Stories: Better than a burger?

Published 6:36 pm Friday, January 12, 2024

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Growing up, my family was in the cotton gin, feed mill,  ice plant and cold storage facility. Daddy let me hang around there where farmers and townspeople gathered for business or just to “chew the fat,” as Daddy would say.

Out in the ginyard, the bales of cotton would be stacked yea high and I’d climb to the top and sit there listening to the tales the farmers told. In the summer, everybody who came to pick up a watermelon they’d left to cool in the ice room had a story to tell.

Just why a lady’s tongue loosened up while she was waiting to have her meat cut, Mr. James Danner said he couldn’t say. “But their tongues go to wagging like a dog’s tail,” he’d laugh and say. And, oh, the tales they could tell.

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“And, you didn’t hear a thing I said, little girl,” they would say to me, knowing full well I’d taken in every word.

When I got to be a teenager, most of the girls liked to gather at the drug store after school. I liked to go with Mama to the little grocery store behind town and listen to the folks sitting around sharing stories of the simplest things. Mama and Papa Nick and their “regulars” could keep me entertained all afternoon long.

When I had a family of my own, my laughing place was Black’s Grocery on the backstreet of town.

Sometimes I would pull a stool up to the counter. Other times, I’d pop open a short co-cola, pour in a bag of salted peanuts and join the gathering at the drink box where something interesting was always going on.

Many times, I would be invited back to help myself to whatever was on stovetop in the back of the store. Grace cooked dinner back there and she always cooked more than she and Mr. Noah could eat.

“Get you some of those peas. The cornbread’s in the oven.”

If things were lagging a little, all somebody had to say was, “Grace, tell us again how it was that you made Noah stop farming.”

Grace wouldn’t get two words out before Mr. Noah would come up out of his chair. “Now, wait just one dang minute. Grace ain’t never made me quit farming …”

We would all laugh and settle in because the stories would gush like a “busted” water pipe.

Stories. They have been such a huge part of my life and continue to be.

On the last weekend in January, the Brundidge Historical Society will host the Pike Piddlers Storytelling Festival at the We Piddle Around Theater in Brundidge and at the Troy Center Theater in Troy. Tickets are more than reasonable. Ten dollars for an hour and half of music and stories told by some of the best storyteller on the planet.

With all these do-dads that think and remember for us, storytelling brings families and communities together.

Alabama’s legendary storyteller, Kathryn Windham was right. There’s no better way to say “I love you” than with a story. And, there’s no better way to bind a community than by laughing and crying together at a story well told.

So, on January 26 and 27, invest 10 dollars in something that will linger with you longer than a burger and fries.