Wednesday, December 31, 2014


It's the final day of 2014. We are thirty years past 1984. We are living in science fiction times.

I have a great part of the knowledge of the ages available to me in my pocket, and redundantly, on my lap at this moment. The majority of the great books, whole encyclopedias, almanacs, star-charts, and more are at my fingertips. I have a magic wand within reach with which to command 47 inch visions on my wall, if I like, of rescuers in the Indian Ocean, performances at Carnegie and Albert halls, up-to-the-minute stock prices on Wall Street, the songs of long-dead singers, the speeches of our president as he speaks them, endless gossip at any hour from mindless talking heads, or even half- (or fully!) nekkid folk cavorting lasciviously at any hour. And any and all of those magical choices I make will be recorded and reported to an esoteric intelligence that will then make, based on my choices, suggestions to me for the rest of the day and, I suppose, the rest of my life.

I wonder how many times today my image will be recorded as I drive or shop.

We are living in science fiction times.

Mike Bock has caught up with me again, as he does annually on the closing day of the year. Happy Birthday, Mike! I hope we see lots of you in 2015. Come south young man.

This day brings to mind Sheila's wonderful grandmother, Annie Belle Brannon Snell, the smart AND wise (not an automatic combination), kind, practical, industrious, and loving woman who was born on this date in 1884 and blessed our marriage with her wisdom and love for its first ten years. She died in 1981.

And forty --- FORTY! --- years ago on this date we got the call that my sister Carol had given us a new niece. We pulled into our little log cabin out in Chubbtown, from our Christmas trip to Tallahassee and turned right around and headed down to Atlanta to meet Larisa Carron Johnston, one of the great bonus tax deductions of all time. What a little bundle of joy she was and is! Happy Birthday, Larisa! We love you and your own additions to our family.


“Good habits make all the difference.” —Aristotle

And today is the traditional day to take stock and renew determination to more fully live, to grab this remarkable, magical, mysterious consciousness and make the most of it.

I am living into extra innings, in a way. My father and his father, my beloved Daddy and Daddy Shaw, never reached their 68th birthdays. I've passed them (chronologically) already and will, I am hopeful, reach that milestone in March. Having outlived both those good men I try to remind myself each morning of the great privilege the current day is. One wonderful aspect of that privilege is this opportunity to voice my beliefs and dreams for the future of my children and (from the internet to God's ears) grandchildren and fellow Americans and Earthlings.

So I'll resolve,


Due to a flurry of New Year's resolutions, the Road to Hell is currently closed for repaving.
Please take an alternate route.

call & see my mother more often,
call/write/see/really-visit Brannon & Lillian more often (Things also work the other direction, I'm told?),
have friends over more often, (How about the Dictionary game or Categories?)
visit Mildred and record her songs,
organize a Hoot,
organize and downsize my stuff,
tell more stories, sing more songs, do some theater, write more often,
record some of my stories,
finish what I start (and what I have started)*,
(and what I have started)*
(and what I have started)*
(and what I have started)*
get the new and improved Big Fibbers™off to a great start,
get ready for the Fourth early,
travel more,
spend more time in the woods,
spend more time on the rivers,
take some good pictures,
more exercise and fewer calories,
engage in some practical politics,
engage in some practical charity,
be a better husband, father, son, brother, and friend.
stay cheerful,
dream big,
do now.

*I'm unwilling to make some of these things public, but Sheila knows them, and I'd love to surprise her a little this year!

Of course I could do pretty well with Woody Guthrie's 1941 resolutions:



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Fifth Day of Christmas

Here is my other Fifth Day post where you will find a link to the Three Tenors singing Silent Night.

At this year's church family Christmas party, I retold the legend of Franz Gruber and Josef Mohr and the creation of their beautiful, simple, Christmas carol, Silent Night. Since most of what we've been told over the years is evidently legend, I felt free to create my own version. I enlisted Cannon Rogers, a teen guitarist in our church to help me. Here it is:

A New Song for Santa’s Church

Do you have a best friend? Someone you can count on to come through for you in a pinch? Well, Josef and Franz were best friends. They worked together and they visited together in each other’s homes and they sang together. I have some friends like that. We like to get together at each other’s houses and, of course, eat good stuff, but also to play our guitars and sing, sing, sing!

