Sunday, October 05, 2014

Extra Innings

The little boy in the creek is my daddy, Charles Columbus Shaw. He wasn't breathing when Lillian Ophelia Wilkerson Shaw delivered him on May 21, 1919. Lillian's step-mother Mattie Wilkerson took up the baby and breathed into his little mouth and started those lungs supplying oxygen to his heart as they continued to do for 24,668 days including 17 leap days and that partial day, December 3, 1986 when a blood clot stole him from us. Today is my own 24,668th day. Sometime in the next few hours -- or maybe already since I was born just after midnight on my birthday -- I will have surpassed him in one category, perhaps the only one. I will have lived longer. Who knew growing old happens so quickly?

My father's father, Grady Columbus Shaw, also died at 67. I passed his record several weeks ago.

I like to think that perhaps I got my longevity genes from my mother's side of the family. Ruth Baird Shaw is 91 and still driving, blogging, publishing books, challenging me and others on Facebook, and, if she gets a chance occasionally, preaching.

Grady and Charles Shaw certainly were deserving of more days, and we could have used their wisdom, humor, love, and support many times in the intervening years. Who knows why I get the extra innings? But I have them. However long they last, hours, days, months, or years, I swear by those two strong supporters of mine, that I will do my best to use my bonus revolutions around earth's axis, actively, purposefully, consciously, and with an acute awareness of my undeserved but much appreciated blessings. And just maybe I'll accomplish a little good along the way.



Sunday in Jonesborough

Sunday in Jonesborough

This morning Diane and Brittany (and Brittany's husband Eric) fixed breakfast for the Storybrook Farm bunch. John took the morning off. We had crepes with toppings that included strawberries, nuts, cinnamon sugar, chocolate, a whipped cream/ricotta cheese mixture, and powdered sugar. A different sausage, coffee, tea, and OJ to accompany it, and our 13 new friends around the table for good conversation.

Then off to the Library Tent for the whole day. That would give us a good dose of Carmen Deedy, Bil Lepp, and Kevin Kling, three of our favorites, and allow us to hear the two tellers we hadn't heard yet, Carol Birch and Kuniko. My biggest regret is that somehow we only had one good helping of Bill Harley all weekend. Bill has been a favorite for 25 years or more. We did end up hearing at least a small bit of every single featured teller plus the Story Slam folks. We missed the Exchange Place first-time tellers and Antonio Sacre who performed the Saturday Midnight  Caberet. We were just too tired to do a second day of late night stuff.

Oh my! How could it be Sunday already? First "Sacred Tales". Our emcee is Valerie Hudson who encourages us to find the stories we love and tell 'em.

Megan Wells told of her family's vacation in a pop-up camper. I could relate. Her father, she said, "went out of his way to go out of his way." Along the way her mother kept trying to get him to find a camping spot, but he kept doggedly driving toward the Rockies. Finally he found the pull-off he was looking for. He managed to get Megan and her mom out of the car while the two boys slumbered on the folded-down back seat. As he hugged and kissed his wife he asked, "It was worth it, wasn't it?" Gazing skyward his wife agreed and Megan turned her face heavenward. "I was nine years old when I met the stars." Previously Milky Way was a candy bar. Now? A million lasers. "Eyes, I thought, millions and millions of eyes. Something bigger was watching over us all." 

Megan lifted a tiny music box to the microphone and turned its crank as it tinkled out "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."

Tim Tingle, the cheerful Choctaw, uses no artifice or pretense. He tells, he doesn't recite. Storytelling is, by its very nature, more presentational than acting, but still I like the "first time" illusion of those tellers who tell as if I am their only listener and they are just relating the story to me, finding their words in the moment. Tim gives me that impression. He told about Alvey Carney, the WWII Marine who stormed Iwo Jima and walked through the rubble of Hiroshima after the bomb. Carney developed the Choctaw IQ Test. Scored were based on how long it took a new acquaintance to realize that Alvey's right arm was wooden. Tim says his score was the lowest of all time. It wasn't until Alvey put his elbow in the noodles on Tim's plate that he noticed.

And Dancing Mary had a wooden leg. The Choctaw bury lost limbs in hopes that those limbs will await a reunion in heaven. Mary's leg spent fifty years dancing with the Lord before joining its mate after her death.

Kuniko is a lovely and soft-spoken Japanese teller who explained and demonstrated paper cranes to us as she interspersed the music of her flute. A one point the paper crane appeared to fly on its own power into her hands.

She also told of a Zen master and apprentice and their debate about whether a zebra is a white horse with black stripes or vice versa; whether or not the koi are happy; and what is heaven and what is hell.

Tim Lowry loves Thanksgiving. He says it is Christmas without all the "stuff". And, in his childhood, on the day after Thanksgiving the second holiest book was brought out. Number one, of course, is always the Bible. But number two had to have been the Sears Roebuck Catalog. His mother used a magnifying glass to peruse it because she was "legally blind". She found a Nativity Scene she wanted because it was "big enough for me to see it", she said. When Tim and his sister saw a big plastic, lighted from the inside, manger set at the Ben Franklin store they put it on lay-a-way and began saving to buy it for their mom. It took even investing lunch money but they managed it. Their mother still displays it to this day. They always put it out on "Christmas Adam" --- the day before Christmas Eve!

