Learning how to spit, spin a tale

Published 3:00 am Saturday, January 24, 2015

Mama could have marched me straight home switching my scrawny legs with every step, but she didn’t. 
If she had, I might not have fallen in love the way I did.

I grew up in the tenant house that my granddaddy made available to Daddy and Mama when he came home from the Air Corps after World War II.

It was a four-room, white painted house with a bathroom hanging on for dear life. Just behind our house was another tenant house, bigger, but unpainted, where Amos, Eunice and Lizzy lived. Aunt Mary Nancy lived there, too, but she was as crazy as a Betsy bug so they kept her locked in a room just off the front porch.

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Booley lived down the pig trail in a house that had siding on it that looked like bricks but weren’t.

Every day after school, I would shed my school clothes for my play clothes and go straight to Amos and Eunice’s house – go up the steep wooden steps, down the long, dark hall and straight to the kitchen and the wood stove where Eunice kept the leftovers from dinner, usually a baked sweet potato with a crispy skin, a pone of cornbread or a biscuit and a piece of ham. But whatever it was, I was welcome to it, Eunice always said.

I’d go back out and take my place on the porch, ready to listen to the tales that were being “strowed around.”

Eunice and Lizzy dipped snuff and Amos and ol’ Booley chewed tobacco. From wherever they were sitting, they could spit clear across the porch and out onto the snuff bush. It was an amazing thing to see.

I was a pretty good spitter myself. I had a gap between my two front teeth so I had perfect aim. Eunice always fixed me sweet tea in a jelly jar and it provided me with all the ammo I needed.

“Don’t waste all your tea, spitting,” Eunice would say. But she didn’t need to say that. I’d become so engrossed in the stories they were telling that I would soon forget to spit.

Eunice, Amos and Lizzy would go for a ride every day just before dark, leaving me and ol’ Booley behind.

When Mama would hear their car leave, she’d start calling me. Usually, I’d answer but sometimes I’d be so caught up in ol’ Booley’s stories that I wouldn’t even hear her and she would come march me home.

“But, Mama, I was just sitting there talking to ol’ Booley,” I’d say.

It was on those many afternoons that I spent on the porch “talking to ol’ Booley” and Eunice, Amos and Lizzy that I developed a fascination for the spoken word and fell head over heels in love with storytelling.

I don’t remember ever being more content or feeling more loved than when I was sitting on the porch listening to the stories those old folks told.

Kathryn Tucker Windham said stories are the thread that weave our lives together. And, I am so thankful that my life was intertwined with those wonderful people through the stories they shared.

Next weekend, four of the nation’s most highly acclaimed storytellers will be in Pike County for the Brundidge Historical Society’s annual storytelling festival at the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge and the Trojan Center Theater at Troy University.

Folks from all walks of life will come from as far away as Tennessee and Mississippi and as close as next door to bask in the warmth of stories well told. Those fortunate enough to experience this most human and ancient art form will be all the better for having been there.

Hope to see you there.