Father’s Day/Story Swap

Last Monday’s McClay Story Swap was full of sharing and connections, everyone participated in stories and schmoozing, so much in common, as stories often show us.  I put off writing about the Swap, which means Father’s Day has also entered my stream of consciousness . . . my father led me to stories, as Michael has done for his daughter Linda, so I’m going to write about both.

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Mike and Linda reported fun, if wet, storytelling at Renaissance Faire, an opportunity that began when Maria Romine Kantor hired me to tell at St. Charles Christmas Traditions.  I had connected with them one weekend at the Santa Parade and began by helping with crafts in the Depot.  Years after, Maria invited me to audition for Faire when she wanted to move on to her wonderful Swords and Roses productions.  Now Flavia organizes the Gateway Storytellers at Faire, and so it continues.

Linda Bennett told of her band teacher asking for a performance of the piece with which she won State . . . at the last minute, with the wrong instrument, and without her music — and she did it despite those obstacles!!

Michael Bennett shared a story of an outdoor concert broken up by a bear, which sauntered in to eat every sausage on the grill.  No musicians were harmed in either story . . . but these stories prove it takes courage to play the tuba!

Jennifer Bennett told a story of her grandparents’ courtship . . . he fell for the sweet and courageous single mother when he saw how she was with her child.

Courtship stories are wonderful.  It reminded me of a story my neighbor’s now departed mother told at Java G’s, of sending all her girl cousins off on a camping trip so she could have a clear field for attracting the man they all liked — long and happy marriage was the result.

Jeannette Seamon told name stories, long beautiful flower names, and (long Chinese name) first son has fallen in the well.  We talked about the difficulty of memorizing long works, and I remembered Jeff Miller’s advice to learn poems from the last stanza backward to the first, to allow for a stronger finish.  I vaguely remember a (Japanese?) story of a father mouse wanting to name his child after (marry his child to?) the greatest thing in the world — one of those circular stories like the stonecutter on the mountain that leads back to the beginning . . . I can’t find it now — anyone? (See below for Roger’s answer*)

Jeannette also brought a books of Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, which I had read so long ago and have enjoyed again . . . and will take to the next swap for the Bennetts to enjoy.

My own telling began with unplanned earthiness . . . A comment reminded me of Utah Phillip’s story of cooking for a railroad crew . . .  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zb1qsVqjwg&list=LLQ9fK5KQS4WdeOdVuyPIdXQ&index=6

Mike helpfully explained the difference between deer and moose scat, which led to a discussion of practical jokes one can play with chocolate covered raisins . . . and to Doug Elliot’s Scat song . . .  Couldn’t find that on YouTube, but this is even better   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PeJFbC-_KI  and another https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g_b9MVR6k9o

I also told “The Farmer’s Fun-Loving Daughter” aka “Filling the House” and our friend Tony played the flute for it . . .

Here’s a link to Kathryn Tucker Windham, which popped up while searching, and will serve to elevate the tone of this post and remember a good woman. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i3CVpuj-Fgk&index=3&list=LLQ9fK5KQS4WdeOdVuyPIdXQ

 

Father’s Day Musings

He was Daddy when I was little and then Dad . . . and on his stories, “Daddy John” for the bedtime stories and “Uncle John” for the tall tales in dialect.  His stories were a gift — and an even bigger gift, he believed in us . . .   When I came home from kindergarten and announced I wanted to be a teacher, Dad explained that college was expensive and “Daddy’s a working man” so I’d need good grades for a scholarship . . . and I listened. ❤

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Father stories everywhere! Barra’s blog reminded me of my dad’s workbench in the basement.  I used to love to visit the shop class at FHN because the smell of sawdust took me back.  I just watched Gnomeo & Juliet, with a loving but over-protective father.  Great fun, with so many stars in the cast and such cleverness — if I were still teaching Shakespeare, I’d find a way to use it in class, maybe a “catch the allusion” quiz . . . and yes, a much happier ending. ❤

 

I’ll share two of Dad’s “Uncle John” stories.  We kids  were allowed to keep a variety of pets, birds, mice, snakes, hamsters, but never a pig . . .

