Allow me to paint a picture, an older man sitting in an arm chair with a cup of coffee in his hand. Around the chair sits small children, their eyes glimmering with anticipation. Taking a sip of coffee the old gentleman opens his mouth and starts to tell a story.
This is the description of a classic storytelling situation. Often, it is the best way for the older generations to tell the younger the lessons they need to know in life. Childhood is filled with stories, stories meant to teach us lessons and proverbs.
Storytelling is an artistic instrument as old as music itself. Cultures around the globe have used this medium to teach their morals, values and history. In my case, I find it the best way of telling people about rural culture.
This topic holds special significance to me, my childhood was spent on the knee of my mother, who read to me the stories of Robin Hood, King Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table, tales of King Richard the Lion Hearted, and other great men. These stories taught me chivalry and honor.
My father on the other side, taught me how to tell a good story. From my earliest recollections I can see my father sitting on the couch with company over, I would be on the floor playing with my toys while my mother held my baby brother. My dad would tell a stories about his work day in the construction trades, or tell a story from his childhood. Now he tells the stories of farm life, adding even more humor to his tales.
James Herriot was a country vet in Devonshire England during the WWII era. He was perhaps the greatest of the agricultural storytellers, to this day I don’t believe there is a man who has captured the hardy spirit of the farmer as well.
Davy Crockett was a symbol of the American frontier. He was a congressman, adventurer, soldier, and trapper. He had the boldness to tell his frontier stories in the very halls of congress, nearly giving the stuffy politicians of the time heart attacks.
Howard Pyle wrote several different books for young boys over his career. Taking various stories from Europe, he re-introduced Robin Hood and the Knights of the Round Table to generations of children.
On my shelf sits books from these authors and others, including, Aseop, The Brother’s Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson, H. Rider Haggard, and Alexandre Dumas.
Here on the farm storytelling is common, my parents and family will share stories back and forth, especially when company comes over. But more often than not I use it when I’m at farmer’s markets. People enjoy being entertained by a snapshot into farm life, they like hearing about cattle, chickens, and the oddities of the profession.
It’s my experience that often it’s the older people who have the best stories, they’ve lived long enough to get good ones, and tell them often enough that they are well told.
With some people, often writers, storytelling is a gift, something they are born innately with. If that doesn’t describe you don’t worry, like anything practice can take a silent man in the corner to the center of attention with a good story.
From books to movies to around the farm fireplace, stories are instrumental to teaching lessons, conveying ideas, or simply to entertain.