Through a Crack in the Door


    The Howards were all together, their names put down. “May 7, 1888 On Sunday in the Country”—Levi and Mary were father and mother. Kate, with a cross by her name, will be Gladys’ grandmother. She did not hear the singer that day, dead the previous year of typhoid, aged thirty. That Kate had married Elisha W. Gregory was not indicated, nor that she left two daughters and a five year old son named Alvin.

    Elisha W. Gregory (1852-1926) was a farmer and carpenter in Cooke County, Texas. His tool box is in Mulberry now; and a marble slab with his name, and lumber from a Methodist church he helped build, are in the church at Mulberry.

    The Gregorys of Cooke County, Texas, could trace their family to a William Gregory (1742-1832), “patriot soldier” in the Revolutionary War. After the war he moved from North Carolina to Kentucky, where a grandson born in 1820 was William James Gregory. A 1906 account of this second William’s life begins:

    Perhaps no life in Northwest Texas surpasses, in its beautiful simplicity, in the extent and effectiveness of its labors, in the divine origin of its purposes and in the glory of its achievements that of the venerable gentleman and aged minister whose name introduces this personal record.... Calvinism permeated the spiritual thought and action of his Scotch-blooded paternal grandfather and a zealous regard for sacred things seems to have possessed the family down through the succeeding generations.

    An older brother of this William James was Joseph L. Gregory (born 1817), the father of Elisha. Other Gregorys continued to live among the “hills and hollers” of Kentucky, now a flooded, buried world. Toward the end of his life, Alvin Gregory heard again from “your Kentucky Cousin,” Paul Gregory: 

     ...they come here from every where to the famous Kentucky Lake. It is that covered my Uncle Tom and Joe Gregory farm and my Fathers too. I guess it [has] from 30 to 40 ft over it right [now]. Only twice about a year ago a high field showed up in low water time, and I dident see it but a boat patrolman told about it.

    In her story for a new friend in Paris, France, Gladys (1957) described the start of her parents’ courtship (1904): 


    Through a crack in th
e door a young girl peeked. Just what she was thinking I cannot be sure, but this one thing I know:  the young man whose face she sought was my father-to-be, and she herself, my mother.

    Maudie was quiet and modest, reserved and refined, and without ambition except to love and be loved.  With this one purpose in mind, she had set her heart on a young man four years older than herself, and a friend of her eldest brother Auda.  Thus, it is not surprising that we find her hovering about a crack in the door, the door that separates the dining room where she stands and the living room in which he sits.  Alvin, who had never been conscious of her childish existence before this day, soon found his eyes focused and glued on the door.  A mass of dark auburn hair, one blue eye, half a handsome nose, one rosy, freckled cheek, and part of a lovely, sensitive mouth, was what he saw.  My Dad tells this story over and over to me, and always ends with a far-away smile which seems to look back on something very wonderful.  He finishes by saying, “She was the only girl I ever loved.”

    She was Maudie Gertrude Bugg (1887-1938), daughter of George Franklin Bugg, of the tenth generation. Gladys’ story continues: 

    The George Bugg home was a mansion for that day and time, and for that particular section of the country, where truck farming was carried on without the aid of farm day-laborers.  It exemplified all the comforts that this type of farming could afford, yet this was not as much as might be expected.  Melissa and George were money-makers, but they saved their money and made no investments except what seemed absolutely sure of a satisfactory return.  Seemingly, it was easy to make and easy to save.  Melissa was the boss, and it might be observed without contradiction that George made the money and Melissa saved it....

    It must have been about this time [1910] that an extraordinary thing occurred.  Even in this remote period of our lives, Henriette, it may have joined our childhood experiences; it seemed to join all the world in wonder.  I can almost feel myself a child again, sitting on the front porch of our home, with my parents and a neighbor family who came to sit with us, in witnessing this unusual thing.  As we waited, the grown-ups talked; then someone shouted, “There it is!”  Halley’s Comet came into view.  Mama called me to her and said, very seriously, “When the comet is seen again, you will be an old woman, and I will be dead.”  That idea made a profound impression on me, and I gazed long and hard at the queer star with a tail, and tried with all my might to stamp it securely in my mind.

    I was still quite young when I learned that life, on the farm at least, could be quite boring, unless I hatched up some adventure.  With a skip between me and my brother and sister, made by the death of Little Auda, I felt rather old for them.  They played well together and left it to me to do the best I could to find recreation.  So I often walked through the woods in search of something, a treasure.  If I found a horned toad instead, a queer rock, or an unusually noisy bird, I could be content.  I walked to the far side of the pasture to bring up the cows, or I walked behind my Dad as he plowed, and felt the cool moist soil beneath my bare feet and between my toes.

