A Well-known Storyteller, Author and Inspirational Speaker

A New Year

This is still 2012 for a few hours, so before the world comes to an end as for hundreds of years people have predicted it will do in 2012, I will get these few words down.

                        I am always amazed at the thousands of people who will believe a Mayan prophecy, and they will make all kinds of to-do about it on TV or talk radio.  They wonder what this big calamity will be?  They fully expect something dreadful to happen and it is discussed pro and con all around.

                        However, there are millions of us who know for a fact that there is a Book filled with prophecies about the Day of the Lord! The thing about this prophecy is that many prophets have foretold its coming, including Jesus, the Christ. The date is withheld and the reason for that is, NO ONE except the Lord knows the day or the hour.  We are given certain signs that show it is near, but as for the date?  We only know that the Word says it will happen unexpectedly.

            Two women will be working in the kitchen, one chopping onions and the other opening a can of something or other, and suddenly, one of them will disappear!   

Two men driving down the road together talking about their next big business venture, and suddenly one of them will not be there.  If you happen to be in that car it will not matter if it happens to be the driver and you are left sitting there.  Grab the wheel—what happens next is between you and your Maker!

            Oh, all this time you have been ignoring every warning, and calling it an old wive’s tale!  Well, just as Time had a beginning during that Creations week, it will now have an ending. 

            Certain things are scheduled to take place, but we are not give dates on the calendar.  The reason for that omission is given, and anyone who has an ear to hear can easily understand that it is withheld so that we are not going to let one minute pass by without being completely prepared.  The fact that I can tell you without any shadow of a doubt in this writing is this– that the Lord will come as a thief does.  You might think you will never have to be bothered by a burglar but nevertheless you have an alarm system installed, or you keep a baseball bat handy, or a pepper spray, or a loaded pistol.  You are ready.  That’s why the Lord keeps us in the dark about the hour of his coming!  We must be prepared at any moment.

            That’s why we have Christmas, which we celebrated last Tuesday, December 25, 2012! That was the Day the Lord provided the Balm in Gilead!  A healing for the sin-sick soul!  After tomorrow we’ll take down the decorations and 2013 will be ushered in, and then begins another year of preparation for that DAY.  Until He comes he has given us certain things that He wants accomplished. He organized the church and gave instructions to be carried out.  We are to tell the good news and then we are to baptize and teach.

            What most people fail to understand is that God is a Spirit, and they who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth.  You look around and draw your own conclusions regarding that instruction we were given.  The reality of the Spiritual World is becoming more and more apparent as we see the forces of evil becoming more and more in control of our world, for God has ordained this and is allowing this TROUBLE IN THE BUBBLE to perk, perk, perk up, up, until it reaches the top of the pot and boils over.  His Word teaches that people will run to and fro and knowledge shall increase!  His Word teaches that “As it was in the days of Noah, so it shall be in the Last Days.” 

            Now, how was it in the days of Noah?  It was evil that had spread until every imagination of people’s hearts spelled corruption.  Look around you now and what do you see?  What are you seeing on television? What are you allowing to come before your eyes? 

            Just remember that the eyes are the windows of the soul!  When people hear that remark they think it means that when you look at a person’s eyes it reveals the condition of the soul—well, yes, it does.  If I come up to the windows of your house and look in, I can see what is in there, sure enough.  But just as sunshine is allowed in through the windows and light, if you open them up, just anything can get in and ruin your home.  Therefore, the windows of the soul must remain closed to what is harmful to the soul and the Spirit of a person.  

            “Oh,” I hear you saying, “I don’t let my mind dwell on the murder and mayhem that they show and the language they use.”

            Ask any specialist and see that I am not exaggerating.  Everything that enters the brain is dropped down into the subconscious, and that is the gateway to the spirit world.  Where do you suppose all these demons are coming from that are taking over nowadays and killing off hundreds of people every year?  Chicago has had its most horrible year in ages, I heard on the news.  We have all mourned this past year and it is laid to “mental illness.”  Why is mental illness that results in violent crimes against humanity so much more prevalent now?  Sometimes they say,” I don’t understand it. He/She was a model student, and seemed well adjusted.”  We are talking about a form of mental illness that is causing this violent behavior.  We should look into the mental health of our children and put a stop to this type of programming entering the minds of our precious babies while they sit in front of the idiot box hour after hour, and I have watched the children’s programming to see what is taking place there, and you should be selective about which ones they are allowed to watch.I assure you all that glitters is not gold.  Satan has invented all kinds of ways to steal the hearts and minds of the children!  That is where the trouble lies.  Eternal vigilance is the price you pay to save the minds of your children.

            The Bible teaches that the programming of the mind during the formative years is the crucial time to teach the values that mean the difference between life and death in the years that the person has on planet earth.  It says that the sins of the fathers are visited on the children down several generations, and the children of righteous parents are blessed for thousands of generations.  Do you really love your children?  If you do, you will deny them any TEEVEE except the wholesome –the good—the beautiful—and the truly funny, of course.  God made us creatures who can enjoy laughter, and I am one of the greatest proponents of good humor, but Lord save us in 2013 from much what is called humor in 2012.

            I just took the last of my antibiotics today, for I have been fighting acute bronchitis.  I am thankful for modern medicines.  I will probably be getting over this for another week or so, but I am getting better, since I am able to think and to write this blog for my website.  I am praying for all my readers who visit the site.  Any one who is weary or heavy laden, those who are sorrowful, those who have made resolutions to give up some bad habit and you still have it, I am praying for you.  Jesus stands at the door and knocks.  This is the One you want too admit into your “house.” He promises to come in and have a meal with you and you get to say that you not only met the Lord, but he visited you and had dinner with you and stayed in the kitchen and talked while you straightened up, and had an extra cup of coffee with the pie and you had a chance to get to know Him!  While he was there He brought you a Christmas gift and when you said, “Oh, I don’t have anything for you!” He laughed and said, “But you have not opened your package yet! Open your present!” You then tear off the wrapping, and open the beautiful heart shaped box—in it you find a gift of faith, hope and love!  Now, you have the perfect gift for Him!  You are filled with joy and thanksgiving and you say, “Lord, this gift of love is just what I needed!  I love it!  I know now what I can give you!  I give you my love!  I want to wear this gift every day, for every occasion and show the world that you are so good!  Please stay all the time and make this your home!” 

            The day you open the door to the Savior He says that He and the Father will come and make their home with you!  How absolutely wonderful! 

            I know that many of my friends and family can say Amen to that and that makes it possible to say Happy New Year!  I will be 94 years of age in a few days and the Lord has given me extra years to enjoy each one of you and as Mother used to say, Love and devotion as deep as the ocean! As we walk with the Lord, in the light of His Word, What a glory He will shed on our way!  As we do His good will, He abides with us still, and with ALL who will trust and obey!

            Now we say “finis” to the year 2012, and we hail the new year as an opportunity to shine more brightly than ever for the Lord.  I am personally hoping to finish the memoirs by February, and the rewrite by the end of March, get it into print by April, then do the corrections by May and the book should be ready to distribute by May, June at the latest—Lord willing.  Be praying for me that I will stay focused on this goal. 

To Your Good Health

An old tale rewritten by Mackie tongue-in-cheek

Long long ago there lived a King who made it a rule that whenever he sneezed everyone in the whole country had to say, ‘To your very good health!”  He had all kinds of allergies and sneezed several times a day, so you can imagine what a problem that rule caused, especially with those who were out in the field taking care of their sheep!  It was a bother to be saying that all day long!  Finally a certain shepherd said, “Enough already!”  And he stopped saying it.

