Fork when we lived on Boyd Mill Pike. He’d stop by the farm occasionally, on his way to Franklin, loaf and talk about bleeding that mule. He was always a good friend, and an important one when I ran for sheriff.
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