Let me introduce you to Mr. Ted Griggs. Mr. Griggs tells a story of playing baseball with the boys, the happenings at the Bethel General Store, and bootleggers. He recalls that it was a great time to be alive! Mr. Griggs is passionate about riding horses and writing poetry. Here are some of his stories.
I grew up here in the Natchez Trace, it was nice. People was pretty close knit. Played baseball. I remember this old store here (Bethel General Store) and people use to come here and just sit around and shoot the breeze. I use to take up hay from the old man that use to live over here, take pay, and come over here to this old store and eat. It was nice.
Not all of us had cars. So we would pile up in one old car on Sundays and come here and play baseball. We would ride mules. I was enjoyin’ being alive. We would hit the swimming hole (Fly). There was a bridge over on Fly Road, if we had an old car we would go down there and wash it.
I went to Hillsboro School in Leiper’s Fork. It was kind of primitive. There was 14 in my graduating class. We rode horses from my house on the Natchez Trace and we would come about 15 miles and come down here and eat. And go back home I guess.
It was an old grocery store (Bethel General Store) but they would make bologna sandwiches. It was just an old store that sold horse collars, anything for live stock, and to work with. There was a old guy down here that I use to work with. He made whiskey. He would buy a track of timber as a cover. He would put me to draggin’ logs for him while he was makin’ the whiskey. And as a rule growing up no one ever told you to take your time but he would want to get as much out of you as he could. The old man would say “take your time, don’t get too fast”. They would be making whiskey while we would be draggin’ logs. So one day we got up there and they had found a Beech tree that had honey in it. They got this idea that they were going to rob this tree of the honey. The man sent me up here to the store (Bethel General Store) and I got four or five bottles of rubbing alcohol. Of course he was drinking rubbing alcohol while he was waiting for his whiskey to get ready. Drink it straight. So they got this idea that they would rub this rubbing alcohol (all over themselves) and the bees wouldn’t sting them. I was young but I was smart enough to know better. Well they had that old Belgium horse that I was using and we was up in the hollow, and there was an old man who wore a turtle hull hat like a safari hat. So they get up there in the woods and they decided they were going to saw this tree with a chainsaw and rob this tree. So they rub themselves with this alcohol and thought it would deter the bees but I knew better than that. Next thing you know they sawed in that tree and you saw that old horse come runnin’ . He was gone! That old man came down and had lost his turtle hull hat. The next day their eyes were all swollen, the whole nine yards. But that broke their idea of robbing a bee tree. Alcohol wont deter bees especially if you make them mad with a chain saw. That whiskey-maker served ten years in federal prison for making whiskey. There were a lot of bootleggers down here. I use to ride my old horse down here and get my daddy some whiskey. We called them the “high pockets”. We were told “go down to high pockets and get me some whiskey”. So we would get the jar and go down to high pockets and get some whiskey on that old horse.
This place was pretty primitive up until the hippies coming here in the late 60’s do to the Vietnam War and the hippie movement. We would come here (Bethel General Store), it was a pretty central unit. We would come if we wanted work and come to the store and wait for them to see if they wanted you to cut tobacco, take up hay, or work in the log woods. Any kind of work! The old man that owned this store was Henry Carlisle. His father owned a store on the Natchez Trace called J.C. Carlisle General Merchandise. It was an old timey type store and his son built this one in the early 1900’s.
We was across the tracks until ’68-69. There are some awful good people down here. Awful good people. It was pretty close knit. I left out of here in ’67 got a job workin’ with a race track outfit. We traveled all across the country. Then I got drafted out of Chicago for Vietnam in 68′. Then I went to Europe stayed as an European discharge. I was a hippie traveling around. It was great. But then we was discovered after that. I remember a yankee told me one day that she “was so glad this place was discovered”. I told her “I didn’t know we was lost”.
Its always been a safe place. People got along good. Good neighbors. A memory I had in ’63 was a big snow storm on Christmas Eve. Heck of a storm. I mean big flakes. We always gathered at my grandmother’s on Christmas Eve and people would gather around, it was a general get-together. But there was a snow storm. The people that had cars couldn’t get around. We walked from over on the Natchez Trace to down here at this store (Bethel General Store) to get us some firecrackers and our feet was soakin’ wet. It was about a 10 mile round trip. We had a ball! It was a bunch of us walkin’ in the snow at night to get firecrackers. It was a good life. Everyone was poor. Nobody was better than anyone else. Everyone was poor. We’d work for about $4-5 day, ride mules, horses on Saturdays and Sundays and then we was discovered.
We use to come off the ridges at Rainbow Falls. We was coming off this hill one time and a bunch of hippies had moved in an old house and they would go in this waterfall. We rode off that hill, it was a mean hill. Horses sit down on their hind feet and slide down. But everyone would jump in that creek. It was a good time. Just like they had known us all their life. They would barbeque and we’d have a good time.
Its good country. If we wanted to play ball, I’d bring a glove, he would bring the ball, and the other guy would bring the bat. Franklin was furnished everything and we weren’t but we were the better team. We’d play baseball and on Saturdays and Sundays, and we would play different teams around the county. Mighty good people from here.
It was clean cut. There wasn’t any drugs. Every once in a while somebody might get some moonshine. I learned how to drive by driving these old drunks around. Thats how I learned to drive. There was still some good people here. It was a close knit community. If for some reason a family got down, the husband was sick or something, people would come to get their crops in, cut firewood. It just happened. They don’t do that anymore. I liked growing up here. I cannot imagine growing up anywhere else. When I was growing up, I thought “man I got to get out of here”, but then I went around the world and I realized this was the place. Nobody thought they were better. If a neighbor needed any help, they done it.
Henry Carlisle and Merle Carlisle they run this store at the beginning. I lived in Williamson County. And if we needed to talk to somebody on the telephone in Maury County we would have to come here to use the telephone. I remember us trying to date a little bit and we would have to come here to call a girl we had met in Maury County.
Mr. Griggs has also been featured in Hills and Hamlets.