Now how the king happened to hear of this is a mystery to me.  Since it was miles and miles out there where he was minding his own business, which was tending to his sheep, Now–who went and blabbed it to the king? There is always a blabbermouth in the woodwork.

And how in the world was he supposed to know that the king had sneezed for the forty-ninth time that day? Why, the same way you and I know, of course, Someone Told it!

This is how it went.  One day a horseman came riding, riding fast.  “Whoa!” The rider blew three blasts on his horn TOOT TOOT TOOT, and then yelled at the Shepherd, “Hear ye, hear ye! The king has sneezed again, for the forty ninth time today and  it’s time to stop what you’re doing– hold up your water jug, take a sip and say,’To your very good health, your Majesty!’

The Shepherd went on minding his business which was minding his sheep, as we said before and it bears repeating.

Then the tale-bearer went skedaddling as fast as his horse could carry him CLIPPETY CLOP to the palace and said to the guard, “Let me in at once!  I have news of importance for the king!”  And the guard said, “Make haste!” which in everyday parlance means, “Step on it!” Then he added. “The king wasteth away for lack of news!”  Now we know that what he meant was– the king is dying to hear the latest.”

He went running pitypat-pitypat to the throne room and bowing low said, “Your Majesty!”

The king said, “Never mind the folderol—out with it!  What’s the news?”

The king couldn’t believe his ears when he heard that the shepherd ignored his sneeze  and the messenger reported he said, “I refuse!” and went right on minding his business which you and I know was sheepherding.

Such arrogance from a mere nincompoop!   A sheep herder!  a shepherd!  We’ll see about that!  Such royal thoughts went whirling around in his regal head!

At that he removed his crown, held it up high and roared, “By my crown, this insult to the throne will not go unpunished.  Bring this insolent vassal before me forthwith!”

That’s the way kings speak when they want the universe to tremble and shake.  After all a powerful monarch was defied by a mere shepherd—If it had been a potentate he could have declared war!
As soon as the tale-bearer was out of hearing of the palace he opened his mouth and whooped and laughed uproariously all the way back to the field where the shepherd was.
It was lunch time and at that moment the shepherd turned the jug up to his mouth and took a big swig to finish off his sandwich.

It was a simple repast, but he was as thankful for it as he would have been for a T-bone steak!  He took another drag off the water jug and said to his assistant,

“Now it’s your turn. Take your time!”  He was a kindly sort, you see.

The king’s messenger reined in his horse and snarled; “Now you’re in for it!  You are ordered before the king immediately and he is going to hang you out to dry for sure!”

“What in the world have I done?” the shepherd wanted to know

“It’s what you have NOT done!”  smirked the tale-bearer.

So the Shepherd turned his staff over to the boy who was helping him, and said, “Watch that one over there to your left, and if he strays you know what to do.”
Then he left with all deliberate speed which means he first dashed over to the brook, washed his face and brushed his hair. Then he sauntered into the throne room where the king sat stewing, biting his nails and then sneezing as hard as he could while he waited to hear the resounding “To your very good health” that rolled in from the far corners of the earth.

If you think the Shepherd’s heart failed from fear, think again!  This Shepherd was of a different stripe!

“Say at once, “To my good health!’ cried the King.
“To my good health,” replied the Shepherd.
“To mine–to mine,” stormed the King.
“To mine, to mine, Your majesty,” was the answer.

The king lost his regal control and roared, “But to mine–to my own!”

He tore off his gold crown and threw it at the Shepherd, who saw it coming,  caught it and tossed  it to the king with, “Your crown, your Majesty!”  and the king glared as he put it back on.

“Now I order you to say to my own health with no hesitation!

“Well, yes; of course, to my own health with no hesitation,” the Shepherd snapped and tapped his breast.
If that wouldn’t rattle a king, then what would?  He was ready to have a fit of apoplexy and at that moment his beautiful daughter walked in.  She nonchalantly took her seat in the small throne chair that was waiting for her.

She murmured in lowered voice, “What’s the problem here?”

The king whispered, “He won’t say ‘to my good health,’ and I can’t get him to understand my command.”

She whispered back, “Calm yourself, and leave this upstart to me.”

The king heaved a sigh of relief.

She turned her eyes to the Shepherd who had been twiddling his thumbs and waiting patiently but when she faced him with the words, “Stop twiddling and look at me!”

That was when he saw her full face and her eyes were flashing.  I said flashing but I did not say what that flash conveyed to the unbelievably handsome Shepherd who had defied the king.

He was so startled by her expression that he fell flat as a flounder—no, not on the carpet—I mean IN LOVE—His heart played Yankee Doodle.  What could he say?

At the same time, when he stood erect, her lovely violet eyes saw in a split second that he was well over six feet tall, and had broad shoulders that tapered down at the waist, which was swathed in a red sash.
What was that she spied tucked under the cloak?   It was a dagger with a handle carved in a cunning way!  His shepherd’s cloak was a hand-woven pattern that she would give her eye teeth for.

They exchanged glances and she said to herself, “Hmmmm, where has he been all my life?”

While the shepherd was thinking!  Wow! She is a knockout!

Quick as a wink she turned to the king and whispered, “As long as you are present he is too much in awe of you for my words to have full effect.  You need to excuse yourself for a few minutes and leave the room.”

‘The king sneezed a couple of times and made an excuse that he needed a breath of air.
As soon as they were alone she trilled,  “If you will just say these words, “To your very good health!” I can save your life.”

She gave him her twenty-four karat smile; then coyly looked down.  Her lashes curled and she fluttered them two or three times in rapid succession.  Then she allowed her eyes to grow limpid and give him a “come-hither” look that burned like fire.

At that the last vestige of the Shepherd’s will power melted, his heart pumped a bumpity-bump and he was completely addled.

No, not quite. He did not take leave of his senses entirely.  He returned her flutters with a couple of his own. Then in a voice betraying his longing, with every word a caress, he reached for her hand.  Lifting it to his lips he kissed her fingertips.

“I will only say those words if I can have you for my wife!”

Her laughter rippled as her peachy complexion turned apple red!

Only the Shepherd could tell you what he heard in her voice as she said, “Shall we summons the king to hear you say the words that he commands?”

“Only on those conditions!” he insisted.

So the king came in and the princess whispered to him,

“Father, this man has agreed to say the words that you command, but only if he can have me for his wife.”
The king was touched. “Would you make such a sacrifice for me?”
She said, “It is not a sacrifice.  I only live to please you, Sire.”

The king then said to the Shepherd,

“Well, you have learned how it feels to be near ten deaths.  Now say ‘To my good health!”

But the Shepherd broke in with,

“I do not fear a hundred deaths and I will only say it if I may have the Princess for my wife.”

Then the king sighed contentedly and said,

“Well, well, it is all the same to me–I will give you my daughter to wife; but then you really and truly must say to me, “to your good health.’”

“Of course I’ll say it; why should I not say it?  It stands to reason that I shall say it then.”
At this, the king was delighted and he announced that everyone was to celebrate the marriage of the Princess and to whom was such honor bestowed?  The One and Only Grand Prince of the Kingdom of Fleece!
Everyone was impressed!

Such a wedding!  In the King’s palace there was great celebration. There was fun and merrymaking.  And when the groomsman according to custom brought in the boar’s head on a big dish and placed it before the king so that he might carve it, the savory smell was so strong that the king began to sneeze with all his might.

The Shepherd jumped to his feet and shouted, “To your very good health!” and the King was filled with joy!

The princess hid a smile behind her napkin.

