With that marvel of technology in hand, I went back to the place where I was born and interviewed old friends, neighbors, and members of my family.
Maybe they trusted me, I'm not sure, but I had a knack for making people feel comfortable. They all opened up and told me their stories. I heard intimate details of their lives that I'd never heard before.
I came across a recording of my grandmother recently that I'd made over 20 years ago. She told how my grandpa made moonshine back during the depression. He was bad to drink, but he also managed to keep the family fed by making whiskey and selling it to business people throughout the county.
He often left her and the four kids alone at night while he walked deep into the woods on moonless nights with 50 pound sacks of yeast and sugar on his back. The yeast and sugar were components that made the whiskey.
One night my grandmother Willie heard footsteps crunching the brown autumn leaves in the front yard. She and my grandpa had a signal worked out so she'd know that he was approaching in the night.
That night there was no signal, so she silently slipped out of bed barefoot. She said the heart-pine floors were cold as ice on her feet as she eased into the front room.
She kept an unbreached 410 gauge shotgun by the door with a load of buckshot in the barrel. She heard the timbers on the front porch squeak under the weight of someone. It was so quiet she could hear the ancient clock ticking on the mantel.
She remembered calling, almost in a whisper, "Charlie". When there was no answer, she grasped the handle of the shotgun with the barrel of the gun on the hardwood floor and clicked the barrel into a breached position which makes it ready to fire. For those who have never heard a single-shot shotgun being breached, let's just say, there is no mistaking what comes next.
The intruder leap off the porch and ran for dear life. My grandma kicked the door open and fired a shot in the direction of the crunching leaves.
I remember becoming so engrossed in her story that I forgot about the recorder. I couldn't believe I'd captured that on tape.
Tonight Jilda and I watched a documentary on Katherine Tucker Windham. She is a remarkable woman who lived in Selma, Alabama. She was a newspaper reporter and reported during the civil rights era in Selma which was ground zero for that movement.
Later in her life, she became a master story teller. When she died in 2011, Alabama lost a treasure. Watching that documentary reminded me of this story about my family that I recorded all those years ago, and I wondered how much of the oral history of our lives has been lost because for some reason, we didn't capture it. I wish I'd done more.