The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The Storytellers

By Susan M. Thigpen © 1986

Issue: January, 1986

caleb and henryIt was late of a cold, gray, January evening when the two old men returned home. It had been foggy and misting rain, but now the sky looked like it was threatening snow. It was one of those winter days when people tried to do as little as possible with the exception of necessary outside chores. It was the perfect kind of day for hanging around the neighborhood store and swapping tall tales.

People raised in this neck of the woods seemed to have an uncanny instinct for picking those get-togethers and everyone enjoyed them immensely.

Story telling is an art passed down from one generation to another. Some places and towns have got so busy that it has almost died out, but on this January afternoon, Caleb and Henry were witness to some prime examples that story telling is alive and well and still living in the Blue Ridge.

"When I got up this morning, I took one look at the sky and knew where I was going to spend the day." said Caleb as he eased down in his rocking chair.

"Yep", Henry answered as he poured himself a cup of coffee. "And I sure was glad I was free today to go with you."

"What do you mean 'free'? What else did you have to do? Besides that, even if you did have today all planned out, you know you'd a figured out a way to get out of it. We both know we'd of played hookey to listen to the prime tales we heard today. Yes, siree, a day like today was just made for story telling. Remember when we was boys and just couldn't wait to be old enough to be included with the men to get to hear the kind of stories they was telling? Remember sneaking up and hiding to listen to them even after our mothers told us not to?"

"Yep," Henry answered again. "You turned out to be a fairly decent story teller yourself, Caleb. Some of that hiding and sneaking must have taught you something!"

"It sure taught me something the time Mama caught me!"

Henry just shook his head. After all these years, he could have guessed Caleb's reply. "Which story did you like the best today, Caleb? Some people have mighty powerful stories, but they just don't know how to tell them. Then there's some folks, can say just about anything at all and hold you spell bound just by the way they're telling it."

Caleb chuckled, "Yea, I know. Just show me one fisherman that can tell a story without using his hands! Speaking of fishermen, that fellow that told that salmon fishing story, the one that was traveling through, visiting our area from Scotland - I thought his story was the best. You change the word 'salmon' for 'trout' and that could have been any angler on Round Meadow Creek. Maybe it's cause so many of the original folks who settled these ridges come from Scotland. We had to inherit our ways from somewhere."

Both old men thought over the salmon story and went into a fit uncontrollable laughter.

Henry took off his glasses and wiped tears out of the corners of his eyes. "I always love to hear a good fishing story, and that one will be hard to top." Henry put his glasses back on and looked wistful for a minute. "I sorta liked that fellow's story about that good-for-nothin' horse. Danged if I didn't have a mule one time that reminded me a lot of it. Made me so mad I could have killed it, but I couldn't help but love the fool thing just the same. After it, there just didn't seem to be any other mule with a personality to match it."

"Henry, I noticed you getting all choked up about then. Is that why you went over and started talking with the women folks?"

"You ought to try it sometime, Caleb. They're darn good story tellers themselves. That widow woman used to live up here when she was a child. You should have heard about it."

"Well, I'm sure you'll tell me all about it. That's one good thing about both of us going - Between the two of us, I doubt if we missed anything."

Dear Readers,

Maybe you don't have the chance to gather to hear these wonderful stories first hand. But that doesn't mean you have to miss them. The Mountain Laurel contains some prime examples of the art of story telling, the type you'd be likely to hear around a pot bellied stove on a cold winter day.

Just imagine you're in one of those old fashioned stores. Pull up a comfortable seat. Feel the warmth as another log is placed in the stove. Get a wedge of hoop cheese and some crackers or a can of sardines. Listen to the wind howl around the creaking old boards. Then, open up The Mountain Laurel. You'll be reading the stories Caleb and Henry just mentioned and a lot more. Sit back and enjoy the story tellers...