Listeners’ Quotes and Reviews

Quotes about   Storyteller Mary Garrett —  Stories make the world go around

Your stories held me captive

Justin, Boys’ Help, Girls’ Help, St. Louis


I don’t want to go have snacks. I want to hear more stories!

Boy at Castlio Vacation Station program


She transforms as she tells a tale, the glow from within lighting her face and illuminating her stories.

Granny Sue Holstein


We all had a great time! The kids were all talking about you yesterday. They loved retelling your stories!

Bridget Tierney, Pattonville


I loved the story (Mary Culhane), and even more I loved the emotion in the teller’s voice.

Kevin Young, teen listener


Thank you for telling stories to our campers at Hawn State Park. The stories were entertaining, lively and easy for our campers to relate to.

Ed Schott, Park Superintendent

Your stories are always welcome in my coffee house.

Stein Hunter, Crooked Tree Coffee House


It’s not the same with you gone. No one tells us stories.

Francis Howell North High School student

Thanks so much for visiting our school today. The stories you shared were wonderful and had great lessons.

Beth Steinhoff and students, Coverdell Elementary, St. Charles


Thank you for the wonderful storytelling. The stories held the attention of the patients and made their day go much easier.

Laura Teague, Shriner’s Children’s Hospital


Alan Portman  on “Frog and Friends”

“I have two children, 8 and 4. They love stories. They sat and stared at the CD player, listening to the stories. It was great to have a CD of stories that do not have their own T-shirts, TV shows or cereals for the girls to listen to. Mike Anderson’s dulcimer was an added bonus.  It is a great addition.”


Jim and I had a lovely Thanksgiving with local cousins with a special treat.

The cousins live an hour away, so we traveled with your frog Prince and other stories which shortened our trip. Congratulations, Mary, on creating such a delightful CD, music, the enthusiasm of young tellers, a selection of interesting stories, and your good telling all woven together by Prince’s saga. Jim and I loved it.   — Ellouise Schoettler

“Frog and Friends” by Mary Garrett took me through 12 stories, songs,

and fun frog facts. Framed by Mary’s adventures with the foundling

amphibian aptly named “Prince,” it made me wish I could be a kid in

Mary’s classroom. She teaches with story as she blends scientific

information with the tales. A good pick for a nature lover aged 6-10.

Available through and online CD or MP3


Mary Garrett has demonstrated that it does not take bells and whistles to tell stories and make a good CD. She has combined her calm style of storytelling with the rich, soothing music from Mike Anderson’s dulcimer playing and created an enjoyable listening experience for those who like the spoken word.  Mary Garrett’s rendition of Scheherazade was pleasing to my ears and soul. The way she tells the story so simply, without fanfare, and yet holds the attention of the listener is wonderful. You know a story works when, after listening to it well-told one time, you can say, “Hey, I can tell that story!”

Mike Lockett, the Normal storyteller




I just listened to your CD again (second time) and I really love it! Especially your choice of stories. Your intro was really cute, with the rainbow story, and of course Scheherazade is my all-time favorite too! 🙂 I agree with that woman who wanted to buy your CD, Mary Culhane is fascinating. Especially because I know another version of it (with a guy). The music was great, I really enjoyed it 🙂 I like listening to the way you talk (you know when learning the language we have to do that a lot for practice, and your voice and pronunciation is just really nice to listen to). So, all in all, I had a great time listening to your CD! 🙂


Zalka Csenge Virág         Budapest, Hungary         “Az igazi meséknek soha nincs vége”


I enjoyed Froggy tales so much, I had to listen to some of it twice.

I loved the way you worked the other stories in to coincide with things

that Prince was doing.  I must say you took excellent care of the boy, and he sang his thanks beautifully.  His departure brought tears to my eyes, but it really was the right thing to do. So glad you made this CD.  It will bring pleasure for years to come.  Thank you.

Big hugs,

Clara Wersterfer


Storytelling Review: Courage and Wisdom

Old folktales from many lands and cultures, told in Mary Garrett’s unique voice come to lie in modern times on Mary’s CD, Courage and Wisdom: Stories Make the World Go Around. Beginning with her father’s wise words and continuing through stories that can be funny and frightening, puzzling and provocative, timeless and yet timely, Mary weaves her stories into a tapestry of rich images and ideas.

I met Mary Garrett online, in a new community formed by the Storytell listserve group. I was still finding my way in the confusing and exhilarating world that I had discovered quite by accident. Storytell and its many experienced members guided me in those early years, and Mary Garrett was one of those who shared her wisdom and stories freely with this shy newcomer.

Over the years, I have learned much from Mary. Online, I shared Mary’s joys and frustrations as a teacher in St. Louis, and rejoiced with her when retirement was finally a reality for my friend.

Retirement allowed Mary to pursue storytelling in new ways. This CD is one of the new goals Mary set and achieved as she developed her storytelling career into new areas.

Courage and Wisdom

• Stories Make the World Go Around •

Mary Garrett

Making a CD is not so easy as it might seem. The recording itself is the easiest part; selecting stories is the most difficult. What stories? How do the stories relate to each other? How to develop a comfortable flow to the tales that deepens and enriches each story, complementing one with another? How to bring the listener safely and joyfully to the end?

It is clear from the beginning that Mary put a good deal of thought in her story selections. She begins with a comfortable, humorous tale from childhood ; from that safe place she leads the listener from one moral dilemma to another, in the process demonstrating that while the stories come from many cultures, their meaning will resonate with listeners of all ages and beliefs.