Sue O'Halloren, told "Dad's Story" the most painful story of the weekend, perhaps. I honestly became so absorbed in the love and heartbreak of the story -- one with which I could so easily relate -- that I forgot about taking notes. Her father had influenced her daughter to avoid the racial stereotypes of her friends, neighbors, and even family members. He defended his black students from the belittling comments around the dinner table and on the street. He was strong and principled and loving. She had him on a pedestal of nobility. And at the very moment when she was most sure of his understanding in the middle of chaos, he crushes her with disappointment. 

It is a hard truth, I think, that we must all face-up to sin even in our saints. Sin is absolutely universally active. We do not have to throw our loved ones (or ourselves) out with their sins, but we recognize it, forgive it as we can, and continue to love.

Carmen Deedy told the long story of the nugget of story that prompted it, the writing and re-writing, near destruction, and final creation of her story book about the legend of The Yellow Star.

I hurried out to get us some supper between sets and made a poor decision for some pizza. Too time consuming! I ended up listening as best I could to Welsh teller Danial Morden's retelling of "Like Meat Loves Salt" from outside the tent. 

Back at Sheila's side near the front of the Library Tent we settled back for a thirty minute Bil Lepp tall tale. This one had its Genesis in the popular high school health class assignment of caring for an egg as if it were a baby. In Bil's case the teacher ran out of eggs and he was the only kid assigned a five-pound bag of flour instead. All of this led to hilarious and ever-more fantastical adventures.

The final showcase or "olio" of the festival featured eight tellers of eight fifteen minute tales. Emcee David Novak explained that olio is a term that originated in vaudeville and come from a term for savory stew made from bits of this and that.

First up, Carmen Deedy again with a story of her Poppy called "Gardens Grow". Her Dad loved gardening and at 78 was finding, even when living in apartments, scraps of soil to plant with tomatoes and other garden plants. But he had fallen a few times, and she bought him a walker. Ever a gentleman her Cuban Dad merely thanked her. But later she found he was using the walker, but not as intended. It was now a tomato trellis. Even now in his nineties he gardens on the porch. She and John gave him a porch planter with some Big Boy tomato plants, but he ended up cutting them down when they produced little. Then she found him watering the planter and cherry pits he had planted. The tomatoes were for him and had "died" as he soon would, but, he saids, "the cherry is for the grandkids."
Carmen challenged us to plant storytelling for our "grandkids".

I loved the family group The Healing Force. They sang, strummed, drummed, and told. "Beauty is something that can never be concealed." Their story of Ima was an African Cinderella story.

Finally we got a chance to hear Carol Birch. She told a Russion folktale and encouraged us to take it with us and tell it our selves. It is the story of the good serf, Stefan who loses his beloved wife Vera. The selfish, money-grubbing priest refuses to help the penniless serf bury his wife so he must do it himself. In the process he digs up a treasure. Now the priest loves his wealthy serf, but tries to steal the fortune and in the process dies of his greed. Carol says: "Beauty is as beauty does, but bad goes all the way to the bone."

Our final  story from Donald Davis is the one about stealing a cigarette, then having his Dad tell a story about kids burning down a barn smoking in it. Did he know? Donald says that a spanking, at best, is a temporary solution to misbehavior. If you want to really punish your kids... and maybe send them into therapy for life, tell 'em a story! 

Dovie Thomason told a story about "The Strange One." I am the strange one who was still caught up thinking about other stories and lost a vital point or two in this one.

Daniel Morden told the tragic tale of Orpheus and his love for Eurydice. 

Kate Campbell is a new favorite songwriter. She wrote this song for a celebration of the First Amendment. She read Martin Luther King's last speech and took "The Last Song" partly from that speech. It imagines the Last Song to follow the Last Supper. "I may not get there with you".

Kevin Kling surprised me by drawing moisture to my eyes with his story that concluded to festival. This man, who has lost his right arm and must depend on a severely disabled left arm for an awful lot, finished a powerful story with "Every day I see blessings in my curses." If he can so can you. So can I.

David Novak earlier in the afternoon had quoted, "Sweet are the uses of adversity." Hmmm. Here's more of Shakespeare's words from As You Like It:
Sweet are the uses of adversity,
Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous,
Wears yet a precious jewel in his head.
And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.
What an emotional finish on this very special day in my life. (My next morbid post may deal with that.) Great stories all day in the Library Tent. A quick visit to the "Marketplace" before it closed at five to purchase one book and four CDs. The book is signed by the author and I was given specific permission to tell some of the great stories within.
We have lots to listen to on the way home tomorrow.

Back at Storybrook Farm now, all but one of the other guests have headed home. We enjoyed some ice cream for supper and have spent the rest of the evening lounging, just the two of us, in this comfortable house, reading and writing.
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Saturday at Jonesborough

The day started with another gourmet breakfast at Storybrook Farm. John cooked three skillets of his German Pancake Souffle. It was served with huge hunks of sausage, honey laced Greek yogurt, fresh strawberries, peach/raspberry compote, apple compote, orange juice, coffee and tea. All 13 guests sat around a common table enjoying each others stories as we ate and John, Diane, and Brittany served us.