The Shepherd gave several huzzahs for good measure before seating himself amidst rousing cheers and repeated shouts of “to the health of the king, and to the prince and princess!”   The king decided at once to favor them with an extended honeymoon, and as soon as that was over, he knew of several countries where he needed to send an emissary of no less importance than the king’s own son-in-law!

In time, when the old King died, the Shepherd Prince became king.
Everyone liked him.  He rarely ever sneezed and when he did he placed a large handkerchief over his mouth and said, “Bless my soul, Miss Agnes!”

One fine day when the tale-bearer was well out of hearing distance, the head honcho said to his assistant,

“To the new King’s VERY GOOD health!”

And they all lived happily forever after!

A Rainy Day is a Day for Contemplation and Rest!

Today it is pouring the rain and I am sitting right next to the window. . . 

I love a rainy day.  For one thing, it speaks of thirsty plants.  They love the rain and they show the world their appreciation for this heavenly shower.  They will dress the world in color and everyone will be oohing and ahing.  Naturally all the young poets will fill the waste baskets with attempts to find words where there are none. The older poets smile benignly at their attempts while they don the raincoat and venture forth where the trees drip and there is refreshment for the mind and spirit.  They commune with nature and if a poem forms it is from the insight received..

            Now on a rainy day, such as this one, I can call to mind many such poems.They bring refreshing breezes when I’m searching for something that lies hidden.   

Just recently I remembered a song that my mother and my Aunt Lucy would sing when she paid a visit.  That song was “By Erin’s Green Shore.”  By the title you can see that it is an Irish tune.  When Mother and Aunt Lucy were young girls there was an itinerant Irish poet who came visiting once in a while.  His name was Pat Kenney, He was always welcomed with open arms in the homes because he brought news of the outside world, and he was full of humorous tales of other places, and fantastic songs that he sang for them. A trip from “Uncle Pat” was a treat for the family.

He was visiting America and going about visiting in the homes.  He would return to Ireland at the end of his stay and write about the Irish people of the Appalachian Highlands.  He was interested in the way the culture had developed in those years.  He gave Mother one of his published books, “Wayside Thoughts.” She gave it to me and I lost it in the moving process.  I really treasured it.

 I also have the acrostic poem that he wrote for Mother and Aunt Lucy.  They learned that beautiful song from “Uncle Pat” as they affectionately called him.

ERIN’S GREEN SHORE

                                           One evening for pleasure I rambled

                                           By the side of a cool flowing stream,

                                           I sat down by a bed of primroses

                                           And gently fell into a dream.

                                           I dreamed that I saw a fair damsel,

                                           Her lips like the mantle she wore,

                                           All bound round with garlands of roses,

                                           As she strolled along fair Erin’s green shore.

                                           Her cheeks tinged with dawn of the morning,

                                           Her teeth when she smiled pearly white,

                                           Her eyes sparkled bright as a diamond

                                           Or stars twinkling on in the night.

                                           Gold was her hair in the sunshine,

                                           And queenly the dress that she wore,

                                            Her hand was in mine as we gamboled

                                            Along by fair Erin’s green shore.

                                            Entranced in that joy I awoke then

                                            To find she was gone, and no more

                                             Will I see my sweet maiden who left me

                                             To stroll alone on Erin’s green shore.

         In those olden, golden days when we lived on the top of a West Virginia mountain the hiatus of a rainy day was a way the Lord provided pleasure for busy farm people.  The pitter-patter of rain on the roof, the sight of it splashing against the windows was a sign that we had a day of leisure.  We hurriedly cleaned the kitchen and the boys filled all the water buckets then hurried away to the barn to play, or when older to clean and oil the saddles, bridles and harness.

         There would be no need to cook a big dinner in the middle of the day.  On those drizzly days the hired men did not come, and our boys were satisfied with a pot of beans and a pan of cornbread!  Mother might go in and stir up a blackberry or apple cobbler just for the fun of it.  Sometimes, on rainy days such delectable smells would fill the house and that would be one of her creations!  She loved to spend a rainy day in the kitchen.   Her apron still on from the breakfast hour, she headed for the kitchen as soon as we finished the dishes.  You could hear the beating going as she creamed the butter and sugar for cup cakes with chocolate frosting.  She might bake a big pan of ginger bread and a vanilla sauce for it, or maybe apple dumplings to drown in rich Guernsey cream! 

              My sister Irene and I would take the stairs two at a time where we would get on the bed and read our books.     

             Bing!  Bing! What was that sound? A sure sign of rainy day fun for us was the bing, bing, bing of the strings on the instruments, when Charles tuned his guitar with John’s violin and they would cut loose on their fabulous music!  “They’re getting tuned up, Irene!  Let’s go down and dance!” 

        Now we are talking about the Appalachian Highland clog dance called the “clog.”  All of us learned this from our father, who could never sit still when the fiddle was singing out the great tunes that we loved to hear such as  Paddy on the Turnpike, Turkey in the Straw, Soldier’s Joy, Ragtime Annie, Pop Goes the Weasel, Arkansas Traveler,  The Irish Washer Woman, Forked Deer, Sally Ann and hundreds more  that brought a tickle to our feet.  My mother never joined us in our dance but she loved to watch us perform it.  That was a fantastic way to spend the rainy day pent-up energy.

         After a while I learned all the chords on the piano by ear and I played along with John if Charles was away.  Josephine brought the piano home when I was eight years of age and I could not leave it alone.  I fooled with it for hours at a time picking out tunes by the sound of the notes. Mother wanted me to have lessons but there was not one available to us on the Dundon side of the river.  A bridge at the upper end of Clay was under construction, but there was no way for me to go to Clay by myself.  It was not possible to have lessons.

        I have a good ear. Some of the chords I discovered and others I learned from a piano chord book that my sister Jo brought to me.  We had music as a subject in elementary school and the teacher came once a week for the class which lasted an hour. We wrote all of our lessons in a composition book and when I came home I would sit down and play the notes on the piano. Because I loved to play, as long as I was entertaining myself that way my Mother was careful to allow me all the time I wanted to practice. By age twelve I could easily play all the chords as rapidly as Johnny could play those fast fiddle tunes.  He loved to play with me and mentions it in his book, Rosin for the Bow.  John F. Johnson. Amazon- Create Space. c.2004.  

        So now, it is 12:34 p.m. and I am using my rainy day in writing a blog.  Of course, it will only cover part of the day.  That part must cover not just the time passed in writing this, but how rainy days affect the mind and spirit. Look! It has brought on all this remembering.  This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it.  (Ps.118:24) We can never be sad when we think of that.  I know that He made it for a special reason, and that was to allow all of nature a time of refreshment.  To give someone like me a chance to think of all sorts of pleasant things, and being a storyteller, naturally, that is where my mind lingers.  

        On a day like today my thoughts turn to a time when I drove in the pouring rain all the way from Richmond, Virginia to Tappahannock, Virginia, where I was to tell at the local high school Home Economics Department.  The director called and said, “The librarian at St. Margaret’s School called and said that you are a storyteller, and that you also teach storytelling.”  Then she went on to ask, “Do you tell stories as part of the class you teach?” She explained, “I guess what I am trying to say is, that I would like for my Home Economics classes to have a workshop, and to see the technique demonstrated as part of it.”  

        What ensued then was a lengthy conversation with her in which I described in detail the type of workshop we would be having and the time necessary  to include the stories with discussion and feedback.  I asked questions and she answered with all the information I needed to see how to approach them..

            This memory is one of my favorites.  The title of the workshop was, “Decorating the Mind of the Child,” because of the insight I had from talking with the teacher about her reasons for wanting to include this workshop in the training of future Home Makers.