From a simple rabbit tale to the richness of Scheherezade, the suspenseful Mary Culhaine and the wisdom of The Innkeeper’s Wise Daughter, Mary wraps us in brightly colored words like a silken shawl, and travels the world with us on the magic carpet of story in our minds.


Grandpa’s Hired Hand

Daddy John Stories

Grandpa’s Hired Hand

from Homespun Stories from Uncle John (Fussner)

presented by his daughter Mary Frances (Fussner) Garrett

Verna and John Fussner002

Grandpa’s homestead was ‘twixt two mountains in a narry valley.  The ground was so poor that the subsoil came up to the third rail on the fence.  The pasture was so sparse that the rabbits had to pack a lunch to cross it.  The well water was so hard that he had to break hit with a hammer to fill a cup.

Grandpa had to stay thar ’cause with land that poor, he  couldn’t find no one to foreclose on hit.  He couldn’t even get the sheriff to hold a sale.  In the early years, it bothered him some ’cause the farm were too big fer one man to work, and too poor fer to hire he’p.

Then one day a drifter come by ridin’ a flea-bitten, crowbait, rat-tailed, striped mule.  The pore critter was so small and the drifter so tall that it looked like the mule had six legs.  Well sir, the drifter rode up to Grandpa, stood up, and let his jackass walk right out from under him.

The drifter and Grandpa sat an’ jawed a spell, and the upshot was that the drifter would work fer Grandpa and take IOU’s ‘stead of cash, sein’ as how thar were no cash, nor likely to be any fer quite a spell.  Well sir, after a yar, the IOU’s were worth more’n the farm; so Grandpa gave the drifter the farm fer the IOU’s, but Grandpa didn’t hanker to leave; so he went to work fer the drifter.  After a yar he got back the farm.

This went on fer ’bout ten yars, ’til the drifter says to Grandpa one day that he had to be movin’ on.  He ‘lowed as how he jest couldn’t stay in one spot very long, and always hankered to see what was over the next hill and ’round the next bend.  By this time Grandpa had young’uns to he’p in the fields, the oldest bein’ all of eleven, and big ’nuff to skin (work) a a pair of mules.  Grandpa was highly pleased to be rid of the stranger.


Mary & Donna in Alaska016

The Honey Dance

Daddy John Stories

The Honey Dance

from Stories from the Land of Make Believe

by Daddy John (Fussner)

edited by his daughter Mary Frances (Fussner) Garrett



 (photo by permission with thanks to Robert Schini)

One day Dough Doughy was lying out in the back yard, watching the clouds.  Did you ever look at the clouds and see different things?  If you look very close, you can see ‘most anything: fish, boats, faces, and lots of different things.  As Dough Doughy lay there, he saw a bee fly over.  It wasn’t a cloud bee but a sure-enough real one.

Now, whenever you see a bee, you think of honey, or at least Dough Doughy did, so right then and there, he decided to go honey hunting.  Hunting for honey is a good game for hot, lazy days if you live way out in the country.  Dough Doughy didn’t move.  He just stayed where he was until he saw another bee fly over.  It was coming from his flower beds.  You see, Mrs. Dough Doughy had many flowers, and the bees gathered the honey from them all summer.


Photo — thanks, Heather Harlan ❤

Dough Doughy watched the bee as far as he could see it, which wasn’t very far, because a bee is so small.  Then he got up, walked to where he had last seen it, and dropped down on the ground to wait for another bee.  Now do you see why honey hunting is such a good game for a lazy summer day?  After about five minutes, he saw another bee fly over.  He watched it as long as he could see it, got up, and moved to another spot.

About three hours later, Dough Doughy was at the edge of Farmer Brown’s woods, about one half mile from where he had started.  From there, it didn’t take long for Dough Doughy to locate the tree the bees were using for a hive.  It was in the woods that belonged to Farmer Brown.  Who do you think the honey belonged to (besides the bees)?  Yes, it belonged to Farmer Brown, and Dough Doughy had no right to it.

Dough Doughy walked down a path that led around the woods to Farmer Brown’s house.  Farmer Brown was backing his tractor into the shed when Dough Doughy arrived.  When he was finished, Farmer Brown and Dough Doughy walked over to the well by the barn, and Dough Doughy pumped some water for Farmer Brown to wash his hands and face with.  Then they both took a big drink of cool well water.

Guess what they used for a drinking glass.  No, not a cup.  No, not a tin can.  They used a gourd dipper.  Did you ever drink cool well water out of a gourd dipper?  No?  Well, I don’t know where you’ll find a better drink.

Farmer Brown hung the dipper up on the pump and said, “ Water, God’s greatest gift to man!”

“ True, and for second best, how would you like to have some nice, fresh honey?” asked Dough Doughy.

“ Fine,” answered Farmer Brown.  “ Who has the honey?”

“ You do,” said Dough Doughy.  “ It’s in a big hollow tree at the edge of the woods where the cowpath crosses the ditch near the blackberry patch.”

“ I know just the tree you mean,” Farmer Brown said, “ but I didn’t think it was a bee tree.”

Then Farmer Brown went into a shed.  In a little while, he came out with a big bucket and a feed sack with something in it.  Dough Doughy and Farmer Brown then walked down the path to the bee tree.  When they got there, Farmer Brown opened the feed sack and took out two hats with nets on them.  He put one on and gave the other to Dough Doughy.