Sheila and I drove down to the White House (not THAT one!) where we park and then walked to the Courthouse Tent where Corinne Stavish was the emcee. She introduced the tall, red-haired Sue O'Halloren. It was no surprise that this American woman spoke of herself as an Irish Catholic. She certainly looks the part. "I was raised Irish," she declared, "That means I was raised on food boiled beyond taste." And the Irish of course are singers. "There is no grief so deep the irish can't sing their way out of it."

Sue's announced first her "Grandma's Story". It was a tale of how Sue explored and discovered the reasons that her grandmother had not wanted to come to America. That exploration took her to the "Old Country" to find her Gainer family. She eventually found herself sitting with her cousin and his wife to talk of family. "I'm told they were speaking English." She learned that her very young grandmother was a very last minute substitute on board the ship to America because her older sister had taken ill. And she was brought to tears to gaze on the hills and sea that her grandmother must have envisioned when she talked of the "Old Country." What a miserable and frightening time she must have experienced below decks on that voyage to an unknown land as a young teen.

Sue led us in singing a couple of Irish songs, admitting, "I sing in the key of see: I open my mouth and see what comes out."

She finished up talking about her experiences during the days after the terrorist attacks of 2001, and the ways our fears allowed us to mistreat of fellow Americans of Islamic faith or even others who were/are sometimes mistaken for Muslims. She came to realize that we white, Christian, Americans were not stigmatized by the actions of a Timothy McVeigh.

Perhaps the highlight of the festival for us this day was the next hour with Kevin Kling. He is storytelling's Robin Williams. Brilliant, rapid-fire, thoughtful and hilarious simultaneously. His stories this day are hard to put on paper. He talked of his taxidermy hobby, which made me think of the brilliant Theodore Roosevelt who kept a natural history collection in his homes and even his dorm room. But I doubt Teddy ever arranged a quartet of squirrels around a table playing cards.

Kevin Kling: "Our lives are stories, not syllogisms."

Quoting a bait shop sign: "Our minnows are guaranteed to catch fish or die trying."

"Ice fishing equals sitting around practicing for when we get old. When we get old it just means sitting around."

After Kevin's set we dashed over to take in Kate Campbell's hour at the Creekside Tent. We'd heard she's great. We liked her, though it was more a musical concert than a storytelling. She tried to expand her reading from Welty and O'Conner to Faulkner, but had a hard time with him. She did find a favorite sentence though and after much effort managed a song with it: "I'm going out into the free world and farm." She wrote another song about the janitor at her father's Baptist church, Delmas Jackson. She told the story of integration in the song: Crazy in Alabama". She was commissioned to write a song inspired by To Kill A Mockingbird and after procrastination and unexpected tears on rereading the book, came up with"Sorrow Free". Her final song was funny but, oh, so true: "Funeral Food". "We sure eat good when someone dies."

Now I rushed to the Library Tent which was completely filled in anticipation of Bil Lepp. I managed to find two single empty chairs on adjacent rows and soon Sheila found me and we dug into soup and sandwiches she had purchased at a church food booth.

Taking on the emcee, Michael Reno Harrell, Bil claimed they had had to remove a tree with the only saw Michael Reno had that worked, a table saw. By the time they'd finished the job the tree had regrown.

But the story was "My Worst Christmas Ever". His Dad's claim that Rudolph had licked the back of his head causing his bald spot put Bil in fear for Rudolph's life, and by extension made his fearful about his own Christmas projects. Besides that a neighbor had declared that if Jimmy Carter were elected President the whole nation was headed straight for Hell. Under that scenario he figured Canada and Mexico would let go of the US and we'd all be in the fiery pit before Christmas anyway. And on top of that his parents had promised the excited pre-school Bil a trip to see Elephant Gerald. But there turned out to be no elephant at all, just a jazz singer. (Ella Fitzgerald).
Bil noted that Christians seem to be the only religion that decorates. "I never see a 12 foot inflatable Buddha or Menorah!"

He finished up with the hilarious railroad tall tale with which he won the West Virginia Liars Contest, a title he won five times.

Sheila and I actally skipped the 4:00 pm session and napped for an hour then headed back to the Creekside Tent to hear Story Slam competition. The six stories were good I admit, though I am still nursing the wounds of having been passed over in the auditions for these six folk. (Just kidding... sort of.) We agreed with the judges that Robin Shulte deserved the win for her tale of a frightening late night experience in a rest-stop toilet.

We went back to the B&B for the supper break and found hot delicious chocolate chip cookies and hot cider. Yum.

We chose the Library Tent again to close out the evening with a session of three tellers. It was labeled "Lighten Up".

Kevin Kling told first about the visit from his wife's cousin from --- was it the Netherlands? Anyway he was armed with a pamphlet titled "Why Americans Act That Way". At the state fair the obnoxious "Dunking Clown" soon inspired international cooperation as the three joined forces to dunk him. "That clown would get get Ghandhi to throw the ball!"

