Last Laugh: Storytelling Festival

The three tales presented here are the kind you might expect to hear at the NSN's storytelling festival.

| January/February 1983

  • storytelling festival - illustration of the sage of Plumtree Crossing
    The Sage of Plumtree Crossing recommends the National Storytelling Networks' storytelling festival.
    Illustration by MOTHER EARTH NEWS Staff

  • storytelling festival - illustration of the sage of Plumtree Crossing

"Had to shoot my dog the other day. "
"Was he mad?"
"Well, he weren't exactly pleased."
Marshall Dodge 

Well sir, here it is the dead of winter, but I ain't goin' to tell you a thing about how them rascals who make up the Plumtree Crossin' Truth and Veracity League is dealin' with the cold weather. Thet's partly 'cause those boys has all been holed up in their respective dens lately, doin' nothin' more int'restin' than countin' snowflakes. But it's mostly 'cause I aim to tell about an event what happened last October in Jonesborough, Tennessee. Namely, the annual storytelling festival sponsored by the National Storytelling Network (used to be they called themselves the National Association for the Preservation and Perpetuation of Storytelling, but I s'pose it took too long to say all that).

Now I know I've mentioned thet yarn-swappin' show afore, but I'll likely keep talkin' about it ev'ry year from now on, 'cause it has got to be the most delightful gatherin' of full-fledged raconteurs anybody could ever hope to find. Why, one minute you'll be listenin' to Jackie Torrence bellowin' her bullfrog's "HEEERRRRRRRE HE COMMMMMMES!" as she relates the old story of Br'er Coon and the frogs ... and the next minute, you'll be misty-eyed 'cause Native American Ron Evans's tale of the lovesick — and indolent — Southwest Wind has moved yer heart.

Over in one tale-tellin' tent, you'll hear New England's Henry Hatch recite a Down East version of Romeo and Juliet ("the moral ... one cheap weddin' is better'n two expensive fun'rals"), while a little piece down the way a livin' dictionary, Gamble Rodgers by name, rattles off fast-paced fictions about a feller who was "the square root of sorriness" and spent all his time lyin' in his hammock in a state of "catatonic recumbency." You might find yerself stoppin' to let Jay O'Callahan suspend yer imagination with a child's-eye view of a visit to Gramma's apartment. Or to let Laura Simms scare yer skin off with her softly delivered tale (told late at night in the of town cemetery) of a lost woodcutter who gits trapped by a vengeful witch-headed snake.

Yessir, you jist ought to attend this Tennessee fete, or at least some storytellin' festival in yer own area. Some of the folks tellin' tales today are plumb spellbindin'.

Tell you what, though ... jist to give you a slightly better feel fer them goin's on, I'll write down here — as best as I recollect 'em — three of the tales I heered this past year.


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