Next, Dough Doughy took the smoker out of the sack, opened it, took a piece of rag out of it, and lit the rag.  When it was smoking well, he put it back in the smoker and closed the lid.  Farmer Brown pulled the net down over his face and neck, tying it around his turned-up shirt collar.  Next, he put on gloves that came up over his shirt sleeves and were held on with heavy rubber bands.

“ No room for a bee to get to me now,” thought Farmer Brown, but he forgot one thing.  Can you guess what it was?  No, I’m not going to tell you now; we will just wait a little while and find out.  Farmer Brown picked up a small hand ax and climbed the tree.  Dough Doughy quickly put on his hat and gloves just as Farmer Brown had, and he forgot the same thing Farmer Brown had forgotten.  Have you thought of what it could have been?

Soon Farmer Brown had chopped a hole as big as a dinner plate in the tree.  Sure enough, the tree was full of honey.  He called to Dough Doughy to toss up the smoker.  Soon Farmer Brown was pumping the tree full of smoke.  The bees came swarming out, buzzing around Farmer Brown and Dough Doughy.  You see, the bees didn’t like anyone to harm their hive, and they were trying to find a place to sting Farmer Brown and Dough Doughy.

Suddenly, Farmer Brown yelled, “ Ouch,” and jumped out of the tree.  He started hopping around on one foot, slapping his other leg with both hands.  Dough Doughy started laughing, but not for long.  Soon he, too, was hopping around, first on one foot, and then on the other, slapping his legs with both hands.  The bees had found a place to sting, because Farmer Brown and Dough Doughy had forgotten to put their pants legs inside their socks.

After a few minutes of dancing and slapping, they were ready to start gathering honey.  Farmer Brown climbed up in the tree to fill the bucket.  Dough Doughy kept the smoker going, to make the bees sleepy.  Soon the bucket was full, and Dough Doughy and Farmer Brown were headed for home.  The bees settled down to work.  They still had a lot of honey left and several months before winter to gather more.

That night, two families in the Land of Make Believe had fresh wild honey with their supper.  Who do you think they were?  Also, two men in the Land of Make Believe had two legs apiece that were bee-stung and didn’t feel too good.  Who do you think they were?



The Old Halloween Witch Has Goblin Trouble

Daddy John Stories


The Old Halloween Witch Has Goblin Trouble

from Stories from the Land of Make Believe

by Daddy John (Fussner)

edited by his daughter Mary Frances (Fussner) Garrett

Very early one cool October morning, Dough Doughy was awakened by a loud knocking on the door.  “ Now who could that be so early in the morning?”  wondered Dough Doughy as he got up and went to the door.  He soon found out, for when he opened the door, there stood the old witch.  Yes siree, the Halloween witch herself was standing there.  What would you do if a witch knocked on your door?  Dough Doughy just said, “ Come in!  Come in!  Glad to see you!” 

The old witch came in, and Dough Doughy called to his wife, “ We have company, dear.”

“ Be right there,”  answered his wife.

Dough Doughy, his wife, and the old witch all went into the kitchen.  You see, they were all country folk, and to them it seemed more friendly to visit in the kitchen.  That is one of the reasons farmhouses have such big kitchens.

“ And to what do we owe this visit?”  asked Dough Doughy of the witch.

“ I’m having trouble,”  answered the old witch.  “ As you know, my helpers are all little goblins and are not quite the same as the little brownies that help Santa.  These little goblins of mine have suddenly decided to play.  I can’t get any work out of them.”

“ I can see where that would cause you to worry, what with Halloween coming up soon,”  said Dough Doughy.

“ Yes,” sighed the witch, “ I’m just about to the end of my rope, what with all those trick-or-treats to get to the people for the little ones.  As if that weren’t bad enough, the ghosts keep getting dirty.  First they raced up and down the chimney getting full of soot.  Then, after I got them all cleaned up, the goblins chased them through the mud holes, and I had to wash them again.”

“ I’ve often wondered how you wash a ghost,”  said Mrs. Dough Doughy.

“ Well, it isn’t easy,”  answered the witch.  “ You see, a ghost can go right through the side of a washing machine, and I have to use magic to put them to sleep long enough to wash them.”

“ Seems to me you could use magic to clean them,”  said Mrs. Dough Doughy as she fried eggs for breakfast.

“ No,”  said the witch, “ that is one thing my magic can’t do.  You see, the ghosts have magic, too, and they don’t like to be cleaned.”

“ Just what do you intend to do about the goblins?”  asked Dough Doughy as he opened the oven door and looked at the biscuits browning slowly and evenly in the oven.

“ I don’t know,” answered the witch.  “ I was hoping you would have the answer.  I’m about ready to give up.”

Mrs. Dough Doughy smiled as she said, “ I have the answer to your problem.  You just tell those lazy little goblins to go off into the woods and play.  Tell them they don’t even have to come home to sleep, because you are going to fill their jobs with hard-working brownies from Santa’s shop.  Why shucks, one good brownie is worth a dozen goblins.”

“ That will do it!”  shouted the witch.

“ Yes it will,” said Dough Doughy, “ and if they don’t believe you, you just let me know. I’ll send Tex up to Santa to bring back a plane load of brownies.”

“ Breakfast is ready,” said Mrs. Dough Doughy.  “ You may as well enjoy a nice hot breakfast now that your troubles are over.”

Do you know what?  The witch didn’t have any more trouble with her goblins.  They didn’t want any brownies working their jobs.  Would you?