He ended up with a wonderfully moving story about "My Left Arm". Kevin has always had a misformed left arm, but a few years ago a motorcycle accident made his right arm unusable. Now the four-fingered left must do all the work. In a group with others with disabilities the group was asked if they'd take a pill that removed their disability, if such a pill existed. Kevin was the only one who said he would.
A joint effort by his disabled friends was so unified, so courageous, so beautiful that, for that moment at least, "there is no way I would have taken the pill."

Sue O'Halloren told the inspiring story of her own battle with breast cancer in a story titled, "What is Sexy?" I was so glued to this emotional story I took virtually no notes. It was wonderful. She started with the story that all of us can empathize with as she remembered her fears and insecurities of puberty as she waited to "develop".  Then in young middle age finding herself having a "Bye Bye Booby Party" before her mastectomy. She went through a second painful waiting time as she waited for treatments and her own emotions and the love and help of friends to allow her to develop wholeness  again.

Bil Lepp spun a complicated yarn about his friend Skeeter, his (younger) uncle, and himself surviving a corn maze, but more significantly their imaginations. And a second story involving summer camp, his fellow counselors (Suie, Kevin, & emcee Ed Stivender) and three skunks. Two more championship fibs from the champ!

One more day. I wonder what breakfast will bring? And what stories we'll hear.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Friday at Jonesborough

National Storytelling Festival
Friday, October 3, 2014
Library Tent
10 a.m.


It is just too overwhelming at a little past midnight to try to create a post to do justice to the eight and a half hours of entertainment we have enjoyed today, beginning with the Healing Force at ten this morning and ending with John McCutcheon’s tribute to Pete Seeger that climaxed at midnight with “This Land”.

I’ll just try to add an outline and fill in a few details as I get time:

10 am

I was thrilled to have as a seat mate Debbie Harley, Bill’s wife. My girls grew up to Bill Harley tapes, and I was glad to get a chance to talk with Debbie about how much we have loved Bill  all these years. 

Emcee: Ed Stivender
The Healing Force

I had never heard “The Healing Force”. What a dynamic family. Mama Gail, daughter Sonja, son, Kareem, and Baba Joseph. The four gather in their traditional African garb, with African instruments, and begin chants: “Joliah!”

Bil Lepp

Bil told his wonderful story of Ms. Baird, his fourth grade teacher who was probably (undercover) Wonder Woman.

As Bill Harley took the stage I was thrilled to hear Debbie cheering and laughing as much as the rest of us for her husband as she listened to his songs and stories that she must have heard many times. He sang “Everybody’s a Baby About Something” which required the audience to “whine in harmony”. Then he told his Belly Flop story that, he said, illustrates that “tragedy plus distance equals humor”. We all had those very early and impractical and eventually humiliating infatuations. His involved Kristi the lifeguard.

And he ended up with his classic poem “Dirty Joe”.

Petite Regi Carpenter, or Reddy Kilowatt?, performed a jazzy Three Little Pigs, then Onanana and the Elephant, and finally The Gingerbread Man.

1:00

Young teen Anita Norman, the national Read Poetry Out Loud champion for 2014 recited two poems, answered questions from the emcee, then recited a poem of her own. What amazing poise and thoughtfulness!

Carmen Deedy old the “Stupidest Story Ever” that her grandchild wants constantly repeated: Herman the Wormman. Then came Learning Curve about her little Cuban mom. and finally “For Want of An Eyebrow". Hilarious!

2:30

Welsh storyteller Daniel Morden wandered the stage telling his tale and directly interacting with his ASL interpreter. His was an English Jack Tale, about tricking a giant to win the squire’s daughter.

Tim Lowry told about the National Anthem and the lesser known folk who are not the Stars or the Stripes, but who are the very threads and fabric of that Star-spangled Banner. He followed that with a tale of Jennifer and Jeremy and the Big Green Frog. He recited a poem about Watermelon by James Whicomb Riley, and finished with “Plundering”.

4:00

Tim Tingle is Choctaw and told “Crossing Bok Chitto” which is the story in his award-winning children’s book about the Choctaw helping slaves to escape to freedom. “We are all part,” he says, “of the human... walk. It’s not a race.”

Donald Davis finished up the afternoon telling with his famous tale of Terrell Tubbs and the coaster bike with bad brakes: LS-MFT.

At that point we had John And Ruthy Countryman, and their Scots friend Ethel join us for a ride to The Balck Olive for a delicious dinner and wonderful coversation. What a joy are kindred spirits!

The evening program was the annual “olio” a program of eight tellers and eight stories of only about ten or fifteen minutes. The wonderful Jim May emceed, and introduced first Donald Davis again, who Jim said, created a “sea change”in storytelling by introducing more personal tales in the early eighties. Donald told about the day he finally got to go to the barber with his mother... and ended up with a “duck tail”.

Megan Wells told the story of Lady Godiva, who rode through the town naked but unseen “by all but one. His name was Tom, but that’s another story.”

Bobby Norfolk told of “Three Strong Women” and Tom Lee of “The Sun God”

Regi Carpenter told of learning to read “Run Dick Run” and “How the PBJ was Created”

Pipp Gillete, a singing cowboy, sang of Higher Education, Diamond Joe, and Lovelady, Texas.