Church of St. Nicholas Oberndorf (razed in 1906)

And there are a couple of those guys that, I know, if I had any trouble, would come to help me out.

Like I said, Josef and Franz worked together. Josef was the pastor and Franz was the choirmaster at the same church. And it was Santa’s church! At least I figure it must have been Santa’s church, because there was a beautiful sign right in front of the sanctuary that said “Church of St. Nicholas”. So you can understand that they really wanted the Christmas Eve service to be wonderful. I guess Josef and Franz would get to send Santa off on his big Christmas Eve journey with a beautiful program of glorious Christmas music sung by the big St. Nicholas Church choir and accompanied by that great big pipe organ they had.

I told you Franz was the choirmaster. That means that he not only directed the choir, like Mr. Kam does here at Trinity, but he also played that great big organ, almost as well as Ms. Shelly does here. And he had a wonderful program planned for that Christmas Eve. Then the trouble started!

Franz stopped by the church to practice at the organ for a while on Christmas Adam. Well, you’d expect that wouldn’t you? He wanted to be ready for Christmas Eve the very next night! And just when he was pumping away at the pedals of that organ --- in those days the organs had pedals connected to big bellows like an accordion to blow air through the pipes to make them play --- anyway, just when he was pumping away at the pedals of that organ, playing beautiful, complicated Christmas melodies, that organ made the rudest sound you’ve ever heard! “Pluttttztzzzz!!”

“Oh. no!” Franz muttered. And he frantically pumped the pedals, “Pluttttztzzzz!! Pluttttztzzzz!! Pluttttztzzzz!!”

He got down from the bench and bent to examine the pedals. Oh my. It was no use. The bellows on either pedal would not hold air, they were full of holes. The poor church mice, starving from the lack of crumbs -- their church didn’t have a Wednesday night supper like Trinity does and, except for a few communion crumbs, pickings were mighty slim for rodents at The Church of St Nicholas... the poor starving church mice had been eating at the leather bellows of the organ. They were a mess. There was no hope of repair and replacement was out the question on Christmas Eve. The organ repairman would have to come all the way from Salzberg, and 200 years ago, there was no email or telephone to summon him with.

Franz would have to conduct the Christmas Eve service without an organ. What could he do? This was definitely trouble. He’d better talk to his friend. So he headed out toward the parsonage where his friend Josef lived.

Well, meanwhile Josef had been visiting one of his church members, up on the mountain. Old Wilhelm, was a sheep herder, and had been ill, and Josef had gone to talk with him and hear his stories, and pray with him. He found the old man feeling much better and together they bundled up and walked out onto his back porch where they could look out over the snow covered valley in the moonlight. They could see the steeple of the Church of St. Nicholas in the valley below, pointing upward toward the steeple-like mountains - the Alps - and the star-studded heavens.

Wilhelm broke the almost magical silence of the scene, “I wonder if that winter night in Bethlehem might have been this silent? And felt this holy? It is so calm and bright. Just imagine that young mother and her tender baby, in a stable maybe like my stable there. What a heavenly peaceful scene.”

Josef looked out at the stars streaming their light from heaven. He thought of those shepherds, probably shaking and quaking at the sight of an angel host singing that a Savior is born.

“Wilhelm, he said, may I have some paper and a pencil, I want to write about what I am feeling.”

They walked back into the house, and while Wilhelm poured some warm tea, Josef sat at the table near the window and wrote quickly, scratching through a word here and there to scribble a better one. By the time he finished off a second cup of tea and a couple of Christmas shortbread cookies the ladies of the church had sent out to old Wilhelm, Josef had finished his little poem about that quiet evening when Jesus was born, and had started his way down the mountain thinking he might read it during the Christmas Eve service the next night.