The Nosy Little Star

Daddy John Stories

The Nosy Little Star


from Bedtime Stories by Daddy John (Fussner)

(collected by his daughter, Mary Garrett)

Photo is author’s great-grandchildren Moriah, Nicolas, Robin, Christopher (John) and Stephen in front of the fireplace Robin and Moriah drew for their daddy.

Once upon a long, long time ago, there was a bright little star.  He lived way, way up in the sky, high above the church steeple.  Little Star was not only bright, he was also a nosey little star, and whenever he noticed anything at all that was strange, he just had to get closer to have a look.

One night he almost bumped into the moon trying to get a better look at the mountains.  Boy, oh boy did the man in the moon tell him off!  A few nights later, Little Star wanted to see what was in the big dipper and almost fell in.  Soon after that, he got lost in the Milky Way and was a week getting out.

No, he wasn’t a mean little star; he was just a nosey little star.

One night, long about the middle of winter, he noticed something different about the earth.  Wondering what it was, Little Star moved closer and closer until at last he was sitting on a telephone pole up at the corner.

He looked up and down both streets and saw lots and lots of pretty lights on the houses, on the trees in the yards, and believe it or not, he saw trees inside the houses.  All of the trees were pretty and covered with colored lights, but the ones inside the houses were prettier than all the rest.

Little Star sat there on the telephone pole, looking and looking.  Suddenly he heard something way up in the sky.  Looking up, he saw a fat little man dressed in a red suit, riding in a sled pulled by eight little reindeer with bells on their harnesses.  Who do you think it was?

The sled came closer and closer, and lower and lower until it stopped on the roof of a house not too far from where Little Star was sitting.  The little man, whom we call Santa, got out of his sled and put his pack on his back.  “Zoom!” down the chimney he went.

Little Star could tell something was going on around the pretty little tree inside the house.  He was much too far away to see what; so he moved closer, first to a tree out front, then to the porch, a short hop to the window sill, and there he was.

Santa was very busy putting gifts around the Christmas tree, toys for the children, and pretty packages for all.  Suddenly he noticed the light from the star.  Looking up, he saw the little star.  Santa quickly opened the door, went out, picked up Little Star, and looked him over.  Going back inside, he put Little Star under the Christmas tree.  He had already put a nice little angel on the top.

“Now,” said Santa, “you look really nice sitting there, and you will be really close; so you can see everything that happens in the morning.  You be sure and watch the little ones.  Tomorrow is their day.”

With that, Santa turned to leave, saying as he did so, “You would look much prettier if you would turn around and around while sitting there.”  Zoom, he was gone.

One thing Little Star didn’t know, which way was he to turn, clockwise or counter-clockwise?   Oh well, he was a star with eight points; so he made four go one way and four go the other way.

All of you know about the happy children he will see on Christmas morning.  Who knows?  Maybe he will be under your tree.

Little Joe’s Pets

Daddy John Stories


Little Joe’s Pets

from Stories from the Land of Make Believe

by Daddy John (Fussner)

edited by his daughter Mary Frances (Fussner) Garrett

Little Joe lived with his daddy and mommy in a nice warm log house in a little clearing beside a clear, murmuring stream, deep in a forest of the Ozarks.  Little Joe had many pets.  Do you want to hear what they were?

Well, there was Chatty the squirrel.  Chatty lived in a hole in a big oak tree on the bank of the stream.  No, Little Joe didn’t keep Chatty in a cage.  He didn’t keep any of his pets in a cage.  He kept them in something far better and stronger than any cage man can build.  It was something God gave him and his daddy and mommy added to.  What was it?  It was a circle of love.

When Little Joe was at the age when little boys learn their ABC’s, his mommy told him that the letter O is the best letter of all.  It is a complete circle.  The wheel, the sun, the full moon, the lovely ripple from a rock thrown in a quiet pool of water, and the circle of ripples moving out ever further until it reaches the shore are all the letter O.  The circle of love that Little Joe had for his forest friends was like that, rippling ever further on.

Little Joe would go out to fish in the little stream with a can of worms and a pocketful of walnuts for Chatty.  Soon after Little Joe sat down, baiting his hook, and leaned back against the big sturdy oak tree, Chatty would appear on the branch above.  Slowly, scolding every inch of the way, he would make his way down the tree.  Soon he would be down beside Little Joe, sniffing for the treat he knew was waiting.


Little Joe would just keep on fishing.  If Chatty was to get his treat, he had to earn it.  Little Joe didn’t give handouts.  It was up to Chatty to find which pocket the walnuts were in and get them as best he could.  Chatty knew his job well, and soon he would have a walnut out of Little Joe’s pocket.  Sitting on Little Joe’s lap, he would hold the walnut between his front paws, eating away at the nut and dropping the shells in Little Joe’s lap.  Yes, Chatty was held firmly in Little Joe’s circle of love.


Little Joe had other friends, too.  Nearby was a nest of robins.  As Little Joe fished, he watched his friend, R.B.  Yes, that was the name Little Joe had given him, R.B. for Robin Red Breast.  Joey had found R.B. when R.B. was a young bird.  It was late fall, on a cold, windy, wet day.  Little Joe was walking along the stream, idly kicking the fallen leaves, thinking about the big Thanksgiving dinner still too many days away.  “Why,” he thought, “does it take so long for the special days to get here?”  He didn’t like to wait so long, but he couldn’t think of any way to speed it up.

