Phillip P Collum-Great Grandpa, Tell Me Bout The Good Ole Days

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This idea came to me when I tried to write a story with very limited information on my subject.

Submitted: October 01, 2018

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Submitted: October 01, 2018

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When I do research for a story, I totally immerse myself in the information. A myriad of birth dates, death dates, marriage dates, names, spouses, census reports, places, times, cultures, children, obituaries, and military records are accessible on the internet, and I am like a child in a candy store.  Much to my chagrin, however, some things cannot be located because of many variables during that time period.  Unforeseen disasters like fires, storms, and floods can be blamed for some missing documents.  The failure to file and keep records in that day could also be evidence of missing documents.  These sources of data eventually clutter the mind with a multitude of visions from the past. It is my practice to actually talk to the ancestors I am researching.  I know that they cannot converse with me in the traditional sense, but often they reveal many secrets.

 

 One peaceful afternoon, I was submerged in the infinite search for ancestral information.  I wanted to write a story of my 2nd great grandfather Phillip Pinkney Collum.  I had looked at his picture, and spent endless hours over his timeline.  Yes, I even asked him numerous questions, to which my answer was a cold stare from the paper photo in my hand.  I suppose the hope was that he would speak to me, and reveal the few pieces of his life’s story that so far were inaccessible to me. 

 

 

Unfortunately, all the concentration over the data can prove to be very mind boggling, and eventually create a migraine that must be given a well deserved rest.  Such was the situation on the aforementioned day.  The migraine required a dark room, complete silence, and a little time.

 

 In the distance, was a faint but constant bang…bang….bang…, the noise was a neighbor working on something metal.  Joining the annoying bang…bang….bang.., were churning visions of faces, numbers, names, and pictures, all turning in a circular motion in perfect rhythm with the constant bang..bang…bang.. This served as a mild hypnotic suggestion to my subconscious.  I allowed the pictures to turn in sequence as I listened to the bang, bang, bang…..slowly drifting into a near catatonic sleep.

 

 By some sort of magical transcendental meditation, I opened my eyes to a “dream” I would not soon forget.  My vision had placed me in an old cemetery.  The bang…bang…bang…was visible in my dream; it was a broken metal sign located just down the road from the cemetery. The sign had fallen from one hinge attaching it to the metal pole; it was swinging just enough to bump the pole with a bang..bang…bang.I suppose the flat terrain of Wylie Texas enabled the sound to echo across a large area.

 

 About fifty yards from the entrance of the cemetery, I saw the tall granite marker.  It was actually more like a monument than a headstone.  The top was slanted, and held a granite replica of an open Bible.  The height of the monument was almost five feet tall.  The discoloration was indicative of many years of abuse from the elements.  What might have once been a beautiful off white is now a patchy dark gray color with spots of mildew. The entire monument was leaning slightly, indicating that over the years, gravity had allowed the heavier side to settle into the ground, causing it to actually lean a little toward one side.  On the front, I could clearly see “P.P. Collum” on the aged monument.  As I looked at the front of the monument, reading his name, I heard an unfamiliar voice call to me, “It’s a little bit harder to read after all these years, ain’t it?”

 

Startled by the voice, but feeling no fear at all, I looked into the direction from where the voice came.  Sitting on a headstone of a nearby grave, was an old man with a long white beard.  His hair was almost black on the top, but the beard and mustache were snow white.  I had a most whimsical thought that someone had poured snow on his head, and it ran down into the beard and moustache, leaving the hair dark.  I remember thinking the exact thought while staring at the picture of my 2nd great grandfather.  Wait, this man looks like….  Could this be?  No, it couldn’t be him.  He was only a figment of my imagination; the many hours of studying Phillip Pinkney Collum were playing tricks on my mind.  Yet there he was! They were the same piercing eyes, the same high cheek bones, and the same loving and kind old face that stared at me from the photograph!

 

He was wearing overalls and a white shirt.  The overalls were patched in a couple of places, but they were clean, and looked freshly pressed.  He had his leg crossed, and on his knee was an old felt hat.  The hat looked very worn and old; I envisioned that he had been wearing the hat for all his adult life.  It possibly had been a vessel for drinking water, an instrument for dusting off his clothes, and likely kept the sun from his head as he worked in the hot sun.  I am quite confident that he also used the hat to swat the backside of an unruly toddler.  He had a pleasant nature, and again he spoke to me, “You ain’t the first person to come here lookin’ fer me. Nephews, grandsons, nieces, granddaughters, oh yeah, they come by here purty often to see that marker.  Tom, Macie, James, Laverne, J D, Regina, Charles, Robert, Charlotte, Denver, Betty, Oscar, Mary, and a lot with names I didn’t know. I have seen many familiar faces walk up to my pulpit.”

 

  He laughed hard as he slapped his leg with that old hat, and the other hand stretched out toward all the other gravestones in the cemetery, and without taking a breath, he kept talking.

 

“All these friends here just call me “preacher”, cause they said my folks got me a pulpit fer a headstone.  It’s ok, though, cause we all got real close here.  I ain’t got no other family here, so they all my friends and family now.”

 

 I couldn’t believe my eyes!  This was my 2nd great grandfather!  My subconscious had allowed me to get the answers I had so diligently searched for, and from the best possible source!  He took the old hat from his knee, and used it to dust off a spot beside him on the stone he was sitting on.  Then with his hand, he motioned for me to sit beside him.  During which time, he was saying, “You want to know about this old man? Well girlie, just set here a spell, and I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”

 

He crossed the other leg, placed the old hat on that knee, twisted his head sideways, rubbed that long beard like he was in a deep meditation, then he began:

 

“I was born back in 1831.  My Pa was Vincent Collum.My Pa was the roughest and toughest man I ever seen.  He learned us boys how to work hard and how to fight hard.  Me and my brothers, Clayton and Charlie was tough boys.  Pa said if we ever walked away from a fight, we better leave the other man  layin’ there.  He said if we ever started a fight, he’d leave us layin’ there.Yep, me and my brothers could whoop anybody around. (nudging me with his elbow) ‘Course Pa could whoop any of us!” 