He was thrilled when he saw Franz’s horse tied at his gate. He could see, through a window, a fire blazing in the fireplace. How nice to find his best friend there. They could talk about using his poem in the service. But Franz burst out the door...

“Josef! Josef! We’ve got trouble!” Franz told him about the mice, and bellows, and the rude noises. “What in the world will we do for music. The choir can sing a couple of carols without the organ but that will not do for a whole Christmas Eve service. What will the members think?” I guess he was wondering what Santa would think too.

All of a sudden, Josef’s eyes brightened. “Oh, Franz. What’s a little trouble. We’ll make this a Christmas Eve to remember -- even without an organ. You can lead the choir in a couple of carols. We’ll read the wonderful Christmas story right out of the Bible. We just need a good quiet song to welcome the Christ child and close things out. Grab the guitar over there and come with me to the window.” Josef wanted Franz to feel what he had felt when he’d been on Wilhelm’s porch.

“Look out there, Franz. Think of that wondrous night. Think of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. Maybe it was cold and quiet like this. Maybe the stars were clear and bright like tonight. Now read my little poem and see if you can make a tune.”

Franz looked out at the village clothed in a blanket of snow, lit by a bright moon and streaming starlight, and read Josef’s simple little poem. And he began to pluck his guitar strings... [Cannon begins to play] and finally began to sing. [Cannon sings the first verse quietly in the background]

And that Christmas Eve, at the Church of St. Nicholas, with just their voices and a guitar, Josef and Franz led all the village folk, and, I wasn’t there, but I guess even Santa, in welcoming the Christ child. Will you help us sing it again?

[Everyone joins in]

Silent night, holy night!
All is calm, all is bright.
Round yon Virgin, Mother and Child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace,
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight.
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia,
Christ the Savior is born!
Christ the Savior is born

Silent night, holy night!
Son of God love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus Lord, at Thy birth

This version of the story: © 2014 Terrell Shaw

Terry Saves the Day

Bob Harris, Gary Greene, and I had a great time on Nelle Reagan's Talk of the Town radio show today. We visit Nelle once a month, usually on the last Tuesday of the month at noon or noon-thirty. She calls us "The storytellers" and we always tell two or three tales. Sometimes it's all three of us or one or two of us with another teller such as Delmas Franklin. I wish others would volunteer to join us. We probably need to keep it to two or three tellers each time, but it should not be the same three, in my opinion. I want the public to know that Ridge & Valley Tellers is an open group intended for anyone and everyone who loves storytelling.

Today Bob told a great tale -- with maybe some truth in it somewhere -- about a little Canadian girl's providential encounter with a Teddy Bear, and her long lost English grandfather.

I told my version of a folktale about the preacher's false teeth. There are MANY versions of this story to be found by googling "fried chicken" and "false teeth". I call mine "Terry Saves the Day". It might be an example for tall-tellers/fibbers who want to enter the 2015 Big Fibbers Contest. It is a simple five minute tall tale. It is definitely in the public domain. And I have created my own version of it.

Here 'Tis:

Terry Saves The Day

I am a double Methodist preachers kid. My Daddy was a Methodist preacher and my Mama still is. But it goes deeper than that. I’ve got sisters and cousins married to Methodist preachers. I've got at least three cousins who backslid and became Baptist preachers. My great-great granddaddy, Boggan Mask, was a licensed exhorter in the Methodist Church and actually baptized the baby boy who would end up marrying Boggan's granddaughter and thereby get to be my granddaddy, Wilson Baird. And Wilson Baird did some Methodist lay preaching himself.

So you can see how I grew up to be a storyteller. And I know something about Methodist preachers and I know something about dinners on the grounds. When I was a kid every country Methodist churchyard had, besides a cemetery, and an outhouse, a bunch of tables under a shelter of some sort. Every chance the church got in fine weather there was a dinner on the grounds! Un-unh!

Banana sandwiches or even better something called banana croquets, fried okra, creamed corn, greens, and casseroles, and macaroni and cheese, and desserts of all kinds, but always, always, always, fried chicken. My daddy wasn’t a big man, but his plate at those things was always mounded high. He said it was a duty. He had to try a little of everything to avoid hurt feelings.