             From my friend at the village children’s bookstore, where I told stories regularly, I was allowed to borrow several of her framed posters of famous children’s book titles.  I was able to use these as a backdrop for the instruction which included what to look for in selecting a story to tell, preparation of the story for telling it, and the actual techniques involved in the telling.  I chose stories to tell from the large, colorful posters of favorites.

            These great stories are ones that most children have read or have heard read and as I showed the posters and called for response they would all spill it out together!  I doubt if even one of them could not respond.

  I showed why I had chosen these particular ones for this occasion and audience.   I had handouts and we had time to discuss the techniques I had used in the telling. The handout spoke of certain elements, and the discussion was especially effective on the heels of hearing the story told.  Then I held up for them to see my own copy of one of the stories—of the words I had lined through, and the one I had chosen from the oral language.  I passed the paper around and allowed each to look at it carefully and see how the “telling” is the same story as the written but the language is different, and we talked about the written speech and the oral. 

            I was invited to a luncheon that they had prepared, and at the table we had further conversation. During that time several said they wanted to pursue this subject further, and asked the director if I could come back.  From there it developed that I had a four session series of in depth storytelling classes.  This was one of the most rewarding experiences of my years in teaching storytelling. I saved the letters from the girls until I moved to Texas and had to turn loose of so much memorabilia.

              And the rain never stopped all day long!  As I drove along home in it, I stopped at Stuckey’s and bought a pecan log.  I opened it and munched on it happily as I recalled every bit of the day and planned eagerly for my return visits. Now I would be able to have class response for telling and for review and analysis.  It was exciting to prepare all these lessons periods and the teacher and I agreed that I could do these follow-up classes in the regular class period time.

            Are you thinking of learning the skills of the storyteller?  It is most rewarding in itself, but greater, higher and more fulfilling, is laying it all on the altar and offering it to the Lord as your living sacrifice!  That has always been my desire, and the dear Lord honors any such humble gift.  If you will do that, then he will come in and join you in heart and mind to give you joy unspeakable and full of glory!

It’s Absolutely True by HCAndersen

IT’S ABSOLUTELY TRUE

 BY HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN

Note to tellers: I like the quote, “The naked truth is presentable when clothed in a story”

This is as close to the oral as writing can make it, so it should be easy to tell, and humorous! That is always a plus. I also show in underlining the words that are emphasized.

“It’s a terrible affair! I can’t sleep for thinking about that awful chicken house! And to think that it is absolutely true!”

This is what a hen was saying and she lived in a different part of town from where it all happened—

She told the story to the other hens and it made their feathers stand on end and turned the rooster’s combs a scarlet red!

It happened in a chicken house at the other end of town. The sun went down, and the hens flew up. One of them was a perfectly respectable hen who laid her eggs and minded her own business. When she got to her perch, she preened herself with her beak and a little feather came out and fluttered down. “So much for that one! ´ she said, and just for fun she added, “The more I preen, the lovelier I’ll be, for sure!” Now you and I know that it is perfectly respectable to love fun, and she said that for fun!

The hen next to her on the perch was still awake and she heard, and she had not heard, as happens sometimes if you want to live in peace and quiet, but just the same, she clucked to the hen on the other side, “Did you hear that? I will not name names, but acertain hen means to pluck out her feathers, thinking it will make her look good to the roosters. If I were a rooster, I would despise the looks of such a hen!”

Who was sitting just above that hen? Why, it was the owl, of course, with her husband and her owl children. They had sharp ears and theyheard every word that hen said.They rolled their eyes and the mother owl fanned herself with her wing. “You heard what she said, didn’t you? For pity’s sake, one of those silly hens has set about plucking out all of her feathers and in plain view of the rooster!” The father owl scolded, “Little pitchers have big ears! Do you want the children to hear such stuff?” Then both of them hooted, “Who? Tu-whit! Tu-Who!” and the doves heard it all the way down in their dovecote across the yard. “Tu-who! Here’s a hen who has plucked out all of her feathers to impress the rooster. She’ll freeze to death, if she isn’t dead already!” “Where, ooh, where?” cooed the doves. “In the hen yard, over there! It happened!—things like this are really too naughty to speak of, but when we know it is absolutely true—what can we say?” “True, true,” the doves repeated the story—“There’s a hen—some say it is two—who have plucked out all their feathers to attract the attention of the rooster. Suppose they catch cold and die? OhYes! It is true! Two of them are dead!”

            Then the rooster had something to crow about! “Wake up, everybody! Wake up!” Even though it was not time to crow, what did he care! “Three hens have died for the love of a rooster. They plucked out all of their feathers!” Then he felt duty bound to say, “Pass it on!” (Squeak here) “Pass it on!” “Pass it on!” squeaked the bats, and hens clucked and the roosters kept on crowing, “Pass it on! Pass it on!”

And the story flew on, henhouse to henhouse, until, at last it was back again to the henhouse where it all started. Now the story ran this way: “There are five hens who have plucked out all their feathers to show which one of them was the thinnest, all for the love of the rooster! Then they plucked at each other until the blood came and they all fell down dead to the shame and disgrace of their family, and the serious loss of their owner.”

The hen that had lost that one little feather did not recognize her own story. She was a respectable hen, she exclaimed, “How despicable! We must not shut this up, for there are plenty more such hens about. We need to get it in the paper so that it can be known all over the country. It will serve those hens right, and their families too!

So it was in all the papers—in print—and it is absolutely true that one little feather can easily become five hens!

Things to Remember in Storytelling

If you wish to become a storyteller for the Master, then you must get into the yoke with Him and walk in step.  In that way your stories will receive His stamp of excellence, and He will never allow the “leavening of the Pharisees” to kill the joy that he wants to give. 

 THINGS TO REMEMBER:

               1. Get in, get it over with, and get out!  It is vital that the very essence of meaning is what is conveyed, meaning that you will boil a story down, in preparing it, to just that.  An economy of words is what Jesus used.  Please study the gospel accounts again and again.  That means study.  Look at every aspect of these parables using good commentaries, Bible dictionary, Bible Atlas, and any other study helps.  These are available in the church library.  The best principles of good storytelling are illustrated in the parables of Jesus. One of the most important of these principles is brevity.  

I am practicing what I preach, for I am giving you here the results of years of study, going out to audiences of all ilks, teaching for several years.  As God measures Time moments are the stuff of eternity. Each one as it it ticked off may weigh heavily in the final analysis.   I am being given a chance to prove that choosing the right words in telling your story, is of the essence.  The core or germ of truth is what you need.

To find that essence, study and analyze then cast away into nether darkness all redundant, all rambling; all voluble, motor-mouthed; digressive and tautological phrasing. That sentence illustrates what is meant by unnecessary words. Just wanted to show you, in case you did not know! 

              2. Naturally, the choice of story is vital.  We want fast action– a creative plot.

             3.  Characters:   In a story, they cannot be in-depth portrayals, but there are the types.  These that are easily recognized in most folk and fairy tales:  The beautiful princess.  Her beauty is always unbelievable. There is the foolish son, or younger brother.  He is portrayed as almost simple-minded.  Thewicked giant causes all sorts of problems, or the wise old woman shows the way.  Then there is the clever peasant.  The character of the one who wins out in the end will be possession of such traits as kindness, cleverness, generosity, willing to learn, etc.  Good is good and evil is evil.  One recognizes them at once. One wins, the other loses, or as I always like to say, gets his come-uppance.    I also like he old adage,the wheels of justice grind slowly but they grind exceeding small. Therefore, in the fairy or folk story, good always triumphs over evil. Justice will prevail.

