Telling stories

Posted 5/20/18

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 …

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Telling stories

Posted

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 whisky 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 had 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.


Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Goes On is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at rick@homefolkmedia.com.