(BTW, dialect is hard to write consistently).

Nuff’s Pet Pig  by Uncle John Fussner  collected by Mary Garrett

One day little ‘Nuff were out in the woods, jest loafin’ an’ lookin’ and listenin’, not to larn ’bout nature but to hide from Grandma.  Well sir, he heard a pig squeal, and lookin’ ’round he spotted a skinny little razorback pig.  He slipped up an’ caught that thar squealin’ pig, tucked hit under his arm, an’ scooted home.

Grandpa was out back cleanin’ the barn when ‘Nuff fetched the pig to him.  Showin’ Grandpa the pig, he allowed as how he’d like to keep him fer to make a pet.  Grandpa took one good look at that thar pig and busted out haw-hawin’ so as to ‘most shake the mountains.  Grandma were gatherin’ eggs nearby an’ come runnin’ to see what were so funny.

Grandpa haw-hawed some more and said, “Look at that poor critter — body like a sausage, legs lookin’ like broomsticks, his head is longer’n his body, and his hind end is so poorly made that iffen he’d pick up an apple in that long mouth of his’n, his tail would point straight up.”

Lookin’ at little ‘Nuff he said, “Well, son, iffen that sorry little runt is what you be hankerin’ fer to make a pet out of, seein’ as how his ears hain’t notched nor marked,  I recken hit be righful fer to keep him.”

A couple of weeks later Grandpa were out near the edge of the woods when he spotted the pig’s hind end stickin’ out’n a hole.  Grandpa give the tail a couple of quick yanks sayin’, “Pig, how long you been rootin’ in that thar hole?’

“Week, week,” answered the pig.

“No wonder you’re so skinny,” laughed Grandpa.  “Been rootin’ thar a week an’ hain’t found nothin’ to eat yet?”

 

Hogs Vs. Swine   by Uncle John Fussner  collected by Mary Garrett

One day little ‘Nuff’s pet pig took bad sick.  Grandpa and Grandma tried fer mor’n a week to make him well, but it done no good.  Grandpa be jawin’ with the professor in town one day, tellin’ him ’bout ‘Nuff’s pet pig bein’ under the weather.  The professor went back to the farm with Grandpa to have a look see.  He worked on that thar pig fer mor’n an hour an’ kept callin’ hit a swine.

He finished up and said to ‘Nuff, “Son, take good care of that swine fer a day or two and he will be fine.”

Nuff turned to Grandpa and saked, “Pa, whyfor does he call my pig a swine?”

Grandpa answered by sayin, “Well son, hit’s this way.  Iffin you sit behind a big shiny desk with a lot of book larnin’ in your head, a hog or a pig is swine, but iffin you be feedin’ ’em, wadin’ in the mud, cleanin’ up after ’em, sittin’ up nights when they be ailin’, then they be pigs an’ hogs.

More stories,books, and CDs    More Daddy John stories

*Roger sent the mystery story . . .
At the Festival I heard Motoko tell (as a Japanese story) about a girl mouse and a boy mouse who wanted to get married. She asked her father’s permission but he said — No, a mouse is small and weak. You must marry the strongest person in the world. And that is the Sun. But the Sun declined, saying the cloud could cover the sun and so was stronger than he. The cloud said the wind could blow the cloud away and so was stronger than he. The wind said the wall could stop the wind and so was stronger. And the wall said a mouse could chew a hole in the wall, so the mouse was strongest. So Father Mouse married his daughter to the boy mouse, which was what she had wanted all along.

Motoko contrives to learn the names of a boy and a girl in the class earlier in the program and then introduces the boy and girl mice with those names. Of course, the kids giggle when she says — they wanted to get married! — At which point Motoko says, No, no — it was the mice who wanted to get married. They just happened to have the same names.

Roger

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Writing Process Blog Hop

Request from Linda Rodriguez:  The idea is to answer four questions about your writing life and your current or next book (or both) and then ask a couple of other writers to do the same the following Monday.

