Someone at New Salem said, “Sing!  If you don’t sing well, sing louder — revenge!”

My friend Leigh McGee gave me the music to “St. Louis Blues” after we’d requested it from musicians from New Orleans to Istanbul (where I was tricked into singing a bit of it for a large group — and no one booed).  I worked parts of the song into a telling of “Worry Bundles” that I liked very much.

Make your own music however you can . . .

** Post from 1/28/14 — thinking of Pete Seeger and hoping for a grand, unbroken story/music circle . . .

Today my mind is full of the gifts from Pete Seeger —

— the lovely experience of joining in with hundreds of storytellers singing with him in Jonesborough,  the harmony of the multitude of voices joined in pure joy.  I had just completed the “Singing for People Who’ve Been Asked Not To” COCA class, which used his songbook as its text.  It was an extraordinary experience!

—  the time I quietly sang “This Land Was Made for You and Me” to a little boy flying to the U.S. with his adoptive parents, looking out the window just as our plane passed over the first bit of land.

 We were so fortunate to have Pete with us. ❤  “This Land”


The Left-Handed Cricket  by “Daddy John” Fussner

One day Tweedle and Twill were out in the woods counting babies.  They were very busy because they were counting bugs, bees, grasshoppers, etc.  They have their own way to make the count, but we will probably never know just how they do it.  We do know that Twill has a pair of field glasses that he uses only when he’s counting bugs.

Twill had just counted some grasshoppers.  “Mark sixty-six grasshoppers,” he said.

“Right-handed or left-handed?” asked Tweedle with a smile.

“Left-handed,” answered Twill, not knowing that Tweedle was teasing.

Soon Twill called, “Mark twenty-two katy-dids.”

“Right- or left-handed?” asked Tweedle, still teasing.

“Left-handed,” answered Twill, still not knowing Tweedle was teasing.

After a while, Tweedle and Twill went home for lunch.  Just as they started to go into the house, Twill heard some crickets chirping.  Out came the field glasses.  Twill stood very still.  Tweedle sat in the old rocking chair on the front porch.  Twill looked all around with his field glasses.

“Mark eighteen,” called Twill.

“Right-handed or left-handed?” asked Tweedle, still teasing.

“Right-handed,” answered Twill.  “No, no wait!” he shouted.  “It can’t be, but it is.  One of the crickets is left-handed.”

Who are you trying to fool?” asked Tweedle.  “Are you trying to make me believe that crickets, grasshoppers, and katy-dids can be right- or left-handed?”

“No,” answered Twill, “I’m trying to teach you that all crickets are right-handed, that is, all but this one, and he should be.  Also, all grasshoppers, katy-dids, and the other singing insects are left-handed.  If you would just learn to look at what you see, you could find out these things for yourself.”

Now it may seem strange to hear someone say that you should look at what you see, but what Twill means is this:  Take the cricket for an example.  Lots of people see crickets, but how many have really, sure-enough looked at one?  How does he sing?  How does he hold his wings?

The right wing of the cricket overlaps the left wing.  The cricket has a little hook on each of his wings that he scrapes across the opposite wing to make his song, something like a fiddle bow on a fiddle string.  Every cricket holds its right wing over its left wing and uses the hook on the right wing as a fiddle bow to draw or pull across the left wing.

Will our little left-handed cricket be able to play his song with his left wing?  He should be able to.  He has a hook on each wing.  As Twill watched, the cricket tried.  His song was no more than a squeak, just a weak little scrape.  The left-handed cricket waited awhile and tried again.  He still couldn’t make his song.  It seems as if our little left-handed cricket must go through life without a song.  That would be sad, wouldn’t it?

As Tweedle and Twill both watched, our little left-handed cricket moved his wings, and soon, with much hard work for one so small, he had his right wing over his left wing.  After a short rest, our little cricket tried once more to chirp his song.  Well, what do you know?  He did it!  Tweedle and Twill then went into the house, ready to enjoy a big meal and a nap.  Suppose we do the same.

More of Dad’s stories at


Rainbows and Teachers


Rainbow photo from my friend Reine Carter.  Thanks!!

I was so excited by the kitchen area in kindergarten — it might be part of why I wanted to teach. The bigger part, of course, was how really good my teacher was — even when I “corrected” her about rainbows, telling her my daddy’s story.  Poem and story follow . . . and here’s a link to the Real Vs. Make Believe story inspired by it

Here’s a photo of me with my dad, from my college days.  That dress, which I made, has enough colors for a rainbow.



by Mary F. Garrett

“Rainbows, class, are formed

When rays of light pass

Through tiny droplets of water.

The white light

Splits into all its separate colors

And spreads across the sky,

Appearing to us as a rainbow.”

“Teacher, no, that’s wrong.

The fairies and brownies,

Coming home from a picnic,

Had to cross the river after the rain.

They took all the flowers

They had gathered in their baskets and

Wove them into a bridge to safely cross over.

My father said that’s what we see

When we see a rainbow.”

Teacher, wise and gentle, only said,

“There is more than one way to understand a rainbow.

Ask your father to explain.”

That night my father taught me the difference

Between the facts of the real world and

The Truth of Imagination.


— Joy’s artwork

Dad’s Story —     Verna and John Fussner002

The Rainbow

There is a country way far away across the land and across the sea.  In this country live many little wee folk.  The country is dear old Ireland, sometimes called the Emerald Isle, and the wee little folk of this story are called fairies and brownies.  Yes, they are related to the leprechauns.

Now of course, the fairies are sweet, cute little girls, with long wavy hair, dancing little feet, and the prettiest, cutest little wings you ever saw, or ever hope to see.  With a sparkle in their eyes, and tosses of their heads, the little fairies danced merrily into the woods one day, to play among the brightly colored flowers.  The brave little brownies ran along with them, laughing and singing.  Sometimes dancing, sometimes running, they all went into the woods.  They were all having lots and lots of fun.

Suddenly it grew dark.  a big black cloud had come over, shutting out the light of the sun.  There was a big flash of lightning and a loud clap of thunder, and down came the rain.  Fast, big drops fell, and there was no shelter anywhere for the wee ones of the woods.

Rain doesn’t bother the brownies.  To tell the truth, they like it as well as any little boy does.  Oh, but the little fairies, that’s different!  They are like little girls dressed in their party clothes. Rain doesn’t really hurt them, but they don’t like it one bit.  Not only does it get their dresses all wet, but it also dampens their wings.  When a fairy gets her wings wet, she can’t fly.  No fairy likes that.  Would you?

Soon it stopped raining, and of course the wee ones wanted to go home.  The brownies could walk, but it was much too far for the fairies. Besides that, the ditch they had to cross was full of water.  How were they going to get home?  They couldn’t wait for all the water to run out of the ditch, because they all had jobs to do.  You will hear about their jobs in another story.

After much talk and many ideas that did no good at all, the head man brownie told everyone to pick some flowers.  After they had picked all the flowers they could find — red ones, blue ones, yellow ones, and the all the other colors there are — the brownies all got busy and built a big bridge.  The fairies and brownies all crossed the big ditch on the bridge made of flowers.

A little boy and a little girl saw the bridge that looked like a big bow, and they called it a rainbow.  That’s how we got the rainbow in the Land of Make Believe.  How do we prove it’s there?  Well, we all know that the Land of Make believe is always just over the next hill.  Cross that hill and it’s over the next.  So you just watch a rainbow some time when you are riding with Daddy, and you’ll see that it, too, is always just over the next hill.