 

 He took that old hat from his knee, and slapped his leg with it while he was talking.  Then with a big hearty laugh, he crossed his leg, replaced the old hat, and started rubbing that long beard, he continued.

 

“We had a tough life back then.  Life was hard for ever ‘body, ‘sep they didn’t know it, cause that’s just the way we lived.  Us boys  ‘d work from sunrise, to dark, and be glad to git some sleep.  Then we’d start all over the next  mornin’.  There was wood to chop, cows to milk, eggs to gather, and lots of other stuff.  We had to help Ma inside, too, cause there weren’t no girls.  Ma had it hard too, her name was Sarah.  She was a tough old broad, and you better not cross her, else you git that broom ‘cross yer head.  She always reminded us about her 2nd great grandma who was convicted of witchcraft.  We didn’t know how much of that might be true, but we didn’t take no chances.  We thought she told us that story to keep ;us afraid to mess with her, but later we found out it was true.  We all stayed busy as a cat nine miles from dirt.  Seems like we never got done workin’, but that’s what life was all about.”

 

He shifted about on the headstone, brushed off the leg of his overalls, (you would think those overalls were Armani the way he kept brushing them off.), then put that old hat back on his knee.  He rubbed the long beard again, and drifted into another monologue.

 

“Me and my brothers was like all the boys growin’ up in South Carolina.  When we got old enough to notice the girls, we had to find ways of makin’ money.  We’d try any job that was honest.  We all got purty girls too.  I married one that was older ‘n me.  It was just 2 years, but I picked at ‘er all the time ‘bout it. She’d tell me to go on and forgit about that nonsense.  Oh she was purty, and strong as me.  She could hook up the plow mule and get straighter lines than I could.  She was quite a woman my Mary. She said the only way I could have a younger one, was after she was gone.  She never knowed about it, but after she died, I did git me a young woman.  She was twenty years younger ‘n me, and I guess it was too much, cause I  only lived 5 more years! (ne nudged me again with his elbow)

 

Leaning back a little, he looked as if he was reminiscing about his life, he rubbed his moustache, and started again.

 

“Me and my brother Clayton both had a gang of young-uns.  He married Maggie Salter.  Her real name was Margret, but I liked callin’ her Maggie, cause she didn’t like it. (He nudged me again, and laughed).  All three of us boys went to Georgia, but Charley stayed there.  That’s where he married Martha Seagraves, and they had one son named Robert. That’s the last accounts I had of him.  Seems like the world got to goin’ faster durin’ that time, and afore we knowed what hit us, the war broke out.  Clayton went to Mississippi ‘bout 1859, but I didn’t go to where he was till after the war.  Yep, I signed up in that dreadful fight that some fool started.  The good Lord brought me through it, though.  I never knowed what happened to Charley.  He might’ve been in that war too, but I never knowed one way er another.”

 

He started rubbing that beard again, like it might give him some insight on his brother’s whereabouts.  After a few seconds of deep concentration, he spoke again.

 

“You know, I had a mighty fine bunch of young-uns.  They all made me proud.  There was William, Robert, Martha Jane, Charles, Sarah, Sherman, and Richard.  Altogether, if my cipherin’ is right, I have 36 grand young-uns.  But don’t ask me how many great grand young-uns I got, cause I don’t thank I can cipher that high.”

 

As I cleared my throat, and made an indication that I wanted to ask him a question, he seemed to foresee my interest, and interrupted me by saying:

 

“Now I hope you ain’t gonna ask me when somebody was born, er died.See, it’s like this, to me there ain’t never been but three times fer me to keep up with.  One was ‘right then”, one is “right now”, and the other is “maybe later”.Right then, me and my Mary had a good family; she was a strong, gentle woman.  She learned our young-uns what they needed to know to have a good life.  I put all I had into raisin’ my family and learnin’ ‘em to do the same.  Right now, I got no misgivin’s ‘bout how I lived my .life.  I put all I had in it, and that’s all any man can do. Right now, I have folks drop by like you did.  I know most of ‘em, and look forward to seein’ the rest.  If they don’t show up right now, then maybe later.”

 

“But Great Grandpa”, I said, “I have a lot of questions; I want to know more about your brother Charles.  I can’t locate where he is buried, when he died, or any other information on him.  I also can’t find Great Grandmother Mary’s time of death, or where she’s buried.  I need to find all this information to complete my research on you. I would like to know why you are the only Collum buried here in this cem..” …my conversation was interrupted by a loud whistle….maybe a horn blowing….no it’s a bell ringing….no it’s…a phone ringing,  my cell phone woke me from my wonderful dream!

 

I opened my eyes, and realized the dream was over, I was back in my dark bedroom, but the migraine was gone.  I was still at a great loss of information.  Though the vision was fantastic, I was still in the dark about so many things.  My disappointment gave me reasons to regret not finding the answers, but then I thought of the wisdom handed to me by my Great Grandpa in the dream about the three time frames, and I realized how fortunate I was. 

 

Right then, in the dream, I was fortunate enough to gain insight that would never have come to me in researching data.  Right now, I am looking forward to looking into other ancestors with a deeper appreciation of life.  Perhaps I will encounter another “vision” from another ancestor, if not right now…..then maybe later.

 


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