Dovie Thomason, another Native American teller told of Iroquois mothers and mice.

Bil Lepp finished the olio with a tall tale about changing an airplane tire... in flight! “You don’t need a jack at 30,000 feet.”

The night ended with our most earnestly anticipated concert, John McCutcheon’s tribute to Pete Seeger. John sang, and played, and led us in singing eighteen numbers. Songs Pete sang. Songs Pete wrote. And he interspersed his own memories of Pete and Toshi and Mike and Woody.

We were very tired but happy as we filed out toward our cars and then the B&B with This Land Is Your Land still ringing in our ears. ALL the verses.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Suzy Bogguss Pre-Festival Concert

Thursday, October 2, 2014
7:30 P.M.
Library Tent on the Festival Groundsin the Library Tent on the Grounds of the
National Storytelling Festival


Suzy Bogguss
Pre-Festival Concer
t


It has become a tradition to schedule a musical concert on the night before the National Storytelling Festival opens. This year the wonderful Suzy Bogguss rocked us with her country songs, accompanied by Charlie Chadwick (creator of the famous Chadwick Folding Bass) on bass, and Craig Smith (of the Orkney Islands) on guitar.

Suzy sang fifteen songs, interspersed with a little storytelling about them, and was called back for an encore of her signature “Cowboy’s Sweetheart”.

Several of the numbers were from her new album of Merle Haggard songs, like “Today I Started Loving You Again” ad “Let’s Chase Each Other Around the Room Tonight”
As an old folkie I enjoyed “Froggie Went a’Courtin’”, “Wildwood Flower”, her lilting “Shenandoah”, and singing along with “Wayfaring Stranger”. In researching Froggie she found 171 verses... but only sang a few! And for Wildwood Flower she went back to the original 1860 sheet music to find a more uplifting message.

One of the highlights for me was when she called John McCutcheon on stage for a duet of “Old People in Love” a song that John wrote for his wedding to Carmen Deedy.

And more! “Someday Soon”, “Silver Wings” “Letting Go” (the song her songwriter husband wrote for Suzy’s Mama.)

If you get a chance to hear Suzy in concert, you’ll have a good time!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Stories I Almost Forgot to Tell


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Storytelling Live!
Stories I Almost Forgot to Tell 
Donald Davis in the Library Tent on the Grounds of the National Storytelling Festival 


Donald says tonight’s tales are ones his Mom wouldn’t have wanted told. Maybe so, but they certainly were welcomed by this crowd. We hooted and howled at Donald’s childhood antics and his creative telling of them.

Ol' Slick

Donald says his friend David Morgan was “raised like a weed” and visited the Davis home when he needed to be told what to do. Together they took advantage of 84 year old “Ol’ Slick’s” generosity. They drove his old Jeep nearly to death across mountain meadows of milkweed and thistledown. The resulting cloud of airbourne fiber and seed choked the Jeep’s radiator, causing over heating and, in addition, reckless driving bent up the thing to an extent that ended their arrangement with Slick, who explained that “Boys, I’ve got a 70 year head start on you. Everything you ever thought of doing, I’ve already done.”

Girls

Donald was unlucky in love from kindergarten on. In kindergarten his true love Amelia sparked a fight between Donald and his rival for her affections.
In second grade showing out for Carol resulted in the teacher forcing Donald and his buddy
to stand on tiptoe with their noses in chalk rings she’d drawn on the board. 
In fourth grade his crush on Linda prompted a birthday party visit where a projectile nosebleed ruined things. 
In sixth grade a creative mixture of Post Office and Spin the Bottle gave him a chance to kiss his love... only to discover the kiss may have been a rabid one. 
In high school he drove toward Lover’s Lane with a girl who had ‘A Reputation”, but when they reached their destination ... it was dreamy all right, but not in the sense he had dreamed! 
So senior year, he and his two buddies decided to take each other to the prom... and saved each other from matrimony for a combined total of 52 years. 

Busman's Holiday 

The next story was about his days as a school bus driver. That’s right, as a high schooler Donald earned a few bucks a month driving a school bus! He and his fellow drivers (the soon to be valedictorian and salutatorian of his graduating class) decided to use their bus driving as a cover for a day of playing hookey. What a miserable day! Everyone in the county knew them so they had to hide out all day to keep from being seen! They were caught and punished, of course, but the principal never told Donald’s father. He even described Donald to his dad as “one fine young man.” 

Tutoring Tater and Timed Typing 

Latin and Typing may not have been required courses but they were valuable in Donald’s mother’s opinion so he took them. According to Donald his Latin teacher had begun her career when Latin was still a living language. They called her “Old V.D”.  Big Tater Underwood was failing Latin and the other kids were bribed by Tater’s mama to tutor him. They managed to teach him to conjugate “amo” 

amo = I love 
amas = you (singular) love 
amat = he, she or it loves 
amamus = we love 
amatis = you (plural) love 
amant = they love 

... and he learned the endings after painfully long instruction. But when he was called on to conjugate a different word than the one he was expecting, he whispered for help to a friend who replied, “Damn if I know” So Tater proudly recited: 

damifino 
damifinas 
damifinat 
damifinamus 
damifinatis 
damifinant 

The typing teacher was a big woman who wore “teacher shoes” and required a Friday afternoon “timed typing” drill. “Nothing,” she repeatedly declared, “interferes with timed typing.” The boys saw that statement as a challenge. They tried a whole series of pranks to “interfere” but none was wholly successful. In the end Donald reckoned “She just had a 70 year head start on us.”

