Mabel Springs

Sitting atop Rock Crusher Mountain is the home of a person who was one of the two guest speakers on February 5 here in Livingston, and I was very glad to be among those who got to hear her tell about how it was to grow up in this area many years ago. While this lady is one that could be referred to as small in stature, she has a bountiful storehouse of knowledge, wonderful memories, and experiences all contained within that small person.

I was truly amazed by what she had to tell, so amazed, in fact, that I called her the next week to ask if I could come visit her. She was a little reluctant to agree to visit with me, saying that she didn't think she would have much of anything to tell that anyone else would want to know about, but in my opinion, just the opposite is true.

(Buster Brown Shoes)

 

Miss Mabel Springs was born on the place where she has always resided, a place her father referred to as "a mountain of stone." Her parents were Harry Springs and Ida Roberts Springs, and her father opened and quarried rock for many years from the quarry that is located just down below their homeplace. Many of the rock walls, chimneys, and stone foundations of the older homes in Livingston were built by Mr. Springs, and Mabel helped with this work, doing things such as mixing mortar, and, as she says, "swinging a 10-pound hammer" which she had no trouble doing, even as a very young child.

In her words, she related that she "grew up fast." By what we today consider as the tender age of 4 or 5 years, she was helping her father in his work as a stone cutter, which was only one of the skills he had. She was the middle child of three daughters, and is the only one of her immediate family still living today. When I asked her how old she is, she laughed and said, "Now I didn't tell you you could ask me how old I am."

So we moved on to other things, and in that late afternoon, I was able to catch glimpses of the past by listening to her recall memories that are very vivid in her mind. Clearing stumps with dynamite from fields was another job she did as a young girl, and she says she was good at this job, too. She told me in detail how that particular job was done, another thing I was amazed by, and also about a day when she and her father were prizing very large rocks or boulders in an area near a cave somewhere on the mountain top. As they worked, a large boulder rolled over and completely closed up the opening of the only way they had to get out. She said she was very scared and she remembered that they did a lot of praying before being able to get the boulder rolled out of the way enough to get out.

The quarry where her father worked employed a lot of men, and it was through her father that men from the black community in Celina, and also from the state of Georgia where her father was from, were able to get jobs. Mable says the hillside around the area of what is now the home of Lois and the late Clyde Warren was covered with tents used by the men who worked in the quarry.

She remembers fondly about a time when she, as a young child, was able to meet a real celebrity, and did so on the square of Livingston. It seems that as a promotional campaign for Buster Brown shoes, Buster Brown and his dog, Tyge, came to one of the stores on the square known as Fleming and Myers, the same building that The Paper Place is now in. They rolled into Livingston in what would probably be considered today a chauffeured limousine. The chauffeur or driver got out of the car, opened the door of the car, and out stepped the tiny little man known as Buster Brown along with his dog, Tyge. Mabel said she was the only little black girl there that day who got a pair of Buster Brown shoes. Her eyes just sparkle when she tells this story, and
anyone present can feel at least a little bit of the excitement she felt that day. But that wasn't the only time she has seen Buster Brown. Just a few weeks ago, he was being interviewed on one of the TV news programs, and she happened to be watching. She said she wasn't paying real close attention until she heard the fellow being interviewed say, "They call me Buster." She looked at the TV screen, and sure enough, there he was. And "Do you know what," she said, "he didn't have as much gray hair as I do!"

Mabel tells me that both her mother and her grandmother worked for Governor Albert Roberts, who was originally from Alpine, and her mother was requested by Governor Roberts to come to Nashville to work in the governor's mansion, but she decided not to go. Mabel, her mother, and her sisters were also employed over the years by many of Livingston's most prominent families, such as the Qualls family and the Mofields, and others.

From our conversation on the day of my visit, it was obvious that education was something unheard of at the time they grew up. They attended grade school here in Livingston, and went on to Cookeville to complete their high school education. She and her family covered many, many miles on foot, in and all around Livingston. It was nothing unusual for them to walk from their home on Rock Crusher Mountain to their grand-mother's home in Alpine, and Mable describes the route they took as one that included very little of the present day highway that leads to Alpine today. Her grandmother would also walk from Alpine to their home, and was known to have said, "Give me an hour of sunshine, and I'll be back at home in Alpine."

Hunting and horseback riding were also things she loved to do. She and her father would go hunting together, and she told me that she hunted with a hog rifle and her father used a .22. She also ran a trap line from time to time. She worked out enough money one time to buy her own horse, which she rode up the steep and rocky road that existed long before the paved street that runs up the mountain now.

As I walked up to her front door the day I visited her, I could hardly take a step without getting on a flower pushing up through the ground awaiting the arrival of spring, ready to burst forth with color. She and her sisters grew just about every kind of flower that will grow in our part of the world, and even cultivated their own types of iris. Mabel tells me folks from everywhere would come just to see their flowers.

While I worked on this article, one of the thoughts that kept coming back to me is how in the world did they walk up that mountain on a daily basis? The very thought of even trying it one time makes me cringe, and one time is the only time I've ever tried it, too. A friend of mine said she set out one day to walk up that mountain, and laughing, told me how she got to the point of just wanting to lay down in front of any car that came by and beg to be run over! I know exactly how she felt. I guess that's where a big difference lies in lifestyles of folks nowadays. In my opinion, as a whole, we are lazy and terribly out of shape.

I asked Mabel if she could even imagine a child of 4 or 5 years growing up today learning how to use a 10-pound hammer and helping a parent do stone cutting work, and she replied, "Oh, yes, they could learn, but they won't do it. It was a whole lot different world when I was growing up." How very true that statement is. And even though the life she has lived is very different from anything most of us know about today, there is still one dream she has, and that is taking a ride on a motorcycle. Wešre working on making this dream come true for her.

I was very glad to have had an opportunity to visit with Mabel at her mountain top home, and I know that with this article, I have only skimmed the surface of the stories that she could relate. The many, many other memories and experiences she has had would make for a wonderful book. I came away from her home touched by just being in the presence of such an amazing little lady. God surely has a special place
planned for her further down the road.
 

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