            4. Body of story:  Important ways of looking at life are shown here.  We are informed that stories have messages in them for the conscious, unconscious, pre-conscious mind.  Bettelheim says, “They offer new dimensions to the child’s imagination.”  Of course, as Christians, we insert the world-view of the Christian, and so our choice of words becomes literally the difference between life and death for eternity for some listeners!

             5. The ending need not be happy every timebut wrap up details. Numerous endings are good and the teller is free to choose among them for one that suits the tale being told, or to compose a new one that winds things up perfectly in that particular story.  It must be satisfying.  So “and they all lived happily every after.” is just right for some stories, but not appropriate for others.  I know a teller who ends her stories  “And that’s all there is to that story.” In my experience I find that, while I may use the “spit-spot-spout, this tale’s told out!” type of ending for some, I like to suit an ending that I feel is more satisfying and winds things up in a better fashion for others.  I might say something like, “But—as for those other brothers, why–whatever happened to them?  Nobody knows!!!”

             6. Telling:  Telling the story, while it may sound simple and easy, just flowing like water out of the mouth of the teller has required numerous retellings at home to give just the right emphasis to certain words.  Various words have been tried at this or that point to convey certain meanings; many rehearsals of the inflection and enunciation have taken place!   The audience lends a special magic to the storytelling, and when everything is just right, it becomes an unforgettable experience.  As I like to say, it actually breathes.  It has flesh and blood now.  As such, it makes an indelible impression on the spirit of the listener.

My Blog

Here’s the place to that you will able to discuss my blog with me.

The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg

Heart to heart with Mackie

              Here, on this site, I cannot use the heart language of telling. The spoken word will reveal by inflection, intonation, just exactly what the teller wants the listener to “hear” and the effect is more dynamic.  The energy required to tell a story is derived from the sub-conscious “memory bank” where every word is recorded and the definition recorded along with it will not consist of words. Therefore every word we speak will reveal things not spoken, but plainly discerned by the listener through the spiritual connection which the Lord has in place.  That is why in my workshops I always emphasize finding the right story for the right audience.

            Today, I have prayed for several weeks now about what to say on this first blog, and I have thought of several themes that I would love to write about, what words I would choose to use, since I remain primarily a storyteller, and I have the same motive for telling that I do when facing a live audience.  When on public radio, I simply imagined my audience.  My voice, my words, my subject—everything was meant to have a certain effect on the listener, and by the response I knew whether the bull’s eye was centered.  I plan on making these blogs in the same way that I did with that imagined audience. I will use the same words that I would use if we were speaking face to face! We will allow that this is impossibility, but hope makes the intangible-tangible, and hope is from God, so I place my trust in the Lord and venture with Him.[1]

              I also wish to say in this introductory blog, that my watchwords are LOOK UP, LAUGH, LOVE, and AND LIFT.  So I will be thinking along those lines.  Now to discuss the well known story, The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg.

            In case you do not remember it, there was a man who owned a special goose that laid an egg of pure gold every day. Wow! He loved to place her on the table in front of him and say the magic word “Lay!” You may keep your private thoughts to yourself here, because there was no abracadabra—simply the one word, “Lay!” Then the goose would lay a golden egg for him and that was a fantastic game that he loved to play.  The only trouble was that the rule said, “Only one egg per day.”  Well, he would just have to be satisfied, and that was all there was to it. 

            One day, he said to himself, “Baloney on this matter of only one egg at a time!  All that gold she keeps for herself and gives me this one little egg!  We’ll see about that!”

So, spit, spot, he chopped off her head!  With greedy eyes and hands impatient to get all that gold, he opened her up and lo, there was nothing there but just the plain old insides of a goose!  Now he had no goose and no gold either.  And he had that mess to clean up!

            As my mother always said, “A word to the wise is sufficient.”

Note: The naked truth is perfectly acceptable when clothed in a story.  (An old saying.)

Therefore, the truth of this story can be applied wherever needed for an antidote to falsehood, which is blatantly spread these days from the Father of Lies, for he delights in pulling the wool over the eyes of the sheep, but Christians, remember that Jesus is Truth personified, and therefore we do not need Snopes to guide us, only the Word of God. I like to be an encourager, so let us all be hopeful that our Christian faith will sustain us in the days ahead, and we believe that our hope is centered in the God of our Fathers.

 “the Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him.  (Lamentations 3:25a) NIV

 


[1] May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13 NIV.  (Look Up)mbl

The Land of Play-Like

Heart to heart with Mackie

             The storyteller’s mind has a flying horse at its command.  Just get on it and tell it to take you into the land of make believe.  I took my first ride when I was about three years of age, and my bigger brothers and sisters took me to play with them, for Irene was appointed my guardian angel, and she took the role seriously.

            This story is in my memoirs, told at length, but I will shorten it here to one episode.

            The older children were into what they called, play like, and that meant to pretend.  When they pronounced the two words it sounded like plike.  Therefore, they were saying to Johnny or me, “plike you  (whatever)”  I remember that brother John was willing to play any part they wanted, he understood it was a game, but it was a different matter with me, for everything was unreal.

            This is the scene that I recall vividly.  They were playing that I was the Davenport child, (brother George’s child) and Irene took me over to her “house” to play with her child.  When we arrived she said to her imaginary child, “Look who came to play with you! Sylvia Davenport!” I asked, “Where is your little girl?”  She laughed and called to Clementine, “Mrs. Murphy, can you come over and bring Tommy?”  Then Clem came over with my brother Johnny and said, “Oh, you have Sylvia with you! Hello, Sylvia!  You can play with my little boy, Tommy.” Of course there was no more mention of any other child, but I said, “I am not Sylvia, and he is not Tommy. His name is Johnny and mine is Maxine” 

            At that, Irene stooped down and explained it, saying, “We are playing a game of grown-ups and that means we play like we are grown-up.  Look at me, Mac, I am not grown-up, and I am Irene.  Now I am playing that I am Mrs. Bryant and that means it is not real. This is my play time, and that is what I am playing.  If you want to stay with me and play this game, you can’t be Maxine for that would be real.  We are playing something that is not real.  Now, do you want to stay with me, because if you do not want to play this game, I will take you back to Mother, for she allowed me to bring you with me to play.”

            Of course, I wanted to stay with Irene and I readily said, “I want to stay with you.  I want to play the game.”  So then when I was Irene’s little girl I was one name, and when I was Clementine’s I was Mary Katherine, Mary Kay for short, and sometimes I was some other imaginary child in the scenario they were acting out.  I was talking to my mother and I said “You can call me Mary Kay if you want to.”

            She laughed and said, “So that is what the girls are calling you when they play.”  I said, “Yes, and I am Virginia and Sylvia too.”  She laughed and sat down to talk and said, “That’s all right when you are playing with the girls, but when you come back to the house you are my real little girl.  I am your REAL mommy.  You are Maxine. That is your REAL name.  I call you “Mac” sometimes but that still means Maxine and you remember that.  You are MAXINE.  Don’t ever forget that.”

            Well I never did forget it.  I have always known the difference since that talk with my real mother.

            The minute I took Irene’s hand we mounted the magic horse and I grabbed her around the waist and held on for dear life! What a ride this has been!

            This means that I have never had any problem whatsoever with my real identity.  I am still Maxine, and you may call meMackie, for that is what my nieces and nephews called me when I was single and wanted them to be able to say something easy instead of Aunt Maxine. For a baby, that’s a mouth full.  Then when I met Frank he picked it up from them, and it got spread around to all my friends, so here I am, the real me.

            Yet, at an early age, I learned to mount the flying horse.  We ride off to the mountain where the dragon is hiding, and we have no fear that the sword in my scabbard will rid the world of that monster.  I have been riding this flying horse for ninety years, and he has grown quite accustomed to our strange adventures.