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Azalea Storytelling Festival 2014 (Part 2)


Second Session: Saturday afternoon

For lunch we took the shuttle to Bellevue, the antebellum home of Ben Hill, the Confederate and US Senator. We enjoyed homemade soup (I had potato, Sheila taco) and cornbread with homemade cookies for dessert, while we talked with out tablemates who included two of my Facebook friends, featured storyteller Michael Reno Harrell and our Atlanta storyteller friend Janice Butt as well as Janice’s friend whose name escapes me, and a nice couple from Carrollton.

The second session started with Megan Hicks who told some stories in her mother’s voice. Her mother talked of the terror of Western-Union telegrams during World War Two when they often brought news of war deaths. And of the train trip with her new groom and the lonely ride back after seeing him off. She met another seventeen-year-old bride to share her ride and her troubles. “This is what is called the ‘long haul’, she said, ‘and we’re in it.”

MAMA'S STORIES


Michael Reno Harrell took the stage again to talk about his new friends, the rich New York couple who, visiting the Blue Ridge, fell in love with the mountains... “so they bought one.” When Michael spied the label “Armani” on his new friend suit coat on the back of a chair he thought, “That’s a hundred dollar suit, I bet!” Michael described a big snow as “axle deep to a ferris wheel.” But in the end, his new friends convinced him “It ain’t about where you’re from. It’s who you are.” He finished up with his song about the rules for “living here in the South.”



Bill Harley, a former resident of Rhode Island shares the common resentment of the citizens there over the frequent comparison of unusual things to the size of the diminutive state. Here’s a link to the lyrics of Bill’s song on the topic:

Did you see that bride’s diamond? It’s the size of the state of Rode Island!

Then he talked of being lost out West, but nearly dying in Rhode Island. Out west they’ve reintroduced wolves to the ecosystem and wonderfully strange things happened: deer moved to the hills, so trees came back to the valleys, and then the grass, which filtered and slowed the water which revived the streams and rivers. Who knew wolves would improve the rivers?

Then just for fun his classic Harley song: Down in the Backpack to the tune of Under the Boardwalk.


Barbara McBride-Smith grabbed our attention with this opening: “The first time my sister Pat got cancer she figured she could whup it. The second time she got mad.”  Pat was profoundly deaf. Barbara sprinkled American Sign Launguage accompaniment into the touching story of Pat’s valient fight against cancer. “Why can’t we find a cure for cancer without torturing people?” 

Pat seemed to have extra sensitive tactile, visual, olfactory, and gustatory abilities in spite of her auditory deficit. As she explained her final wishes to Barbara she instructed that she wanted doors and windows opened when she died so that the aroma of roses or panzies could fill the house. Barbara made sure that wish was granted. And now, Barbara stubbornly asserts, she can actually smell the panzies that Pat’s spirit is “pushing up”.


Next :  Third Session - Saturday night.

Azalea Storytelling Festival 2014 (PART 1)



If you are in comfortable driving distance of LaGrange Georgia tomorrow (Sunday, March 9, 2014), even though it’s time-change morning, come over to the Callaway Theater on the LaGrange College campus for the FREE storytelling finale of the annual Azalea Storytelling Festival --- 9:30 a.m. till noon with a short break in the middle.

The tellers this year are a very balanced group of entirely unbalanced personalities: the irrepressible Bill Harley (my kids grew up on Bill Harley tapes!), the dead-pan Tennessee bad-boy Michael Reno Harrell, the unhinged and earnest Megan Hicks, and that Texas Tornado Barbara McBride-Smith.

Six hours of tales and tunes. We have had us a day!


Emcee Carol Cain brought on Barbara first. She opened with her version of the tale of the poor seamtress who lost a leather thimble and later a husband in the river, and her interaction with the magic fish who came to her rescue. In the end she had the original thimble, plus silver and gold ones, and ... a George Clooney replacement for the old husband!

“If a woman lies,” says Barb, “It’s for a good and honest reason and benefits all around.”


Her Mama saved stuff. Why? “The Depression.” says Barbara. So the Mcbride-Smiths are still re-using Christmas wrapping paper from the sixties. “Lord love a duck! I’m becoming my mother.”

Megan Hicks told her fractured fairy tales. The fisherman who hated fish made a bargain with the devil, but his kindness to a fish got him some help when Satan came for the payment. 

DAVEY HATED FISH


“My son was born,” declares Megan, “and I was thrown into a blender.” And her Christmas cards became Groundhog Day cards... a tradition she has kept since. So when she retells “The Fisherman and His Wife” there’s a very practical groundhog in place of the usual purveyor of magic.


Michael Reno Harrell opens each set with a low-key “Hey.” Reaching down to plug up his guitar, Michael asserts, “I’m to the point when I bend over to tie my shoes I look around to see if there’s anything else I ought to do while I’m down there.”