    Being the eldest child, I found companionship with my parents very agreeable.  Mama was often at her sewing machine, for she made all of our clothes with only a few exceptions.  Many long afternoons might have been lonesome ones for me, but for the stories she willingly told.  I questioned her eagerly about every detail of her courtship and marriage, about the incidents connected with the births of each of us, and she made them both beautiful and entertaining.  I loved them all, except one.  According to the story, which she told almost incidentally and without the slightest trace of bitterness, she had picked berries to buy a new rocking chair for the Bugg parlor.  Upon her marriage, she asked to take the rocker to her home, but was refused by Melissa her mother.  As a result, when I was a baby, she had to rock, or bump me, to sleep in a straight chair.  I was careful not to betray the slightest emotion at this story, for I did not want Mama to know what she had done to the little bit of love I had left for this grandmother, in the first place.

    As years went by and the younger children went to their beds early each night, I found occasions to stay up to talk with Dad too.  He must have had serious thoughts for my future, for he often said, “Someday you will be a school teacher,” and he went on to tell me about the education he planned to give me.  I couldn’t quite understand what he meant, but I knew it was something valuable and interesting, and I wanted it because he wanted it for me.  And although I had no real understanding, I never doubted that everything would be just as my Dad said....

    The days I could go home with Ruth, my aunt only two years older, are memorable to this day.  Like my mother, Ruth was a quiet child, but she was openly amused by my activities.  I think the entire Bugg family looked forward to my visits; I was so different from any of them.  As we entered the little white gate, the smell of freshly baked bread met us.  Supper followed soon, for the walk from school was long, and the evenings short.  The table was crowded with grown-ups who turned all eyes on me, their first grandchild.  This was all I needed, a loving grandfather whose eyes beamed.  But a grandmother was there too; she looked with cold eyes, breaking their stare only to say, “Gladys, you do have the least legs.  I don’t see how they hold you up.”  Five uncles and aunts were ready to devour my stories for insight into the inner circle of Maudie’s and Alvin’s home.  And quiet little Ruth bubbled over with laughter.

    [Ruth] ...Then one day seventeen years later [1932] while Mama was sitting by the fireplace, she raised her right hand and died.  It was a cold March day that we buried Mama, but this time the casket was brought to the church and cemetery in a motor-driven hearse.  I had, being an adult, reconciled my emotion with death.  The flower from Mama’s grave was put in the little box beside the flower from Papa’s grave.  Now there were two.  The box of flowers was a precious possession.  It was a keepsake that had no monetary value, but the sentimental value was beyond estimation....

    I remember Allie telling about someone saying during a [Sunday school] class discussion that money was the root of all evil.  The statement was noted and the correction was made, inserting the words “the love of money,” rather than just “money”.

Home of George and Melissa Bugg

Melissa Bugg with Grandchildren (about 1920)

Dean, Worth, cousin Frankie, Gladys...Ray (far right)

In 1916 at age eleven, Gladys Gregory wrote...

    One day when I was eight monts old mama went to the garden which was about fifty or sixty yd. from the house and left me asleep on a pallet for it was very warm.  She had a tub of water sitting on the back porch. I woke up and crawled up to the tub of water.  As mama was comming in sight of the house [she] saw me fall in head first. Mama ran to pick me up. She told me I had better wait till I was larger to swim.

    One Christmas old Santa brought me a little red rocking chair. A week or two after Christmas Aunt Allie, mama and I went to town. We was in a furniture store. I saw a rocking chair just like mine. I picked it up and started toward the door.

    One Thanksgiving mama was looking for company. Mama had some nice pumpkin pies baked. I found them and pinched the crust off of them.

    When I was about five years old the preacher came to visit us. When we sit down to eat our dinner I picked up the pie and passed it to the preacher first thing. They all laughed at me so that I cried.

    One day I went to see my cousin in town. I had not been there but two or three days until we thought we would go and see the court house. Both of us was nine years old, and dident know much about a court house.  We went in the large building and started up the winding stairs. We thought we was lost. My cousin came out on one side of the court house and me on the other. We said we would never visit the court house again with[out] someone who knows something about winding stairs.

    One day I went to see Aunt Ruth. We rode on a horse after the cows. We got to a bridge we couldent get our horse across. So we turned and started home. We was about a half mile from home.  We decided to make Prince trot. He trotted very fast. We tryed to stop the horse but coulden’t. The saddle turned and we fell off. Aunt Ruth broke her arm. I thought I was hurt but wasen’t.

    Catherine, my cousin, came to visit me one summer. Papa was going to the gin so we wanted to go to. Our mothers did not want us to go but our fathers did. We begged our mothers to let us go. When the time came they said, “Yes.” So we jumped in the wagon on good soft cotton. When we got there a man gave us a dime and told us to get us some candy.

    The first teacher I every went to was Mr. Dills. I went about six weeks. I set with Katy. I liked him very much becaus he let us go out and play in books.

    The second teacher was Miss Ida. When she taught me and Nannie could do anything we wanted to. We had fun with her old green ball.

    The next teacher was Mr. Swafford. I was in the third grade and so was Nannie.

    My last teacher is Miss Newton which I like very well.