            I never was led to give up my National Storytellers League, even though I dropped all other organizations when I surrendered my will to Jesus Christ.  The reason was that our organization stands for the good and beautiful in life and literature, and I knew that our beautiful Savior is author of all that is good and perfect, so I remained a faithful member of my local league. The Lord has made good use of my skills in telling stories, in sharing what I have learned through the printed word, and my travels for teaching.  I have found that the gift of imagination is one that God has placed in His created people for His use! 

            Mother taught me that I have “special eyes,” and “special ears” and that God gave them to me so that I could get to know Him better.  She reminded me of the boy Samuel, to illustrate the “ears,” and of Joseph’s story for the “eyes.”  At first I believed they were literally there, but as I grew older she helped me to understand that the terms are figurative.

Therefore, I use my “special eyes” and my “special ears” when I go to Him in prayer or when he says, “I am here, knocking; if you will open the door, I will come in”   I open the door!  I see Him with my special eyes, and I hear Him with my special ears. He says that He will sup with me and I with Him.  I believe that means we partake of the kind of food he was speaking of when he said to his disciples, “I have meat to eat that you know not of.”[1] This is the divine imagination that he uses to communicate.  This is possible through study of His written word, then using the special eyes and ears.  When the old hymn says, “He walks with me, and He talks with me!” that is meant to be literal through the special instruments that He created for that purpose and His own Holy Spirit in whom we live and move and have our being[2].  When we commit ourselves to Him without any reservations, we become a “new creation.”  We are “converted” and now the special eyes and special ears become operative. He is then able to act in us.

             If we want Him to act in us, and through us, we must first be “converted” from our worldly, cynical viewpoint, ready and willing to “listen” with the ears of the Spirit.  Read the Gospel of John with a good commentary.  You will find Barclay’s on most church library shelves.  In John’s book, it shows plainly that the Father and the Son are residing in every believer through a special, invisible Presence.  We call Him the Holy Spirit, for He is the person and power of God that we possess in Christ. 

              John shows plainly how the “invisible” Christ is “visible” and that brings a new dimension to the Christian’s behavior, “in honor preferring one another.[3]” We should remember that admonition in the way we treat other Christians, for we have this Treasure in earthen vessels.  We should be watching for that special spark to reveal the Living Savior to us. That is how he makes himself visible through the work of the Holy Spirit. 

            Think of your “special eyes” as the new night vision glasses that allow our soldiers to see in the dark.  When you see with your special eyes you are peering into the invisible world, as Dr. Brand did with his microscope[4].  By using your special eyes of the spirit, the Lord illumines the dark places and you can see your way.  Peering into the darkness of sin’s tunnel we see a great light!  Now you can look up, laugh, love and lift.

             Jesus wants us be cheerful and help others to be light hearted.  He said, “Be of good cheer.  I have overcome the world.”[5] Well, now!   Since that is the case, we need not fear venturing with Him anywhere, any time!  Oh, the stories I could write on that theme, but like that fellow with the golden egg that you read about in the first blog, we have to be satisfied with little nuggets.  

            SO (yes! I said so.  I prefer it to “therefore” in this case and it’s my blog)) Now I go back to SO, you will notice as you read these tales, that the one who practices all the Christian graces will be the one who wins out in the end.  He gets the lovely princess.  She gets the handsome prince, even if one of them did have to kiss a frog—there’s a lesson in that too, but I’m not telling) I was grown before I knew why I absolutely loved the story Toads and Diamonds as a child but when I began telling it as an adult, it was as plain as the nose on my face.  (That is plenty plain!)  

              As Christians we all know that our God is greater than that one ruling the secular world with all of his minions.   AND a great verse to keep in mind as you study and prepare stories is this one: And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus[6]  Well, as long as we know he keeps those, then we wade right in and tackle that giant. 

            That’s why I can teach storytelling with abandon!   I have a sword that has a mysterious power.  I pulled it out of the Stone which the builders rejected, and it is hidden in my scabbard unless I need it .  Then it becomes Excalibur.  I also have a shield that is huge!  I can hide behind it!  And it is impenetrable!  I have special shoes that I put on and immediately gain the stature of any giant out there, and scare the wits out of him.  By the time I get all my armor on and I mount the flying horse, I am ready to fight that old dragon.

            Here is a quote from J.R.R.Tolkien, and I believe you will find that he concurs in all that I have said in the above. It would be good to memorize these words or print them out and put them where you read them often.  Be sure to tuck them in your pocket before you go  flying off into the land of make-believe.

 The realm of the fairy story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveler who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost. — J. R. R. Tolkien (1892-1973) from On Fairy Stories

            I will give just one more quote.  I have dozens but these two are at the tip top of the list. This one is from Albert Einstein.  He says:  If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.  If you want your children to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.

             I conclude with these few words of explanation.  I notice on rereading this that I have alluded to several scripture references that I did not look up and give the reference, and I’m leaving that for you to do if you want to know where they can be found.  I am begging age as an excuse.  When you reach ninety-three it will not matter a whole lot where the verse is located, but the important thing is whether you have that “sword in your scabbard” or “hidden in your heart” and that’s another one you can look up.  As my mother always said, “I’m at the end of my tether.”


[1] John 4:32

[2] Act 17:28

[3] Romans 12:10

[4] Oops! A weakness I have of assuming things! I was thinking here of Dr. Brand, co-author of Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.Zondervan. C?—go to Google!

[5] John 16:33

[6] Philippians 4:7

THE GREATEST REVOLUTION

William James is credited with saying that the greatest revolution is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.  If changing the inner attitude of the mind could do it, there would be no more broken New Year resolutions!

             The psychologist’s use of language infers that a person by just changing his inner attitude of mind can change the outer aspects of his life along with it. All I have to say there is “HA!”  Then quickly I must add, “AHA!”  The aha is because of the word inner that he uses.  There is only one person who has access to that inner self of the person.  Only the Creator may enter that sacred citadel of personhood. 

            Eve made a fatal error—a vital error it was—the inner flame that causes us to be a human-being was extinguished.  Outside of His intervention, after the age of accountability, we are dead in trespasses and sins!  For there to be any change in the inner attitude as William James describes, God the Creator must bring about the hope and the faith that the mind will accept and allow.  Then, and only then can anything be done about the inner attitude of the mind.

             There is a Balm in Gilead!  There is help beyond our own resources.  He never forces his way into that inner citadel, but when asked, the angel of God stands ready to enter.  It does not matter the location, the time, the weather, or anything else that is happening in the outside world, He answers at once that call for help!  The inner person is changed at once, from one who is unable to cope for example with just one more scream of “Mama! Mama!”  That person at that moment is able to go and pick up the child, hold it close and croon a lullaby.  She can sit down and rest and gently doze as she hums softly to that little one. She can be renewed in body, mind and spirit!

            The greatest revolution as described by our famous psychologist, William James, is dependant upon self.  He does not allow for the helplessness of that soul to climb out of that despair without a call for help to the Rock of Ages.

            My brother, John, hated his life because of alcoholism and for years fought the losing battle.  He described this as a gravedigger who digs the hole too deep and he cannot climb out.  The shovel is too short to use.  He needs Someone to reach down to him and help him to climb out.  John could manage to be sober for years, and then fall off the wagon, and he tells about that final battle that led to victory in his book, Rosin for the Bow.  He sat down to write his complaints to the Lord.  Something just did not add up.  Why did prayer never work for him?  Why did memorizing scriptures not work?  Why did good intentions never work?  As he wrote, the words and lines began to form into a poem, “Why can’t I be like Job?” his question became his plea to understand why God did not help him in that awful struggle.  It became a long epic poem with beautiful words and perfect meter—the Lord met him in it, and surprised him with joy.