Suddenly he saw something move in the leaves just as he was about to kick. Stopping his kick, he dropped to his knees, as his hands rapidly searched in the leaves and soon found the crippled robin.  R.B. looked as if he had been in very deep trouble, as if he had been caught but had gotten away.  Little Joe carefully, tenderly carried R.B. home.  With his mommy and daddy’s help, he gave R.B. first aid and placed him in a shoe box.  Slowly, R.B. regained his health and became a household pet.

Daddy build a small platform, complete with perch, water, and food container.  Mommy put it on a book shelf in Little Joe’s room.  R.B. spent all that winter with them, flying from room to room, watching Mommy do her housework and sitting on Daddy’s head or shoulder, reading the paper with him.  Best of all, he liked to play hide-and-seek with Little Joe.  With the first warm days of spring, Little Joe and R.B. started taking walks in the woods, but they still played hide-and-seek in the house on cold or rainy days.

One day R.B. saw a pretty little girl robin.  Yes, from then on R.B. slept in a tree at night.  By day he helped to build a nest, and after that, R.B. was a busy little bird, feeding a nest of young.  Whenever he saw Little Joe fishing, he knew that his pal would help out by giving him a couple of worms.  R.B. was also very good at helping himself to Little Joe’s worms.  He would slip up beside Little Joe, and quick as a wink, he would pluck a worm from Little Joe’s bait can and scurry back to his nest full of hungry babies.  R.B. was caught fast and held tight in Little Joe’s circle of love.


The largest of Little Joe’s pets was a full-grown deer.  Yes, it was a full-grown, dainty-stepping, graceful doe.  Little Joe called her Ruby.  He said she was a cousin of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and well she could have been.  Se was trapped in Little Joe’s circle of love last January.  A cold blizzard had howled for three nights and two days, dumping a foot of snow, and Ruby and her fawn couldn’t find enough to eat.

One day, just about sundown, she saw Little Joe and his daddy hauling a load of hay out to the cattle that Little Joe’s daddy kept in a pasture behind the barn.  Ruby and her fawn lost no time in jumping the fence and making themselves at home with the cattle.  Each day she got a little less afraid.  Soon she was waiting with the cattle when Little Joe and his daddy arrived with the wagon load of hay.  A few of the cows were Little Joe’s pets.  Every day he brought them a treat: an apple, an ear of corn, or a lump of sugar.  Soon he had Ruby and her fawn eating out of his hand, and Ruby was held firm in his circle of love.

Another of Little Joe’s pets was a big, beautiful black crow.  His name was Blackie.  Little Joe’s neighbors, brothers, and sisters said that Blackie was a thief.  Little Joe said that Blackie was a collector of pretty things, and that’s what Blackie was.  He didn’t steal, because he didn’t know that anyone owned the things he took.   Blackie collected coins: nickels, dimes, and quarters; jewelry, such as rings, necklaces, bracelets,and cuff links; bits of colored glass; ribbon; string; paper; and anything else bright enough to attract his attention and small enough for him to carry.

Blackie kept his treasures in a big hollow tree in Little Joe’s back yard.  About once a week, Little Joe would lean a ladder against the tree and empty Blackie’s treasure chest.  Blackie would scream and scold, but he couldn’t stop Little Joe.  After emptying the hollow tree, Little Joe would put the coins in his pockets to pay Blackie’s fine for stealing, and he would return the rings and other articles to their rightful owners.  Then Little Joe would spread what ws left out on the table in the yard so that Blackie would be kept busy carrying it back to his tree.

Little Joe and Blackie were great pals.  Blackie would follow Little Joe to school and meet him when school was out, flying overhead or riding on Little Joe’s shoulder, hoping for a tasty bit of left-over lunch.  Little Joe and his pets had many happy times together.  Now let’s go to bed for our sleep and a pleasant trip to Dreamland.  Remember to go to sleep with your left eye first, and you will go right through Dreamland and into the Land of Make Believe.

Mixed-Up Old Hen

Daddy John Stories

Hawaiian Chicken Little

Hawaiian Chicken Little

Mixed-Up Old Hen


from Homespun Stories from Uncle John (Fussner)

presented by his daughter Mary Frances (Fussner) Garrett

Photo is my “Hawaiian Chicken Little” square, made with Leslie Blanchard’s help, and a kukui and shell necklace, made on Pride of Hawaii cruise.

One pretty day in May, the sun was warm, the flowers were showin’ their colors and the birds were singin’ fer thar mates, and to warn other males to keep thar distance.  At breakfast Grandma asked Grandpa to kill the old rooster after he finished eatin’.

“Why be you wantin’ to kill Old Red?” asked Grandpa.

“Tomorrow be our weddin’ anniversary, and Ah wants to cook up a pot of chicken an’ dumplin’s,” answered Grandma.

Grandpa grinned and said, “Woman, why be you wantin’ to take hit out on poor Old Red’s hide fer a mistake we’uns made over ten yars ago?”

With that bit of foolish wisdom outen the way, he departed out the door with haste.  Old Red be out in the back yard, and tho’ he be tame an’ easy to ketch, this day Grandpa coundn’t touch him with a ten-foot pole.  That bird jest nivver were whar he jest was.  Didn’t take Grandpa long to git tired playin’ a game of tag with Old Red, sein’ as how Grandpa was always the one that was it.

Havin’ more’n e-nuff, he went an’ fetched his old scatter gun.  Thar be Old Red standin’ in front of the lilac bush, waitin’ fer a tasty breakfast.  Grandpa went up with Old Betsy and let go.  Hearin’ the shot, Old Red left real sudden-like, runnin’ hard, wings flappin’ ’til he be long gone out’n sight, not to be seen by anyone ’til feedin’ time come sundown.

