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Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Beyond the Book: Storytellers

“Do you have a favorite story about your family that has been passed down, or one that you hope will get passed down?”

I had two great storytellers as I was growing up. The first one was my Grandpa Pace. He was born in 1890 something. I can’t remember the exact year, but he knew a lot of stories about Brer (Brother) Rabbit. If you don’t know these were trickster tales made up by slaves back during slave times. In these stories a small weaker animal always tricked larger more powerful animals and got the better of them. Of course in the stories the slaves always identified with the rabbit, and the more powerful animals were the slave owners. The ones my grandfather told me were not original. He didn’t make them up. He just repeated what he had been told. My sister and i were thrilled with the stories and always wanted Brer Rabbit to win. 

The other great storyteller in my life was Grandma Pace. This lady had a lot of things happen to her, and she made stories out of most of it that made the past come alive. One of my favorite stories was the one about the time Uncle Will had to spend the night in town. My grandmother lived with her mother’s brother Uncle Will on a farm not too far from where I live now. There were about eight children in the family, and they all worked and did chores on the farm. Anyway, one day Uncle Will had to spend the night in town on business. That left the children and Aunt Margaret all alone in an isolated area. They had their dinner and had gone to bed when they heard someone rattling the door. Aunt Margaret jumped up and crept into the kitchen. Someone was on the porch trying to get in. The children were up by this time because the intruder was going from window to window trying to gain access to the house. Aunt Margaret was a decisive woman. She stirred up the fire under a pot of water that she’d heated for the children to use washing their faces and feet before bed. It only took a few minutes for it to boil because it had still been hot. All the while someone was outside nosing around.

Aunt Margaret told all the children except her oldest son to hide. When she gave the word the boy flung the door open, and Aunt Margaret threw the hot water in the intruder’s face. They also set the dog on him. The last they saw of him he was hightailing it down the road with the dog in hot pursuit. 

Scary? I’d have been scared if it happened to me. It used to give us chills the way my grandmother told it.

She had a story about how an escaped convict stole Uncle Wills overalls off the clothesline, and there was a great story about a mad dog that terrorized them one summer afternoon before Uncle Will came from the field and shot it.

We have stories of things that happened in our lifetime too, but to me they seldom pack the punch of my grandmother’s stories. What about you? Do you have a master storyteller who passes on family stories to the children?

1 comment:

Teresa Cypher said...

Oh, your grandma Pace was a tough one.

I wonder if it happened during the depression?

I remember my grandma telling me a story about someone sneaking in her house to steal food during the depression. She was alone that evening, sitting in her rocking chair by a cold hearth in the dining room in the dark. She lived on a farm, and she sold eggs, butter, and milk to earn some money. There was always a big garden, One of her sayings was, "Can for two years. You never know what weather next year will bring." Anyway, she had no electricity in the house yet. SO there she sat with a cellar full of canned food under her. And someone walked in the door, across the dark kitchen and down to the cellar, took food, and left. All done in the dark. She never said a word. Just let them have it. When I was little, I recall thinking she sat there silently watching, listening, because she was afraid. Now, I think she did it because she knew someone was seriously desperate to do such a thing, and grandma never let anyone leave her house hungry.

Thanks for the walk down memory lane.