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Wills, Letters & Legends

Upon the occasion of the celebration of the golden ammiversary of the marriage of William Hume and Miss Mary Leland, the children and many of the grandchildren were on hand, and a great day was spent at Leland Farm, near Spring Hill, Tenn., and the second son in the family (Dr. Alfred Hume) handed his mother a letter, copy of which follows:


Leland Farm, November 30, 1912

My Dear Mother:   I've been thinking of home today---the home of my childhood---the home on the hilltop where, through long summer days, the old-fashioned flowers bloomed,---the forget-me-nots, the zinnias, the verbenas, the petunias, the bleeding hearts, the bachelor buttons, the morning glories, the roses; where the cypress blossoms, in their simple beauty, shone white and red on a background of green; where the hop-vine clambered over the lattice; where the mocking-birds built their nests in the honeysuckle bower by the window, singing joyously through the day and filling our hearts with foolish fears by night as their musical notes mingled with the croaking of frogs and the hooting and screeching of owls.  Many other memories of those summer days, with their sunshine and their rain, come back to me.  I can hear again the rustle of the wind in the corn; I can see the waving wheat, the new-mown hay, with a fragrance all its own, the partridge eggs uncovered by the mower, the shadows of the passing clouds as they chase each other over woodland and meadow; and long after nightfall I am peering eagerly far down the darkening road and listening intently for the first sound of the crunching of the gravel under the buggy wheels as the drummer-father comes home.
     I find myself thirsting for a drink from the spring at the foot of the hill where the cool, clear water gurgled forth from under the rocks, ran along the cedar trough and then found its limpid way over moss-covered stones amid fragrant beds of mint to the creek in which I learned to fish and to swim, and which meant fully as much to me then as did ever the River Nile to ancient Egypt.  You have yourself often noted how, like a silver thread, it appeared as seen from the front porch, following the valleys and skirting field and meadow-land.  What a quiet, peaceful, restful scene it was!  But I loved it best when muddy, foaming, turbulent and swollen, its angry waves lashed into fury by sudden storm or days of freshet, its rapid current carrying rails, logs, and even trees, flooding the lowlands and threatening the bridges.  It's the stream which, I've been told , old George swam one winter's night, the night that I was born, when he hurried for the doctor, the "Doctor of the old school," the country doctor of long ago.  Perhaps this is why I love the creek and love it most when in a rage.
     Here I must make a confession and tell you that we used to go in "washing" during "dog days" and let the dirty foam from the mill-race fill our mouths as we held them wide open on the level of the water.  To be sure, that was very unsanitary.  The sloping banks of that mill-race and pond would become more and more exposed as the water-level was lowered when the mill was grinding grain and found a wet and slick sliding place down which we used to slip and slide until you wouldn't have known your little boys, for they looked like colored boys and of a clay color too.  That was the day of mud fights and of the hiding and tying of clothes on the bank.
     While I'm confessing some of the faults of my younger days, I am reminded of the other spring, halfway down the hill, where the milk and butter were kept.  Well, one day I went down there and lifted the lid from a vessel containing milk, let my head down into it and, with my tongue, dog-fashion, lapped up most of the cream.  The milk didn't have to be skimmed that night.  So I broke not only the laws of sanitation and hygiene, in those early days, but the moral law as well.  May the Heavenly Father pardon the sins of my later life as fully and as freely as my mother here has forgiven and forgotten the errors of youth.
     Santa Claus was not so old then by some two-score years.  The great stone chimneys gave him easier access than do the smaller flues of today, and the big open fireplaces were more inviting than the radiators and registers which do not seem to bid him welcome.  Oh! for the good cheer that radiated from the blazing sticks of wood, the sparks that cheeily flew up the chimney, the back-log which gave assurance of plenty and to spare!  Do you remember the stockings hung on Christmas eve from mantel or bedpost, and the larger gifts placed beside them when these had overflowed?  I recall just now, as if 'twere but yesterday, a little blue trunk in which I put my valuables and which I kept among my treasures for years and years.  Can you recall the booming of the shotgun at daybreak Christmas morning, when George fired it while standing on the plank fence near the kitchen and was kicked backward to the ground?  Those gray days of winter were as happy as the sunny ones of summer.  How we coasted down the long slope in the front pasture and skated on the pond back of the orchard!
     But I must now weary you.  The recollections of my boyhood would fill a book.  Memory crowds my mind with numberless happenings of undying intest to me, but it may be of interest to nobody else.  There were the horses, Charley and Alex, Cheatham and Witty, and the others; there was the little cur dog, Bulger; and my special pets, the martins, annual visitors, which nested in the box on the pole in the backyard and over the columns of the front gallery.
     Some of the relics and playthings of that time are with me yet in memory dear.  A few of these may be among your treasured possessions still.  Do you keep the brass buttons that came from father's faded coat of gray and the wonderful epaulets that he wore as an officer in the Confederate Army?
     One great day in particular I recall, the day when the piano was unloaded from the wagon and placed in the parlor.  I can see it all again---the clean, neat, tastefully arranged room, and the rows of bright green figures in the wall paper.  They tell us that this was unsanitary, too, for the green contained arsenic, but I've seen no prettier paper anywhere.
     Do you recall how much space there was under the parlor and how we children used to play there?  Even then Leland exhibited his great organizing and executive ability by the system of roads and canals and other means of communication which connected the flourishing cities and towns beneath the house.  The only sister, Willie, played with us too, but without always approving what was done, and on one occasion pronounced us and our ways simply " abomnibunt."  Foster was very considerably younger.  He came near leaving us one day, for you remember bringing the little fellow home when he seemed sick unto death, and laid him gently on the front porch with the fond hope that the fresh country air blowing over his face would revive him, but with the dread fear that he would there breathe his last.
     A very different scene do I recall in connection with this brother somewhat older grown.  We were on the high rail fence, with its stakes and riders, near the old buggyhouse, when a host of bumblebees came forth from their nest and soon became entangled in his long yellow hair, where, for some time, they had close, intimate and painful associations with him.  Mayes and Fred, being both city born and bred, have but meager knowledge of the old home.
     Farther away was the "big hill," from whose lofty summit could be seen the far-off hills beyond the capital city of the state.  Oh! to wander once more over the hills that I loved as a boy, to linger alone in the twilights by the honeysuckle bower; to enjoy the comparitive innocence of childhood and to live over the days that were close to the cradle where the lullabies of mother and the droning of black mammy were heard.
     But perhaps it were better never to return to the dear old scenes, holding them forever fresh in memory green, unmarred by the rude touch of time and the sad changes the years have made.  Perhaps it were better still to look away from the old home, in the hills---the country home---to that glad day when we shall gather in the city home, where there are many mansions, in the city not made with hands, where God shall wipe away all tears, and where even golden weding days shall be but sacred memories.

Affectionatley your son
(Signed) Alfred Hume

The home referred to by him was the one established shortly after the close of the Civil War at Rivermount, overlooking the little village of Beech Grove, Coffee County, Tennessee.

Dr. Alfred Hume was Chancellor of the University of Mississippi at Oxford for many years.

Eulogy for Mary Kate Leland Hume

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