Well, one Sunday, out at Bethel Church there next to the creek, Preacher Kelley was waxing eloquent, between bites, telling some fine tale. With his plate in one hand he swapped his sweet tea in the other back and forth with a fork full of casserole or a fistful of chicken. Now he did his talking in a strange way. I don’t know why, some medical problem he had, but he talked... [... breathing in.  Like this . Even preaching. I was always fascinated by that.]*  But I reckon he sneezed like everyone else, cause with his hands occupied like that, and in mid-sentence, the pollen got to him and a big sneeze came on him and he turned his head away from us and toward the creek and sneezed explosively. AND out popped his false teeth. They went flying right into the middle of that muddy little creek and plopped down and out of sight.

Well everybody got busy trying to fish ‘em out. There were a few cane poles leaned against a sycamore there and folks were poking those out in the water. Then somebody came running with some rakes they kept there at the church and tried raking ‘em out of the water. But it was all to no avail.

It was then that my Methodist preacher heritage and experience came in handy. I knew those fellows with the poles would never fish those teeth out with empty hooks. AND I knew the bait to use.

Preacher Bailey had a chicken leg left on his plate that still had some meat on it. I grabbed it and snagged it onto the hook on one of those poles. Why, I want you to know those teeth snapped onto that chicken leg as soon as it hit the water and I jerked ‘em to shore in no time.

It took some doing to pry the chicken leg out of those teeth, but after that Preacher Bailey rinsed ‘em a little in his sweet tea and plopped ‘em back in his mouth, and was ready for another plate full of fine eating.

If you want catfish, use worms. For perch, I recommend minnows. But if you need to catch a Methodist preacher, or his teeth, fried chicken’s the bait to use.

* I demonstrate the way Preacher Kelley talked with the bracketed words.

© 2014 Terrell Shaw

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Living wages for employees should be a part of every business plan.

Raising the minimum wage will make life better for the folks on minimum wage. That is a good thing. And it affects a different group of folks than what is imagined by many. See the chart below.

But that ain't all.

Raising the minimum wage will also put more money into circulation in the economy. Folks making minimum wage WILL spend their increased wages. They have to.

I realize that this will make some difficulties for businesses. It will also make more business for those or other businesses. When we raised the minimum wage in '96 the right predicted job losses. Instead we had years of job growth.

And the gigantic corporations can raise prices a tiny bit if their uber-plutocrat owners are afraid of losing some minute fraction of their wealth as a result.

To me it is a principle:
"Living wages for employees should be a part of every business plan."
If a start-up, or any other business, cannot afford to pay its employees a living wage, it should rework its plan; reduce executive salaries, dividends or profits; or scale down the business to a size that is workable. Yes, some will lose jobs as a result. But many will also gain jobs as spending increases.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Exchanging Gifts

What gifts will you bring your Papa?
Pure  gold, however they’re made—
Wrapped in sunshine smiles;
Tied up with love that won’t fade.

What gift will you bring your Lover?
Its rich, whatever you’ve spent,
You’ve paid thrice in sweat and tears
and my promises, broken or bent.

What gifts can I bring my daughters?
What present is worthy my wife?
Tawdry trinkets diamonds would seem
On these precious true-treasures of life.

- by Terrell Shaw

A tawdry trinket I wrote for Sheila and the girls twenty years ago.

For the last several years we have celebrated Christmas differently. We have de-emphasized shopping, preferring to make donations and give memories. We have more possessions than we need. Gifts have more often been theater tickets, voice or dance lessons, and such rather than sweaters and tool kits. Apologies to the Christmas-Season-dependent businesses.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving Recipes and Politics

As someone who tries to contribute financially, in my meager way, to progressive candidates, I receive multiple political e-mails daily. Even from folks I greatly admire the deluge of updates, requests, and screeds is tiresome. But you can count on Al (and Franni) to occasionally surprise you with something good. I thought I'd share this.