I admire Linda so much, so I had to say yes.   You can read hers http://lindarodriguezwrites.blogspot.com

 

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Here are my attempts to answer the questions . . . and I would be happy to pass the baton to others to continue the “hop.”

  1. What am I working on?

. . . this blog, answering the invitation of Linda Rodriguez, whom I respect.  In April I wrote for the A to Z Blog challenge.  I work on new stories for telling at the Second Monday Story Swap at McClay Library, St. Charles, Missouri.  Other writing as the spirit moves me.  In retirement, I am working toward “human being” more than “human doing.”

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I have several storytelling/writing friends, but not at all in the same genre, much more individual choices.  Some are more humorous, and some do the research for historical tales.  Many of us focus more on folk tales.  I tell only a few personal stories, which have become prevalent.

3. Why do I write what I do?

I write and tell what feels important to me at the time, and in the form that feels right for that material.  Howard Schwartz told writing workshop participants that sometimes what we think will be a poem will become a story, and the reverse.  My father’s story of the Rainbow is in the collection of “Daddy John” stories, but also a poem written in that workshop (in 1993, memorable by the Flood), and in my “Real and Make Believe” story on my CD.  I wrote a series of Mom poems to memorialize her and deal with sorrow at her passing.

I also often find stories that fit an event’s theme, sometimes adapting from my repertoire and sometimes researching until I find what I think they need.

My last few years of teaching, I had friends help me find short, encouraging stories to help my students survive the NCLB MAP testing, and they did help.

4. How does my writing process work?

I let ideas “percolate.”  If I am learning a story to tell, a select one that has been haunting me, reread and start working on the “bones” of the story first, finding the parts that have made me want to tell it.  I might take notes or storyboard key elements, and then begin telling it to myself, adding details that enrich and clarify, memorizing only a few key phrases that fit precisely, and leaving room for change so the story stays alive.  Even after recording my Carnival Elation Tall Tale, and telling it dozens of times, I decided on a change in the lifeboat subplot.  I like it, and that’s how I tell it now.

Written stories and poems are more static, fixed in final form once they are edited.  Advice from my eighth grade teacher was to write something, put it away for a few days, and then come back to edit with fresh eyes and new insights.  Helping my students develop that habit was one reason I scheduled “peer edit” days in advance of final due dates. It also is most important to have another trusted reader look for the things the writer, knowing the piece too well, won’t see.

 

Having broken the rule of having someone edit, because Linda is posting the link any minute, I am open to corrections and suggestions . . .

(and I’ll be taking a second look tomorrow myself)  It’s midnight!! Sleep well . . .

Grandpa’s Young ‘Uns

Father’s Day is coming, so here are two of my dad’s stories on the joys of fatherhood.

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Grandpa’s Young ‘Uns      by “Uncle” John Fussner

Grandpa and Grandma had a whole passel of young ‘uns, but were never satisfied or someth’n.  Could be they jest didn’t know what they had.  Then agin, on them long winter nights, with no newspapers to read, no radio to listen at, or boob tube to eyeball, what was left to do but to hit the shucks?  Sides that, goin’ to bed ain’t sayin’ you’re goin’ to sleep.  After ’bout a baker’s dozen or so, Grandma gave birth to a likely-lookin’ pair of twin boys.

Grandpa picked up the fust one and said, “Ma, name him what you will, but this’n I’m callin’ E.”   He put that one to Grandma’s breast and picked up th’ other one saying, “This ‘un will answer to ‘Nuff.  Together, they is E – Nuff, and best we be rememberin’ that.  So be hit.”

 

 Grandpa’s Hired Hand    by “Uncle” John Fussner

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 a a pair of mules.  Grandpa was highly pleased to be rid of the stranger.

 

More of my dad’s stories at https://storytellermary.wordpress.com/daddy-john-stories/  and https://storytellermary.wordpress.com/category/stories/daddy-john-stories/

Skeeters

Warm weather, rains, green growing things, frogs singing and — mosquitos!  I am one of those who taste good to skeeters, one reason I mostly enjoy the outside from indoors . . . love the bay window view and listening to the frogs from behind a screen door.

