My First Fifty Years – By Gerald Bustin

Chapter 1

Birth and Beginnings

Perhaps something of the pioneer spirit is the natural heritage of the author of this book, for he was born on the homestead of his grandfather, Robert Bustin, which he had established among the clay hills of Scott County, Mississippi. His parents had come to this country as pioneers from “the old country” — England. Great virgin pines, hickory, gum, ash, and oak trees surrounded the homestead on all sides.

Youthful parents, Oscar Percy Bustin, and Francis (Lyle) Bustin, of English and Irish extraction, approached the month of July, 1903, with wonderment and high expectations. Then the day came, July twenty-second, with “Old Dr. Roe” present, for the arrival of little G. T. His name had already been chosen — borrowed from mother’s favorite uncle, “Green Talbot!” (Perhaps this is a little off color for a red-faced half Irishman, but it stuck). Mother seemed to have an assurance that this little arrival would be a boy, for though she was not a Christian then, she had prayed that her child would be a preacher of the gospel. (She told me of this eighteen years later).

Fifteen months later little Robert came along, but marital friction marred their joy. This resulted in an estrangement and a sorrow to all concerned, the shafts of which left their ugly scars for years to come.

(Bear with me at this junction that some soul might be helped before that sad leap is made into a dark future. First of all, young people, be sure before you enter into the bonds of matrimony, for it is a serious venture. After the venture is made, then stick by your promises. You are bound by the laws of God until the bond is broken by death. Give and take. Forgive one another as God who stands ever ready to forgive us. You are no longer your own, but you belong to each other. When unexpected trouble comes turn to God for grace and help. Commit your lives and your problems into His mighty hands, and thus save yourselves and your loved ones untold griefs and troubles. Even if you find that you have blundered in your choices, the only safe way through is to stick by your promises. Come to God and live together).

G. T. and Robert never knew the pleasure of playing together in their boyhood days. It was only a matter of weeks until the oldest was laid in the lap of Grandma Bustin, while the youngest was carried by his mother to parts not known. Not once were these two boys to meet again until they had arrived at young manhood. Sin is cruel in its nature and sad in its results.

Due to this sad state of affairs little G. T. was constrained to fear his mother lest he should one day be stolen by her. In this I would make no charge against my long departed grandmother who was my only “mamma” during my youthful years. Nor would I make a thrust at my aged father who has ever borne the name of “truthfulness and honesty.” I cannot blame my own mother who has now been in heaven for more than a quarter of a century. Sin is to blame for it all.

I loved my dear old grandmother whom I called mamma as long as she lived. She was an invalid from the time I was born, but an incessant laborer. She despised anything which looked like laziness. Thus, there is no need to say I was taught to work in my earliest years. There was no other child in the home — except for a period of some months following the death of my aunt, when my little cousin came to live with us — thus I had to be both girl and boy. My duties ranged from “setting the table” to “slopping the pigs” at a very early age. This combination was even carried into my first days of school when at the age of four I wore a flannel dress. Otherwise I might have been well dubbed “all boy”.

We lived in the country in a big, old style house, but “mamma,” known to all the country side as “Aunt Mary”, was noted for her “well kept house”, so naturally her “only girl” had somewhat of a share in this. The “scouring mop” — made of shucks tightly drawn through augur holes in a heavy board with handle attached — was my Saturday companion. If I worked extra well I might be rewarded with a run down to the creek for an hour or two to fish. (More about fishing later on.)

The little one room school house located on “Bustin Town Hill” furnished the basic part of my educational attainments. Here they dubbed me a “good student”, but I was far from being free from faults and boyish pranks. It is true that I was ready to cry from shame when “turned down” in spelling, “set down” in a “spelling match,” or given 95 or less in an examination, but I was often far from the ideal.

In this connection, well do I remember when I was about five years of age. We had a teacher by the name of Bob Kelley who boarded with us. One day a girl by the name of Beatrice was on the outs with me about something and went to Mr. Kelley and told him that I bit Tommy, her brother, on the arm. I was outraged by this lie. I informed the teacher that this was not true, for Tommy’s arm was “rusty” and I would not put my mouth on it, but the two of them declared it was so, thus I was beaten for both lying and biting. I then and there settled it in my heart that when I got “big enough” I would give Bob Kelley a “licking.” Incidentally upon arriving at young manhood I one day met Bob Kelley in the town of Forest, our county seat. I walked up to him and asked him if he knew me. He didn’t. I said, “I know you, and for many years have had a whipping laid up for you because you whipped me on a false charge of biting a boy with a dirty arm, but the Lord saved me a few weeks ago, so I am going to let you off.”

Like most other boys, perhaps, I wanted to do whatever I saw other people do. “Mamma” one time permitted me to go to a circus, though it was really against her conviction of what was right. Among other things I saw a man dive from a tower upon a springing mat and was unhurt. I thought this would be a good “show” to put on for my schoolmates who had not seen this. There was no springing mat available, but it was decided that we could heap up a great quantity of pine straw underneath a tree. This we did from time to time, then came the hour for the leap, or dive rather, from far up on a limb of the tree. In high spirits I climbed the tree, then came the dive for the entertainment of my audience. Nothing but the mercy of God, prevented my neck from being broken. I arose and limped away — a wiser boy, and yet not cured from folly.