            The Lord began to answer him in the words and lines of the poem.  It was in the fact that John loved birds and always cared for them by making houses and feeding stations for them.  He would buy wild bird food before he would buy something for himself!  He watched them and listened to them.  He wrote poetry about them and he mimicked their calls on his violin.  The Lord asked, “Why have you never taken them for a sign?  They have nothing to prove to me.  When they need to fly, they fly!” 

            It was a signal for John to stop that trying to do it by himself.  By giving up the struggle, by abandoning himself to God, he gained the victory, and remained sober for the rest of his life.  He said, “I never fell after writing that poem, “Why Can’t I?” The revolution came about through the revelation that God brought by breaking through into his consciousness with an answer for him. He said, “It was like having a flashlight in the pocket and never knowing how to turn it on.  When God spoke in the poem, the light came on, and I could see my way.”   

            No amount of resolution can bring about that revolution!  As the Apostle Paul said in Romans 7:21-25 (NIV) So I find this law at work: when I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner to the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!  

            Jesus Christ came to bring a great revolution.  The world and its systems are part of a dying world.  Eternal life comes with joining in the great revolution and becoming a soldier of the cross! 

            We have just celebrated Easter and now we set our faces at this time, resolutely towardJerusalem. We stand with Jesus.  We survey the wondrous cross, on which the Prince of Glory died.  Our richest gains we count but loss, and pour contempt on all our pride.  Were the whole realm of nature ours, That were a present far too small!   Isaac Watts penned those words, and we sing them with great joy as we have just experienced Easter Sunday.  All the churches of the world rang with the singing, and the bells of celebrations!

            Now we go marching! marching! marching as to War!  With the Cross of Jesus, going on before! (Eph.6:14-18)

            As we put on the whole armor of God we take our places in his war against the schemes of the enemy.  We stand firm with the belt of truth buckled around our waists, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, the sandals of peace on our feet, then we grasp the shield of faith, don the helmet of salvation, while we stand ready to wield the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God—then prayers, and the banner over us is Love! 

             Hallelujah! Now this is the Greatest of all Revolutions! The great question for each person is, “Are you a soldier of the Cross? Is your spirit joined with His, in the battle for truth?” 

A Mother’s Day Tribute

TENDER RECOLLECTIONS

  The words to an old song came to my mind this morning, and I suppose it has been hiding there behind all these other thoughts I have been entertaining. The minute it popped up I sang all these words that have kept themselves in wraps for quite a while. This is the way it goes:

I’ve a tender recollection I’ve cherished all my life,

And age but makes it dearer day by day.

It’s the memory of a mother whose smiles in days gone by,

Drove all my little childhood cares away.

She was gentle, she was kind,

I shall ever bear in mind,

The many golden lessons she taught me.

I have wealth and earthly power;

I’d trade all for an hour,

Of the evenings that I spent at Mother’s knee.[1]

Of course, I have neither wealth nor power, but the meaning is no less true for me. I learned that song as I learned all the old mountain ballads and dozens of great hymns that are no longer in the hymnals, simply by hearing them over and over as Mother sang them, for she sang about her work, and I adopted that habit from her example.

A tale is made for telling and I have a few tender recollections that might serve to bring a few to your mind. Everyone remembers great stories from their childhood, and I promise you, if you don’t tell them, don’t expect that they will be engraved on your headstone. So be a storyteller.

At age twelve my sister, Josephine, was at home and I was turning somersaults on the front lawn. She called and said, “Mac, you are too big to be turning somersaults. You will soon be a young lady. You are not to do that anymore.” Then I burst out crying. I went running to my mother and said, “I don’t want to grow up!” Mother then asked, “What’s wrong, Mac?” I told her all that had happened and she took her apron and wiped my eyes, and held me close to her. She laughed, and lowered her voice, “Now, Mac, listen! When you and I are here all alone, and the boys are in the field, I will let you turn somersaults again. Shhhh! Now don’t say anything to Jo about this.”

You see, Jo was her first born and she was allowed full authority to run the house and the younger children when she was at home. It was an unwritten law that anything Jo said was A-OK with Mother and Dad. We all knew that Jo held that position, but that time, Mother gave me permission to turn somersaults again, and that was a privilege I indulged in many times, after that. In fact, I recall that I said to myself, “I will never turn my back on childhood. I want to stay a child forever.”

I am glad that God gives us time to “become” a child again, for the childlike spirit is the one that has special eyes and special ears! I thank the Lord that my child-spirit is always in the wings, watching the act, ready to dance out on the stage at the slightest cue.

Oh, yes! I went along and grew up. I loved school days. It was a joy to be learning new things and that is still true today. I have not changed in that way. I have retained the curiosity and wonder about the “why” of things.

Here is a recollection about our rose-covered smoke house.

One day when I was five we were sitting by the fire and Mother was browsing seed and planting catalogs. She gave me several to look at and said, “You pick out two that you think are the prettiest ones and I will order them for you.”

I picked out the red Baby Rambler and the pink Dorothy Perkins rambler.

When they arrived she said, “Mac, here are your roses. Where do you want to plant them? Remember they are climbers, so think about it. I could ask your father to have a trellis built for you over one of the gates to the property.” I went out and looked all around, came back in and said, “I think one on each side of the smokehouse would be the best place.” She went out, looked around, and then said, “Mac, you are right! That is a perfect place for those two rose bushes.”

Then she had the brothers dig deep holes and she layered each hole with rocks and cow manure that was aged two years, then a layer of top soil. At that spot she put the root of the rose on that top soil, filling it in the rest of the way with our rich new ground, and pouring about a gallon of water in on the plant at midway, then more of our rich new ground was tamped in firmly. The smoke house was the showplace of our home site in the summer. When Mother gave cuttings she would always say, “Now these roses on the smokehouse are Maxine’s roses.” Then she would tell them the name of each rose as she gave a root cutting.

One day I heard her voice calling, “Mac, come up here.” She was in the smokehouse. I went running and entered the dim coolness of the smokehouse. She said, “What do you hear?” The humming roar overhead was what I heard. “Oh, it’s the bees!” I said, and she answered, “Do you remember what I said to you the day we planted the roses?” I said, “No, Ma’am.” She reminded me, “I said, “Mac, you are making a feast for the bees!” I then remembered, and said, “They are really feasting.”

My mother always shared words with me that I loved hearing and then saying them myself. She was a poet and in her world the bees were “feasting,” the brook was “singing,” the dove was “mourning,” the squirrel was “chattering,” the calf was “bawling,” and her roses she would sniff and say, “Heavenly!” She loved planting and growing things, then she would stand on the porch, take my hand and exclaim, “Mac, look at the garden! Is that not a sight in this world!?” It just looked like a garden to me, but at this moment the feel of her warm, strong hand in mine brings a tender recollection!

She planted many varieties of roses, and was, in fact, famous in the community for her roses. One thing we all loved to see was the smokehouse in full bloom. The beautiful pink Dorothy Perkins rambler rose grew on one side and on the other the Baby Rambler, crimson in color. They completely covered the roof of the smokehouse, intertwining and falling down the sides of the house in great profusion; mixed pink and red loveliness and the bees were not alone in their feasting.

What pride and joy to hear Mother say, “Maxine’s roses” and when we brought large bouquets of roses in for the house, her voice would carry special meaning to me when she said, “Put a vase of Maxine’s roses on my kitchen table.” In our old fashioned country kitchen that was her work table. When she went in to start dinner she would say, “Maxine, the scent of your roses has filled my kitchen.” In those days the roses all sent forth a heady sweet perfume, but it is faint or absent from the roses of today.