My friend’s blog  http://storytellerscampfire.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/the-truth-about-alaska-mosquitoes/

reminded me of a couple of my dad’s stories . . . take warning and don’t get eaten.

 

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Skeeters He’p Grandpa Clear Land   by “Uncle” John Fussner

Ah recken you be thinkin’ that were a powerful lot of work fer one man in such a short span o’ time.  Ah gotta hadmit it were, but you see, he had some hep.  ‘Twere a strange sorta he’p, hit were.

When the warm weather hit, hyar come the dad-blamed skeeters.     Big, powerful critters they be!  Well sir, long ’bout sundown, Grandpa would carry a big ole blacksmith hammer down to the woods whar he be clearin’ land.

“Now, how you gonna clear land with a hammer?” you ask.

Grandpa had hit all figgered out, he did.  He stood ‘side a likely-lookin’ tree he wanted moved, and waited fer a skeeter to buzz up.  That old skeeter ‘twould smell Grandpa, take aim, and hyar he come.  Jest afore he got to him, Grandpa ducked behind the tree.  That skeeter ran his beak right through that thar tree, and Grandpa would take his hammer, and with one mighty swing, he clenched that thar skeeter’s bill.  Wharupon the skeeter ‘twould take off, tree an’ all, mostly toward whar Grandpa was buildin’.  ‘Bout time them skeeters got to the cabin, they’d be plumb tuckered out.  Down they’d come, skeeter meat fer hogs and dogs, and logs fer buildin’ an’ burnin’.

 

Skeeters Ate Grandpa’s Cow  by “Uncle” John Fussner

Grandpa made good use of the skeeters clearin’ land, but as always, hit sort of back-fired on him.  One mornin’ he went out to do the chores an’ Old Bessie the cow war gone, and so was the calf.  After a light breakfast of a half-pound slice of home-cured ham, a half dozen cackle berries, followed by a goodly stack of hot cakes, and washed down with a couple of big mugs of coffee, he allowed as how he’d best be goin’ to fetch old Bessie home.

About the time the sun was noon high, Grandpa came up through the pasture, leadin’ the calf.  Grandma went out to meet him, asking, “Whar be Old Bessie?”

Grandpa said in a sorrowful voice, “Old Bessie hain’t with us no more.  She strayed over to Moonshine Cave, up Skunk Holler, and them dat blamed skeeters done ate her up.  Hain’t nothin’ left of Old Bessie but a pile of bones.  This yare calf got fur ’nuff back inter the cave to whar hit were a leetle tight fer them thar skeeters, or they likely would of got to her, too.”

Well sir, that left Grandpa ‘thout a cow.  He and his brother went off to the sale barn to fetch home another one, but seein’ as how neither one had near ’nuff cash to come close to buyin’ one, they put all thar eggs in one basket so to speak, and bought one cow fer the both of ’em.

Grandpa’s brother havin’ put in the bigger share, he ‘lowed as how the rightful thing to do were to let him pick what half be his.  Grandpa was thinkin’ that since a cow has a right side and a left side, with a back bone markin’ whar they be jined, he ‘lowed as how ‘twould be fair ’nuff.

But as often happens when two people look at the same thing, Grandpa’s brother didn’t see right an’ left, but front an’ back halves.  You all’s seen ’nuff cows to know which end is by far the better half.  Well sir, the brother ‘lowed as how he hankered fer the back half.

Grandpa fed and watered his half fer more’n a month, and come sunup or sundown his brother took a pail of milk out’n his half.  One day Grandpa had all of hit he could take.  Instead of feedin’ his half, he killed hit and dressed out the meat.  Well sir, would you believe hit, his brother’s half up and died, too.

More of my dad’s stories at https://storytellermary.wordpress.com/daddy-john-stories/  and https://storytellermary.wordpress.com/category/stories/daddy-john-stories/