Now, you be thinkin’ that Grandma wouldn’ be fixin’ them chicken and dumplin’s, but you air wrong.  Grandpa be missin’ Old Red, but he sure didn’t miss them six fat young hens that war under the bush takin’ thar daily dust bath.

Grandma had a ˇworried look ’til she got a close-up look-see at them hens.  “Thanks be to the Lord and lucky fer your hide Old Biddy not be one of them,” she says to Grandpa.

Old Biddy, she be Grandma’s pet hen.  Grandma hand-raised her in the wood box back o’ the kitchen stove.  Biddy sorta got mixed up in the head, sometimes thinkin’ she be a people, and sometimes sorta thinkin’ like a chicken.  She fell way short of the mark on both counts.

That old hen could make anything hatch.  Once she sat on an empty thread spool and hatched out a hollow-headed woodpecker.  One day she found an old door knob, and she sat an’ sat an’ sat, ’til at long last she hatched out a brass weather vane.  Grandpa put hit up on top of the barn whar hit could twist and turn with the wind, with jest one little mix-up, tho’.  Hit’s tail pointed into the wind ‘stead of hit’s head.  Grandpa had an answer fer that, too.  He said that, like a lotta folks, that thar bird be so slow at thinkin’ things out that by the time hit figgered out whˇar the wind be comin’ from, hit war already goin’ back.


Sam Meets the Striped Kitty Cat

Sam Meets the Striped Kitty Cat

 by Daddy John (Fussner)


One day in late February the sun was shining bright, and the wind was blowing from the south.  There was a promise of spring in the air.  It was warm for late February.  Several red birds could be seen around Dough Doughy’s house, along with a dozen or so robins.  The sparrows were already thinking of building nests, though it was much too early to start.  About a hundred pigeons were sunning themselves on the south side of the barn roof.  There were dark pigeons, white pigeons, old, young, all colors and ages.


Way down in the pasture near the woods, a few deer were grazing on the green grass between the patches of snow.  Near the brier patch, old and young male and female rabbits were busy stuffing themselves with tender green grass and the young shoots of plants making an early growth.  Many little field mice were out looking for food, for they were very hungry after the last cold spell.


Chatty the squirrel lay sunning himself on the big limb of the old oak tree near the creek.  In the creek could be seen little fish looking for food, bigger fish looking for little fish, and the biggest fish looking for all of them.  Tommy Turtle was slowly swimming around, looking for just anything at all to eat.


Out in the barn, the mice that can always be found in barns were very busy scampering around, looking for stray bits of grain that may have been dropped and keeping an eye open for bits of paper, string, or anything else that would make a warm nest warmer.  Dough Doughy had left the door open so that the warm, fresh air could dry out the barn.


Under the chicken house lived a cute little animal.  She wasn’t very big, and her coat was black except for the white stripes down her back.  She had lived under the chicken house all her life, and she wasn’t afraid of anything in the barnyard.  She would walk under the six big horses much as if their legs were tree trunks.  Dogs worried her not.  They would only try to catch her once.  After that they stayed well away, leaving when she walked near.


She didn’t bother the chickens, except to take an egg once in a while to make her coat shine.  Dough Doughy didn’t mind, for he often fed eggs to his six big horses to make their coats shine.  The only things that tried to get away when she arrived, but didn’t often succeed, were the mice and the very few rats that lived in the barn.  Some of the wiser mice lived in the barn to a ripe old age.  The rats, however, never lasted over a week.   Rats and mice were Petunia’s main food, and with her around, Dough Doughy had few problems.


The warm weather brought Petunia out from her nice dry nest.  She was as hungry as all the other wild citizens of the farm.  She had already eaten everything around the chicken house.  The food Dough Doughy set out for her was filling, but she was a little tired of it, so she was off to the barn.

Petunia hadn’t been to the barn in three weeks, so the mice were playing all over the place.  Petunia entered the open door, stopped, and looked around.  Boy, oh boy!  What a sight for a hungry skunk!


Way, way over near the far end, fully forty feet away, was a big rat, chewing on a bag of feed.  In between Petunia and the rat were about a half dozen mice.  What should she do?  Should she catch a small mouse that she was sure of or try for the rat, which was forty feet away but only six feet from his hole in the wall and safety?  What do you think?  Well, sir, almost faster than the eye could follow, Petunia streaked across the forty feet.  Before the rat knew she was coming, it was too late.  Mr. Rat made a fine meal for Petunia.


After a big meal, most animals like to sleep, and Petunia was no different.  She slowly walked out to the chicken house and was soon fast asleep in the sun.  She had been napping for about an hour when she was awakened by a dog barking.  Opening her eyes and springing to her feet, she saw Sam.  He would lunge forward barking loudly and then back off.  He repeated this over and over.  Petunia couldn’t retreat to her den under the chicken house because Sam was between her and the entrance.


Petunia didn’t want any trouble, so she backed off toward the barn.  Sam kept coming after her, barking every step of the way.  He didn’t know anything about skunks, but he was about to find out.  Petunia reached the barn, still slowly backing away from Sam, when she realized that Sam wasn’t going to stop making a pest of himself.  She turned and ran as fast as she could.  Sam was doing a good job of keeping up with her as they raced across the pasture.


