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.

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