Jacksonville, Ga. Preacher Believed In “Mule Education”
By Julian Williams, February 26, 2003
“Mule Education” – The Rev. Bascom Anthony believed that a working association with a mule of fair moral character could instill some of those same attributes in a boy, especially one who had lost his way. It seemed that the lowly beast was a great educational remedy of the day. Taking a course with the mule might have helped a lot of us.
The Rev. Bascom Anthony still had not become a minister of the Gospel at this time and had not yet arrived at Jacksonville, Georgia , for his firs preaching assignment. He was, in fact, putting off the inevitable as long as he could. He did not seem to consider himself fit for the task of spreading the gospel but at the same time knew that God sees none as “worthy: but takes what He’s got and uses the item accordingly. He knew he was being stubborn as a Georgia mule but notwithstanding the sometimes ornery attitude of the beast he was to come to see great good in this animal that pulled the plow. So he knew, mule-headed or not, sooner or later, he would wind up in the right pew (pulpit) and attend to his life’s work. Later he said:
I have never wanted to preach and yet I have no recollection of a time that I did
not know I had it to do. When about twelve, I dropped out of the Church and seldom
went until I was more than twenty. Like most boys my plans for life varied with my
age. One time I wanted to raise game roosters and have the out fightenest rooster in
the world. Later I wanted to go West to fight Indians and kill buffalos. At another
time my highest hopes was to be a spieler at a side show with a circus. My last plan
was to be a lawyer and own and run a county newspaper. That would be most congenial
today were I but free from a life-ong haunting sense of duty. I am glad I am not free
from it. I have gone this way so long, found its rewards so rich and its joys so keen until
no other sort of life now has any charm in comparison with it.
But even before Bascom Anthony stepped into the pulpit at Jacksonville, Ga, he had grave concerns about the moral state of his country. He remembered his youth, an economically poor time of his life, as being rich with the resulting strength and rewards of good hard work. The thought the government was now depriving children of the same opportunity.
One trouble with business today is the effort of a bunch of politicians to set aside
the law of supply and demand. They will repeal it the same day that they repeal
the law of gravitation and not sooner. The pity of the whole thing that they are
educating the public to expect government to support them instead of them
supporting the government. They forget that all any just government can do is to
preserve order, keep our hands out of each other’s pockets and off each othe’s
throats and to see that what is done for one is done for all.
Bascom Anthony vividly rekindles in us the scenes we heard from our ancestors who admonished us on a daily basis that we “didn’t know what hard times are.” But Bascom spoke knowingly because he had seen the hard times of the Civil War, 1873, 1893 and all the other times when things were bad – like 1929 – the Great Depression.
One great advantage my generation had was that we were poor, had no luxuries
and just naturally had to work. Everything was home-made – the clothes you
wore, the fuel and lights you burned, the soap you used, the bread, the meat
and the vegetables you ate. The children of today don’t have a fair chance for
there is no work to do. No garden to be hoed, no horse to feed and curry, no cow
to milk, no great pile of stove wood and house wood to be cut and brought in,
no tubs and troughs of water to be drawn from a deep well, no candles to mould,
no soap pot to watch by the hour, no long walk to the post office to see if there is
any mail, no trip to the swamp to get brush brooms to sweep the yards, no long
walks away out in the country to find an old field where you can get enough broom
straw to sweep the house until next year’s crop of straw can grow, no tramp to school
and back with your books in one hand and the dinner bucket in the other, no sitting
down under a tree at dinner time with that bucket between your knees, not sticking
your finger in the ring on the bucket lid and hearing a pop as it comes off revealing
some cornbread, fried middling meat, some cold sweet potatoes, a large lump of real
cow butter, and if you had the preacher or other company the night befoe there are
a couple of fat old buttermilk biscuits and a bottle of syrup; no sticking your finger full
length into a biscuit and then filling the hole with syrup, (I’d give a three dollar bill
for something half as good - JW) no nothing for the youth of today. They don’t
have a fair chance and it’s not their fault or ours either. It’s the result of the machine age.
Somewhere in all that there must have been a time warp because my father, J. D. Williams (1912 – 1998), born fifty-three years after Bascom Anthony, could have written the same description of his boyhood days. In fact, he often told me that Mr. Clark Fussell, who lived near Jacksonville, Ga.., was kind enough to allow him to plow his field all day for twenty-five cents. He said he was glad to have the opportunity because most people at the time could not hire out for twenty-five cents simply because here were few quarters jingling around in the pockets of anyone, even worse, most had to quit school because they had to work on the farm – and didn’t even get that quarter
But the lack of lack of work for the children of Bascom Anthony caused him great concern and he went to great lengths to find a remedy. But find it he did.
Two of our three boys took after some remote ancestor and were a bit hard to manage, so I sent
them to the country, and paid the wages of one of them, so they could be worked from dawn till dark,
and then they slept from dark till down and there was no time left for devilment. A prolonged but
not too intimate association with a mule of fair moral character helped them both. To be Chamber-
maid to a drove of cows, and to have fellowship with a bunch of hogs taught them some lessons that
they could never learn elsewhere and that stands them in hand to this good day. It may be that
machine age will put a lot of us back on the dirt as part-time farmers and part-time factory operatives.
If so, it will be a good day for us.
So, mules played an important part in the lives of people. Some boys plowed them for money and some plowed them for attitude changes and a deeper appreciation of life in general But in either case it appears the boys were glad to be relieved of the chore. As someone once said, “you will have a better boy if he has had the opportunity to closely view, on many occasions, the south end of a mule heading north.” And that is not to mention the sweet smell that goes with the opportunity An most of us would have been better boys had we been given that opportunity. Afterwards, the classroom and other opportunities would have taken on a new and special flavor. How appealing they would have become.
Credits: Rev. James Duke for a copy of Bascom Anthony’s “Fifty Years in the Ministry”; Charles Shelton for information on the Anthony family; personal notes; and other sources.