Dough Doughy was out in the pasture rounding up the horses, and he saw Sam chasing Petunia.  “ Well, well,” he thought, “ Sam is about to learn another lesson the hard way.  He will be a mighty lonely dog before this is over.”


Petunia reached the fence and raced under it and on into the woods, where she holed up in a hollow tree.  The hole was near the ground, but too small for Sam.  Petunia knew she would be safe from harm.  Poor Sam reached the fence and rolled head over tail, unable to stop.  He then had to hunt for a hole under the fence large enough for him to go through.  He soon found the hollow tree where Petunia was holed up.  He barked, he scratched at the hole, and he stuck his head in; he did everything he could to get Petunia.


Soon, enough was enough, and any more was too much.  Petunia turned her tail toward Sam; up went the flag, and out shot the gas, hitting Sam in the face and front.  Sam let out a howl you could hear for a mile or more.  He rolled in the dirt and rubbed his head on the ground, trying to clear his eyes.  After a while, he could see well enough to go home.  Yelping every step of the way, he reached home in record time.


Dough Doughy had waited out by the barn after he drove the horses in.  He listened to Sam as he made his way to the hollow tree.  Dough Doughy knew just what was going on every minute of the time.  When Petunia threw the charge of gas from the glands under her tail,  Dough Doughy heard Sam yelp, and he knew what to do.  Going into the barn, he opened the door in a little cabinet and took out a bottle of medicine for Sam’s eyes.  He then went to the brooder house, where the baby chicks are kept, and filled a big tub with warm water.

Soon Sam was home, his eyes were taken care of, and he had been given a hot bath, a good drying off, a warm bed in the brooder house, a hot meal, and plenty of time to think about chasing striped kitty cats.  For about a month, no one came near Sam except to bring him his food.


(Laura recommends Nature’s Miracle for skunked dogs).

At TanTarA at Lake of the Ozarks, skunks would come out at dusk, heading for the outdoor tables.  Wait staff would quietly assure visitors that if they stayed quiet, the skunks wouldn’t bother them, and we’d watch them forage for dropped morsels of food.  😉

Mom and Dad Memories

Daddy John Stories

My father would tell us stories every night.  Lucky us!   He wrote many of them down, and let me “practice my typing” by putting them in final form.  Lucky us!

I have put many of them into three little books so others can enjoy them.

He was also a skilled carpenter making these cabinets with pegs, not nails.


Mom and Dad Memories

Our father, John William Fussner, told us bedtime stories every night, and it was our favorite part of the bedtime ritual.  These were stories just for us (and often about us), drawn from our father’s imagination and the many stories he had heard and lived in his life.  He had grown up on a farm in Illinois and moved to the St. Louis area because there weren’t enough opportunities for work.

Some of the best stories about my father came from his older sisters and his mother, proving you are never safe if you come from a family of storytellers.  Fortunately for us, he wrote down many of his stories, and I encourage everyone to make a similar record of family stories.  Magic was important!  When we were little, our Christmas tree and presents were nowhere to be seen until Christmas morning, letting us know that Santa had been busy at our house.

Both our parents made us children the focus of their lives.  Dad worked hard at McDonnell Douglas to support his family, but the rest of his time was devoted to home.  He and his brothers built the house we lived in, and Dad built much of the furniture, including beds, closets, kitchen cabinets that I believe will last forever, and a table made from a door, large enough for all of us to eat together.   Family dinners were important, every day at five, and we were to compliment the cook and ask to be excused before leaving the table.

When I came home from kindergarten and said I wanted to be a teacher, Dad said I’d have to do well in school to get a scholarship, since “Daddy is a working man.”  I worked hard, and he encouraged me all the way!


My dad, John William Fussner, was a mischievous boy.  He taught his little brother Don not to bite by grabbing him as he ran across the room to bite, pulling his arm in front  of his already-wide-open mouth, and allowing him to bite himself.  Of course, when Don started hollering and Grandma came running, Daddy’s innocent, “He just bit himself,” didn’t keep him out of trouble.  He also liked to slam the doors when his sisters were baking, causing their cakes to fall, but he didn’t get in trouble for that because his father liked fallen cakes better anyway.

He always felt sorry for one of his school friends, who had a very long name, because when they were punished and had to write their names on the blackboard, Daddy would always be finished much sooner.  (His lack of enthusiasm for school surfaced again after his stroke, when he disliked therapy and got out of it by deciding to tell the speech therapist all the wrong answers until she gave up).  He always encouraged us to do well in school, and told me early on that I would need good grades for a scholarship if I wanted to be a teacher.

He grew up on a farm in Illinois, and said that Grandma could bake better on her old wood stove than any modern housewife with a gas oven.  As a young man he worked 40 head of mules for a man who rented the mules out, and he often spoke of the superiority of mules, in intelligence, ability to work,  and lack of fussiness about diet.  He did say sometimes that it “took a two-by-four to get their attention.”

He had picked out my name when he was still a young boy, Mary for Jesus’ mother, and Frances for his own mother, and his relatives always referred to me by both names.  He named my brother William John because he didn’t want to stick a “junior” on his son.

In his youth Dad worked for the Civilian Conservation Corp, and he once took us to a park to see paths and buildings the CCC had built.  He figured it was a good program since it gave them work and a bit of pocket money and sent income home to help their families.  He told of one man who kept reaching across the table for things rather than asking to have them passed; one day someone hit him on the head with a heavy metal mug, and he never did it again.