When he went ot the Saturday movies, he emerged after four hours of Westerns “as blind as a cave fish.” He loved to stop by the Greyhound station on the way home to buy a nickle “Good Time” candy bar from the machine there. His love for the candy bar led him, as a ten-year-old, to take entirely the wrong idea from a scrawled “For a Good Time...” bit of graffiti. Later the Greyhound took him away from his Mama and to his first bout of homesickness. And then to Chicago where he discovered new music. From all that he composed a song that began, “There used to be a Greyhound station…”.

GREYHOUND

Michael’s song brought a song he’d never sung in public to Bill Harley’s mind. One line of it: “It’s the same road takes me from you that brings me back again.”

Bill followed that with the story of his love, as a kid, for Robert W. Service’s poems. Especially “The Cremation of Sam McGee”. That’s a love I had as a ten-year-old myself. He told the story of the poem and recited a little. Then he recited his own “Dirty Joe” ballad with similar rhyme scheme. This is one we Harley fans have heard before, but never tire of. 

DIRTY JOE


Bill finished up with another of my favorites, his autobiographical story and song “My Father Played The Phonograph.”



Well that is just a taste of justr the first of three sessions today.

More later.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Red Light's On


Now we could have followed the advice of MapQuest and taken the perimeter highway around to Decatur and the Friend’s School and our rendezvous with the 2013 Tellebration. It may have been faster. But as a fellow who wheeled around East Atlanta and Decatur a fair amount in my youth and early adulthood I preferred to drive through town. Knowing how traffic can clot unexpectedly we gave ourselves a huge cushion of time.

Despite a wreck at Mt. Paran that blocked three lanes we found ourselves at the North Avenue exit in no time. Across Peachtree, then over a block to Ponce and we were practically home free.

We had just turned on to Ponce de Leon when Sheila said (I’m approximating here) “Isn’t the Mother Ship nearby?”

“Matter of fact it is!” I shouted with glee. “Shall we dock for a few minutes and refuel?”

The words had barely escaped my lips when there it was.

 



Gleaming neon, and yes, the “Red Light Was On!”


We pulled the red Camry into the very first spot by the airlock. (It was meant-to-be.) Floated past the giant red neon proclaiming Heaven-On-Earth, and entered.
Ahhhhh.....

The olfactory senses were flooded with a delectable blend of hot coffee, sticky sweetness, and hot doughy deliciousness.

An angelic face behind the counter asked for particulars. Though John McCutcheon proclaims four too many, and two, one to few, we settled on three and a medium cup o'Joe to share.

We watched as the conveyor attendant carefully lifted them, with a chopstick through the hole fresh from the hot grease and glazing , -- one,--two, --three into a crisp box. 


We waited a couple of minutes for the fresh brew to make, then found our seat and, taking time to snap a selfie of anticipation, were transported to another sphere.


As you can see from the photos we were as glazed as the dough-nuts.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The week of the Eastern Gray Squirrel


I have been working at developing a different lesson for each grade level that visits Arrowhead, and seven lesson plans for our "outreach" lessons for kindergarten -- we visit each kindergarten in the Floyd County school system seven times during the school year. My plan is to introduce a different Georgia animal in each lesson, illustrate several of the Georgia Performance Standards for that grade level through that animal, and tell a story that involves that animal to reinforce a few of those standards. 

I've used the wonderful American marsupial, the Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) with several second grade classes. It's a fascinating animal, and I just happen to have several stories in my repertoire that feature this animal.

With kindergarten I've taught about the alligator and the box turtle and used native American stories about how alligator lost his beautiful smooth golden skin, and the time turtle went on the warpath. Watching kindergartners respond to real live animals like these two is a lot of fun.

We have had lots of "outreaches" and field trip visits so far this year, but on Wednesday we had our first Third Grade field trip of the year. I decided to make the ever-present Eastern Gray Squirrel our third grade animal. It is a very successful species as homeowners know. As any bird-feeder knows. As British folk know, since invasive Gray Squirrels from America have all but obliterated the native squirrels of Great Britain.

One of my old standby folktales is the old "Sody Saleratus" and, ta-dah!, it features a squirrel. So I prepared a squirrel coloring/memento sheet, read up on those fascinating critters, -- They can turn their rear feet to face backwards which allows them to run head-first down a tree trunk! -- and practiced my story. I had a great time with the Cave Spring third-graders. 

Our "Coloring Sheet" for Third Grade

We had a lot of work done on our house last year, as some of you will remember. One job I gave the contractor was to squirrel-proof our attic. They made a heroic effort, nailing up hardware cloth inside the attic eaves. Still I have heard occasional tale-tale scurrying footpads over my head, and this week as colder weather arrived the bushy-tailed rodents relocated in noisy numbers to our attic space. I made a mental note last night to buy some more hardware cloth.

Then came today. 

Sheila rises early twice a week to exercise at a local gym. She was dressed this morning and going out the door when she noticed our lights playing games. They would dim down to a faint yellow, then suddenly glow brightly, then just as quickly blink completely off, then bright, then dim then bright then off, etc. Up the stairs she comes to tell me. About the same time my consciousness is beginning to comprehend that something is amiss. I smell a rancid electrical burning and hear periodic pops and crackles. My first thought was: Eastern Gray Tree Rats! --errr, squirrels.