Al Franken - U.S. Senator, Minnesota
Dear Terrell,

It’s that time again: time for the best email you’ll get from us all year.

Sharing our Franken Family recipes is one of my favorite Thanksgiving traditions. In our family, food is love -- and this is my special way of spreading some love to our extended campaign family.

You all did a lot of hard work for Al’s reelection this year, and we’re all grateful for it. So whip up one of these Franken specialties and know that it’s my way of saying thanks for everything you’ve done.

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. And enjoy!

Franni Franken


It is impossible to just have one piece. Be sure to make it the night before so you can have some with your Thanksgiving morning coffee.

2 cups cornmeal
2 cups white flour
1 cup sugar
2 tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
3. On the first speed of a hand or standing mixer, beat together the eggs, oil, pumpkin puree, and milk.
4. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry in three batches with a rubber spatula. The batter will be smooth, and is more fluffy than liquidy.
5. Pour the batter into a 9 by 13 baking pan (or two loaf pans), and place in the middle rack of the oven.
6. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a cake tester or toothpick stuck in the middle of the cornbread comes out dry.
7. Let the cornbread cool for ten minutes, and then cut into pieces and serve.


1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 in. cubed chunks
3 tbs. unsalted butter, cut into small chunks, plus more for greasing the pan
1 tsp. cinnamon
2 tbs. light brown sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Grease a cookie sheet, and scatter the squash chunks on it.
3. Evenly spread out the chunks of butter among the squash, and sprinkle the cinnamon and brown sugar evenly on the squash.
4. Roast in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the squash is tender. You can poke the squash with a cake tester, a fork, or a small knife to test.


12 medium granny smith apples
1 cup sugar
3 heaping tablespoons flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
Dash of salt
3 tbs butter, softened
¼ cup lemon yogurt
1 tbs milk
1 10” deep dish pie plate

1. Core and peel apples. Slice in ½ moons about 1/8” thick.
2. Place in extra large bowl, then, using thin slices, evenly distribute the butter within the apples.
3. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl and add to apples, evenly coating all apple slices.
4. Roll out one crust and place in pie dish.
5. Combine milk and yogurt. Add to apples slices in bowl so all slices are evenly coated.
6. Spoon apple slices into pie plate in circular layers, building apples to a center mound.
7. Roll out second crust. Place on top of apples, molding crust to the mound.
8. Trim, crimp edges, and cut out vents using a knife or decorative cutter.
9. Lightly brush crust with milk or left over juice from apples.
10. Pie may boil over so place on a tin foil pizza pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour, occasionally checking crust. Serves 14 to 16.


It's great alone, but Thomasin loves mixing it up with peas, mashed potatoes, and gravy.

1 lb. Wild rice (Mahnomen)
one stick butter
ten cloves of garlic
3 medium sized yellow onions
4 stalks of celery
2 lbs. White button mushrooms
salt to taste

1. In a colander, rinse the wild rice.
2. Put the rice in a pot, and cover with 3 inches of water. Boil in a pot, uncovered, for about 20 to 25 minutes. If you're using Mahnomen wild rice, it will cook more quickly than the paddy variety.
3. While the rice is boiling, slice (do not mince) the mushrooms, onions, garlic, and celery.
4. Melt the butter in a skillet, and sauté the onions, garlic, and celery until they begin to bleed a little liquid into the butter. Then add the mushrooms. The celery and onions should not be totally soft.
5. Once the rice has cooked, drain it and add to the sautéed vegetables.
6. Add salt to taste, and stuff into the turkey before roasting. The rest can be eaten as a side dish at dinner.


This is my favorite use of left over turkey.

2 slices of rye bread
1 tsp unsalted whipped butter
turkey breast
2 iceberg lettuce leaves
salt to taste

1. Spread unsalted whipped butter on the rye bread.
2. Sprinkle on salt.
3. Place turkey and lettuce on top of one piece of bread, and place the other piece of bread on top.
4. Slice in half and enjoy!

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.

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.


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!


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”.


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

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.”


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: 


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.”


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. 


“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…”.


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. 


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.