During WWII he worked as a bus driver, and buses were crowded because of gas and tire rationing.  One very big man would grab both sides of the door and squeeze the passengers inside.  Dad said passengers used to go to the Forest Park Highlands and then ride his bus home for a real thrill, and if he saw a woman putting on lipstick, he would swerve the bus on purpose to smear lipstick all over her face.  Once a passenger called the bus station to complain about Daddy, and he happened to answer the phone.  He assured the caller that he would personally deal with that driver.  He also once bet a passenger that he could get a date with a pretty girl who was getting on the bus, not telling the passenger that she was his cousin, who readily agreed to meet him for dinner.

My mother met my father in his mother’s kitchen (Grandma lived next door to Mom’s older sister Dot).  She asked who the “cute bus driver” was, and they began dating.  Mom always said that the best way to avoid mother-in-law problems was to pick the mother-in -law first.

Dad tried to enlist in the Army at the beginning of the war but was refused because of his heart murmur.  To do his part, he went off to Alaska and then Hawaii to help in the construction of airports.  He loved Alaska the best and always wanted to go back.   Meanwhile, Mom sent him a Christmas card (she got his address from Grandma, of course), and after the war, they married. With his brothers’ help, Dad built the little house we grew up in.  Mom stayed home with us children because Dad said, “If I wanted some other woman raising my kids, I would have married her.”

Dad delivered soda for a time and then found work with McDonnell Aircraft, where he stayed the remainder of his working years as a sheet metal assembler and riveter.  He kept such good “spec. books” that even the foremen came  to him for advice, but he never wanted to be any sort of management himself.  His favorite assignment  was working on the Mercury and Gemini space capsules.   When he was retired on disability, he really missed the place, even though he had often complained about it while he worked there.

Both parents made us children the focus of their lives; if an invitation didn’t include the children, it wasn’t for them.   Mom was always there to hear about our school days, Dad told stories, and they formed a formidable united front on discipline.  A stern look was all that was usually needed to remind us of our responsibilities, but sterner measures could be counted on if we were stubborn.  Mom told me of Dad picking me up when I was just a little thing and making me put clean clothes back in the laundry basket after I had taken them out.

When we went somewhere, they were always counting to five, to be sure they had all of us.  At the zoo, Dad used to give us time to run and roll down grassy hills, to “use up some energy.”  We thought it was great fun, and it was only when I became an adult that I realized that it also gave him and Mom time to sit on a bench and rest.   Dad said his goal was to get us all raised, without serious injury or serious trouble; he succeeded and said later, after he became ill, that he was content because he had accomplished that.

John Fussner’s stories  Presented by daughter Mary Garrett

(copyright reserved for family)

The Fireflies

Read a Story  Storyteller Mary Garrett —  Stories make the world go around


from Bedtime Stories by Daddy John (Fussner)

(collected by his daughter, Mary Garrett)

One day, some little bugs went out to play. They were having a wonderful time. They played tag, hide-and-go-seek, follow-the-leader, and many other games that little boys and girls play. Oh, they were having such a good time, when suddenly a swarm of big mean bugs came along and chased the little bugs away. All day long, whenever the little bugs started to play, the big mean bugs would chase them away.

After the sun went down and it got dark, the little bugs thought that they would go play. The little bugs could see well at night, that is, well enough not to run into trees or anything. The big bugs, however, c ould hardly see at all. They had to find a good, safe place to spend the night. The little bugs flew around for a while, not having very much fun. The little fairies were out playing in the moonlight. They were having a wonderful time. The fairies love to run, jump, and dance in the moonlight. The Old Man in the Moon was in a happy mood, filling the woods and meadows with bright moonlight. The stars were bright and shiny, making it a wonderful, happy, carefree night.

The Fairy Queen heard a couple of little bugs talking. She stopped dancing to ask what was troubling them. They told her about the big bugs chasing them so they couldn’t play by day, and at night they couldn’t see each other well enough to have very much fun.

“Well,” said the Fairy Queen, “you do have a problem.” She thought for a while and then asked the little bugs, “Do you like to play at night?”

“Oh yes,” answered the little bugs, “it’s nice and cool, and the moon and stars are so pretty that we just love to play at night.”

“I have it,” said the Fairy Queen. “Let all these little bugs have lights in their tails so they can see each other in the dark.”

From then on, even until now, the little bugs can be seen at night, blinking their tail lights. Everywhere, children like to catch them. If you catch fireflies (or lightning bugs, as some people call them) don’t hurt them. Play with them for a while and then turn them loose again so they can have their fun.

This story, and others like it, are in chapbooks of my father’s stories:

Bedtime Stories by Daddy John (Fussner) 35 pages

“Sweet dreams,” stories of fairies and nature

Stories from the Land of Make Believe by Daddy John (Fussner) 53 pages
Dough Doughy and friends build a church, face a blizzard, enjoy life.

Homespun Stories from Uncle John 32 pages
Old time tall tales in dialect: mosquitoes big enough to eat a car, a mixed-up hen, pet skunks

$10 each or all 3 for $25

For more information about these chapbooks, as well as my CDs of stories and Prince the Frog picture book, go to “CDs and Books” entry, or contact me.

Frog Poem/Song from my friend Lucy Grondahl in honor of Prince

Twinkle Twinkle little frog,

Sitting in your slimy bog.

Munching on a Doozle Berry.

Thinking of your MaMa Mary,

Telling all your froggy kids,

What your Mama Mary dids.

Fed you crickets, ants and grubs,

Gave you froggy tummy rubs.

Every baby froggie-poo,

Wants to visit Mary too.

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