After walking around the house, turning things off, hearing more pops and watching the continuing light show, and ascending the stairs to even stronger acrid smells, I decided to call 911 and keep our 144-year-old from burning down. 

I was too busy trying to find fire to take pics of the wonderful firefighters
who came to our rescue this morning. They came is several vehicles, 
including one that looked a lot like this.

The firefighters were here in no time, in force, armed with some pretty impressive technology. Their heat-seeking video gun soon located a burned out surge suppressor on some of our computer equipment in our bedroom. But the popping light show was undiminished and they decided that cutting electricity to the house was the best course till Georgia power could check things out.



The bucket truck


Sheila HAD to get to work -- big deadlines this week, so she showered in the dark while I waited on Georgia Power, and the fire department were barely out of the yard before two friendly and efficient linemen for Georgia Power showed up with a bucket truck and more amazing equipment. 


The bucket truck

In a matter of minutes they had isolated the root cause of our problems. 


 The section of shorted wire 



Yep. You guessed it. Sciurus carolinensis, the good old Eastern Gray Squirrel. There, right at the old telephone pole at the edge of the road at the driveway, the insulation on the Georgia Power supply line to our house had attracted the attention of a squirrel, and as a result it was shorted almost completely out. 

I enjoyed talking with the two men as they worked, demonstrating the marvelous advances in technology that allow linemen to avoid much of the danger and muscle strain of past decades. They taught me how to read the poles along our street. The new pole across the street with its recent tag with a "12" nail signifying 2012 installation. The many climbing spike wounds and darkened square (from an old-style Georgia Power metal notice) that showed the pole at the drive to be a 1940s pole. The one on the corner with two bands of faded paint that used to denote a bus stop when Georgia Power ran the city buses.

They let me keep the bad section of wire to show off and walked with me to our electric meter and main cutoff so we could let the energy flow again. And they left. 

Sheila was ready to head out to Kennesaw. I showed her the wire. She told mer about our friend Welton's recommendation of Purdy Electric. And she was gone. I walked around the house checking on stuff. The stove was definitely damaged. The microwave was dead. Lights and electronics in the downstairs hall were off. A clock-radio had expired. The laser printer had bit the dust. There may be more. 

Two fine young fellows from Purdy Electric showed up about noon. They got to work, first carefully checking the circuit breaker panel. they found the breaker for the front heat-pump buzzing and hot, and so replaced it. They climbed into the attic and checked out the wiring and junction boxes there, then crawled under house and checked the wiring there. One of the guys is from Trion, the other from Armuchee. He came through our school but missed me by way of Nancy Smith's fourth grade class.

Tomorrow morning North Georgia Equipment will be here to check out the AC/Heat System. It seems to be working fine. And I guess I'll have to get out and find a stove and microwave.

My friend, former student-teacher, present "boss" at Arrowhead, and genuine animal lover, Vivian Davis Chesley kept a pet Eastern Gray Squirrel named Charlie for more than a decade. She loved that rodent. So I hesitate to tell of my current emotions regarding Eastern Gray Tree Rats.



Friday, October 11, 2013

What's Up Doc?


What is it about becoming involved in Republican politics that causes medical doctors to lose all reason?

To become a medical doctor one has to start with pretty good intelligence, obtain excellent grades. display a good work ethic, have lots of sticktoitiveness …. well, everyone knows, it is a long hard road to a medical degree.

But somehow we are plagued with several Republican medical doctors who are badly in need of a cure for foot-in-mouth disease. Here in Georgia we have two medical doctors competing for the Republican nomination for US Senate. Listen to examples of the effusion of their mouths:

“There are more people killed with baseball bats and hammers than are killed with guns.”
-Congressman Paul Broun, M.D.   
[For the record: Firearms account for about 68% of killings, blunt objects about 4%.]

“Meanwhile, I’m stuck here making $172,000 a year.”
-Congressman Phil Gingrey, M.D. 
[I heard poor Dr. Gingrey inspire 500 preteens with the message that his poverty is so abject that he could never dream of a run for President like wealthy guys who have managed to ascend to that office, like rich-boy Abe Lincoln, I guess, or the current fellow who grew up in the lap of, I suppose, comparative luxury?]

And now, one of the best doctors in America, one who has a remarkable and truly inspiring life story, and successfully saved someone I love from the excruciating chronic pain of trigeminal neuralgia. So I am sincerely and deeply grateful to this good man for his skill and dedication.

But in the last few months this wonderfully accomplished physician has gotten involved in Republican politics. Today he spoke to a “Values Voters”* group and these absurdly hyperbolic words escaped his lips:

“I have to tell you, you know [The Affordable Care Act] is really, I think, the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery. And it is slavery  in a way because it is making all of us subservient to the government.”
- Benjamin Carson, M.D.

I have some much admired friends who are medical doctors. I have great admiration for them. I have great admiration for Ben Carson. But Republican politics seems to bring out the very worst in physicians.



* By the way, I have values, too.