Monday, May 21, 2018

Telling Stories

Ever since I was a kid in Sloss Hollow I’ve enjoyed stories. I remember sitting on my grandmother’s front porch listening. She could talk for hours about her life with my grandpa
in the early years when times were hard.   I’m glad I recorded some of the pieces of our family’s history. Mr. Plunkett who lived next door could spin a good yarn too. Sometimes it was hard to tell if he was pulling your leg, but when he said “This is the God’s Truth,” you knew he was shooting straight. I’ve learned that everyone has a story.

Many people when asked say, “There’s nothing interesting about my life.” But if you start a conversation and listen, you often hear something remarkable. Some people overcome hardship, others have rare talents, and some of them do unique things. “Oh, that. It was no big deal,” they might say. When in fact what they did was extraordinary. Trying to coax the facts out of these folks is like pulling teeth. 

Storytelling is an important part of our culture. It’s a way to share experience, education, and history. Oral history gives insight on events from our past. A good story can make you feel as if you were there. 

My grandmother told a story once about when my grandpa was making moonshine in Kershaw Hollow. The authorities got wind of the illegal operation and showed up at dusk one evening to arrest him. One agent got the bright idea that he would try bluffing my grandmother into telling them the location of the whiskey still.  “We had to shoot him,” the officer said. Mama Watson wasn’t fooled. As she was standing at the edge of their garden, listening to the officer, Pap, who was hidden under sweet potato vines, reached up and gently wrapped his hand around Mama Watson’s ankle. “I almost jumped out of my skin,” she said. She realized that it was Pap and that touching her ankle was his way of telling her he was OK. The agents went away empty handed. Stories are treasures.

When my job at Bevill State ended, I approached The Mountain Eagle about writing more features. Through the years, I’ve written a few stories for the paper in addition to my weekly column.  The idea of capturing stories from the people in East Walker County appealed to me. The publisher agreed. It took some time before I got the call but I started the first of May.

So far, I’ve written about an 80-year-old gardener in Sumiton, and a piano teacher who received national recognition for excellence. This week I interviewed three high school seniors, an 87-year-old golfer, and a man who was on the mining rescue team that helped in the aftermath of the Brookwood Mine accident in September of 2001 that claimed the lives of Alabama miners. 

The stories I’m hearing are amazing and I can’t wait to hear more. At the bottom of this column is my email address. If you know someone young or old who has an interesting story to tell, feel free to drop me a note with contact information.


  1. First I must tell you again that I can't show Jack your previous post..he will be too jealous of those berries! Ours are doing better so there's hope to get that many frozen! I agree that everyone has a story. My family has thanked me for keeping my blog because it's a journal of our lives. No, I've never written a book, sailed the 7 seas or saved anyone..wait, I did save 3 of my siblings from our burning home when I was 10..yep, everyone has a story. I'm going to email you about an amazing 97 yr young super cool Southern gal in our Church who wrote a book at age 95...she has many stories!

  2. We had a 90+ YO lady called the Pink Lady. She always wore pink, drove pink cars and had a pink house. She ran a local family bar and dressed up to the nines once a month and partied with friends in the city. She never missed the NYE party with Guy Lombardo. When she got older, the local cops would escort her home as she could barely drive and had the nights receipts that they were afraid would get stolen. She must have had a million stories.

    1. Grace Knox, proprietor of Knox Tavern Metuchen NJ

    2. I was related to Grace Knox I was in awe of her as a little girl. I have so many fun stories of her a few years of her passing I had one over to her home and she and I talked for hours!

  3. Stories are hugely important. Which too many people forget. Inspirational, educational ways to connect.

  4. Anonymous12:38 AM

    I'd love to see some of those stories!!

  5. Dear Rick, I'm reading your 4th book (e-book) and enjoying the stories in it. And I've always enjoyed the stories you tell on your blog. But I think that hearing the stories you're going to be doing now will be a real instruction in living. So I'm wondering if there a URL for the newspaper so we can read the stories. Peace.

  6. Every one of us has a story to tell, so very true. You are a good story teller for sure. Sounds like you also have some good stories lined up to share too. This new job sounds perfect for you.

  7. You are so right, every person has a story to tell and some people have quite amazing lives. Both my parents led quite interesting lives. My dad was born in Barry’s Bay a bit north of Algonquin Park in 1913 who lost his mom when he was 6 and had to grow up quick. His first job was April 27, 1927, well, a job that paid. He was taken out of school at grade 4 to help his dad sell Rolly’s Good Health Products. He hopped the rails in the 30s during the Great Depression and has many stories involving bears and wolves. My dad was a great storyteller and told many stories about ghosts. He fought in WW2 and was wounded near the end of the war. There are more stories but I a, stopp8ng there. My know some of her stories who grew up during the Hitler Regime and endured the bombings of Hamburg and Dresden. She met Hitler who shook her hand, along with many other girls, she lost 2 brothers during the war, was taken out of her home to get programmed only to start a hunger strike. She also was part of the resistance and planted bombs under the bridges because she was small enough. After the war, the Russians came, rape, destruction and almost disappearing to Siberia. She escaped from the Eas5 to the West, ughhh...too much to write here. How I miss her

  8. Listening to family stories is what I did as a child too. They are so important. Too many people have no idea who their ancestors are much less the things they did. It all goes into who we are.

  9. I was young when my granfathers passed away but I would have loved to hear some old stories. I was never alone with either one of them as my siblings were always around. My husbands dad had some pretty good stroris about his dad who came over from Italy. Nick can remember some of them and I love listening.

  10. Everyone has a story ... but few know how to listen. Yours is a remarkable gift.

  11. We didn't have any storytellers in our family. I've tried to fill that gap with my kids.


  12. Hi Rick, you're on to something good. Story telling is really Life 101. I agrees 1005, everyone has a story.
    Good luck with this new twist in your blogging.
    Hugs, Julia


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