Mother knew how to make my heart glad at every turn. I loved being careful as I set the table to do exactly as she had taught me, arranging the silverware precisely, salt and peppers at each end of the table, sugar and creamer at the end nearest Mother’s plate. There would be the jams and jellies, pitcher of molasses, and a honey dish. The glasses for milk had a shaping about 5/8″ from the top, and I poured milk to that line, exact look-a-likes. These were placed the same distance from the top of the knife. When her words of praise came for several days I would walk around on cloud nine setting the table as if we were expecting the Lindberghs[2] for supper. My efforts to please were rewarded by her smile and the words, “Well done, Mac.” Then she added, “No excellence without great labor, Maxine.”

You see she used those words to correct me when I had not done a thorough job on something, and repeated them as praise when I did the job well. That was an extra compliment and showed that she appreciated the pains I took to please her and pleasing her was my greatest delight… The words of the song, “Just a wee bit of sugar makes the medicine go down in a most delightful way,” makes me think of Mother; a great proponent of that philosophy.

I can add all these lines to the poem that says “Richer than I you never could be, for I had a mother who read to me,”[3]

I can say, “Who laughed with me, who praised me, who corrected me, who sang to me, who told stories to me, who recited poetry to me, who doctored me, who talked with me, who played games with me, who walked with me, and most importantly, prayed with me.” Every one of those added lines have tender recollections that go along with them! That’s why my book of memoirs is full of stories about her.

Here is another precious recollection about our place, Rose Hill Farm.

Our house had a large yard that was fenced to keep the pesky hens out, and Mother planted roses all the way around the section that bordered the lawn. There were white, yellow, red, pink and even variegated. She built a circular flower bed with bricks around it and planted cannas, elephant ears, snap dragons, dahlias, four o’clock, scarlet sage, petunias and two or three other varieties that grew close to the ground such as marigolds. In the middle of the right side of the front lawn there was a huge tree stump. I don’t remember the exact measurement but Mother wrote it down in her journal and it was something that she loved to point out to visitors.

When my dad first saw the stump he was grieved and told Mother about the loss of such a tree. He said, “I put a red tag on it but I tied it to a branch and they said they didn’t see it.” When my mother heard that she said, “Surely they saw that red rag hanging from that branch. It was the greed of the big lumber men who wanted the wood from that tree.” She always held that belief. She asked dad to be sure that the stump was not blasted out of the yard. For that reason the stump was a conversation piece for Mother planted roses all around it and let the flowers cover it. People were amazed when she told them the size of the stump. Then Dad and Mother, while sitting on the porch in the evening, would recite in tandem the poem, Woodman, Spare that Tree,[4] in which the poet begs, “Woodman, spare that tree! Touch not a single bow! In youth it sheltered me, and I’ll protect it now.” There were several verses that they recited with great expression.

When we grew tired of playing hide and seek, or it grew too dark to play, we would go and sit on the front steps and listen as they sang the old songs, or recited the poetry, for in their school days they had to memorize everything! My father, though ten years Mother’s senior, was a school “Master” as the teacher was called. I believe he said that he taught school about five years before he was married to Mother. He always knew all the songs and poems that she knew.

The name, ROSE HILL, is emblazoned on my mind. Years have done nothing to mitigate the homesickness that sometimes stabs the soul. I thank the dear Lord for the gift of storytelling that has allowed my childhood memories to stay intact so that others may share vicariously the freedom of mind and spirit that was upheld and enjoyed by our family.

I want to paint one more little scene out of thousands that I hold in Technicolor.

We loved to have company and because of that our home was nearly always filled with people on Sundays in the summer. There was one time that we counted just for the fun of it and there were thirty-nine guests for dinner. That means there were forty-eight people for dinner that day! That also means umpteen trips to the garden for more veggies, and many trips to the hen-house for more chickens! These represent hard work in summer heat over a kitchen stove that burned wood! The women were all fully occupied in preparing and serving the food.

This is a story that I will always love.

As the hubbub of activities would wind down, then one by one each family would leave. However, there was one family, a double first cousin of Mother’s, who would always give in to the children’s pleas added to Mother’s and they would stay to watch the sunset. Remember our dirt roads were narrow and winding in the twenties, and people wanted to get home before dark, but these brave souls would stay and be rewarded.

Mother had a heart of generosity, and she enjoyed going to the garden and cellar to fill their car with gifts. Then as the sun gradually sank behind the mountains, we would all go down to the fence and stand there transfixed at the spectacular sight—a West Virginia sunset! How breathtaking to watch! The scene is indelibly fixed in the mind and the melody lingers on in the spirit making it true that a thing of beauty is a joy forever.

I have always wondered why we walked down and stood at the fence? Why did we not stay on the porch where there were at least half dozen rocking chairs? There were the steps that the children loved to use. No, when it was time for sunset, we went down to the fence for some strange reason! I can feel the breeze in our faces as we children went running ahead. I can see the adults following in their leisurely way, pausing a second to say something special, talking as they walked, and then standing there at the fence to watch.

If I were an artist I would love to show that family lined up there in various sizes and ages, with awe struck expressions of wonder on each face; before them a tree covered forest, beyond that a series of mountain ranges and a sky made up of an impossible array of colors to stagger the mind with the glory of God’s great creation.

Then we walked with them down through the second gate where the car was parked and finally they would start the motor and get away. We stood there and waved, calling last goodbyes until we lost sight of them down the hill.

Then Mother would bring us down to earth with, “Now, you boys get the milking done and you girls fix supper; there’s plenty of left-overs. Mr. Johnson and I are going to walk around the orchard for a bit.”

Now it was time for the girls to shoo me off to the back porch swing while they busied themselves with supper and girl talk. There I would prop myself up on the cushions and watch the stars appear one by one, while the cicada and the tree frog filled the air with their concert, and the whippoorwill repeatedly called for the whipping of poor Will, while I was left to wonder what poor Will had done to deserve such punishment.

Well, you can plainly see that the Lord has given me, in these recollections, a safe and sure retreat should anything upset the apple cart to threaten my peace of mind,

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[1] I Google the words, “I’ve a tender recollection” and up came the page with several websites, and I scrolled down to the one that looked the most likely which was American Old Time Song Lyrics and these words were shown, so I clicked on it and there it was and it shows a second verse which I remembered the minute I read it, but it did not come back to my mind completely as the first verse and chorus did, so I will let you Google that website and also there was one line that differed from mine but that is common to the old ballads, for people changed the wording to suit what they remembered, and my mother always said, “little childhood cares” and this one has it “troubled childhood thoughts” so you see the meaning is the same. I imagine you could also find the melody. I did not take the time to search that far, but it has a sweet plaintive melody.

[2] We had two or three records singing the praises of Charles Lindbergh, who flew the first solo flight from America to Paris, about 1927 or 28 I forget which. One of the songs was my favorite. I went around singing it all the time and every time a plane flew over, (very rare in those days) I would run out to wave and the pilot would dip down and wave to us. Then I would sing, “Lindy, oh what a flying fool was he, Lindy, his name will live in history! Over the ocean he flew all alone, gambling with fate and with dangers unknown. Others may take that trip across the sea upon some future day, but take your hats off to Lucky, Lucky Lindy, the eagle of the U.S.A.!” This was hero worship, and I loved to imagine that he would find a place to land on our farm, and we could all visit with him. He would take me for a ride in his plane. These little planes were called “Piper Cubs” and had a single engine.

[3] Strickland Gilliam 1869-1954

[4] George Pope Morris. 1802-1864