Saturday, November 19, 2022

Hazelwood School

 I spent the first six years of my educational life at Hazelwood Elementary School. Hazelwood was a very small mill town on the outskirts of WAYNESVILLE…the separate town no longer exists as it has been incorporated into WAYNESVILLE itself.  There is now a new elementary school and the old building has been repurposed as the headquarters for FOLKMOOT, a world wide folk arts organization.

But…the old auditorium has been restored as a wonderful performance space.  This week I got to tell stories there, right in my old school auditorium!

It was a sold out house and many of my old school mates were there. It was really fun for me to look out into the audience as I told stories that actually happened in that space.

Special guests in the audience included my cousin, Nancy Carol, and her husband, Gordon.  They brought Nancy Carol’s mother, my Aunt Nancy, from where she now lives in Asheville.  She is my mother’s last surviving sister and is about to turn ninety-five years old. She is bright and fun! The next day we visited her at her home at the Brooks-Howell Retirement Home.

I also got to take Trish around the old school and show her memory places.  Here I am standing right by the door of the room where my mother taught second grade. She taught at Hazelwood for 38 years.  When she started, Mr. Lawrence Leatherwood was the principal and his little boy, Larry, was in her room. When she finished teaching there, Larry himself was her principal! Lots of memories!

Sunday, November 6, 2022

From South Dakota to Nebraska

 After our rest days in Custer, Trish and I headed across South Dakota to get back to work.

As we departed we were going to take the Needles Highway through Custer State Park, but, we discovered that they had closed that road for the winter.  We did, however, get as far as Sylvan Lake in the Park before the road was closed.  Just this one view was worth the entire drive.  It was otherworldly.

There were also plenty of deer to see on this drive.  After a while we lose count as they seem to be everywhere.  Along the major highways there are frequent seasonal light-up signs warning drivers to keep special lookout for deer.  There are so many they are a real danger.

After a Saturday workshop in Canistota, South Dakota, we drove down to Nebraska to a monastery called St. Benedict’s.  This was the setting for a four day retreat with the American Baptist Church Ministers’ Council.  We had a lovely time.

Each day started with early breakfast and this was our morning scene as St. Benedict himself presided over the sunrise.

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Back in South Dakota

 This weekend I have a workshop in South Dakota, so, when Trish and I finished at the Athens, Alabama, Festival, we drove out to Custer to rest and enjoy the scenery for the days in between.

We are in a little cabin just outside town where we have our own kitchen and laundry.  We don’t have to go out to eat and we can get everything clean for the next part of this trip.  We can also sleep as late as we wish.

Today we took a ride around the Wildlife Loop at nearby Custer State Park.  We got our money’s worth in animals!  We saw 36 deer, 40 big horn sheep, 11 wild burros, 14 wild turkeys, many hundreds of bison, thousands of prairie dogs, five buzzards, a coyote, and one chipmunk!  The animals were out in great numbers everywhere.

This is a good time to be here.  When we were here in August, they told us that the big horn sheep stayed way back in the mountains.  Now they had taken over an empty campground and were grazing happily.

In August the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally had scared the bison into the back country. Today there were dozens of separate family units scattered through the park.  We drove right up to many and others blocked the road for us!  They are taking on their winter coats.

It was a beautiful day for a ride and there were almost no other vehicles on the loop.  We love being able to visit places like this after the busy tourist season is over.

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Athens Storytelling Festival

 All this week Trish and I are in Athens, Alabama, for the sixteenth Athens Storytelling Festival.

This Festival is unique in that on Tuesday we begin to see nearly 2,000 students each day as they arrive on field trips for storytelling.  We do this for three full days before the actual “festival” gets underway on Friday.

Due to COVID, we did not have these students for the past two years, but, they instantly became excellent audience members and we had a great time with them.  The tellers for the student days with me have been Tim Lowrey, Bil Lepp, and Bobby Norfolk.

On Tuesday night there was a fantastic community music program in the tent.  The show combined two favorite groups, The Dill Pickers and Three on a String.  These wonderful groups played and sang both separately and together for a wonderful two-hour show.  It warmed our hearts since the weather was very cold outside!

Tomorrow the audience changes from students to regular festival attendees.  There is also a change in some for the tellers for the weekend.  We say goodbye to Tim and Bobby and hello to Dolores Hydock and Josh Goforth.  We also will be happy for a break in the cold weather as we are being promised a high that may get into the seventies.

This is a model festival everyone enjoys!

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

At the Swag

 Following our week in Jonesborough for the National Storytelling Festival, Trish and I come over to my home town of WAYNESVILLE, North Carolina, for a recovery week at The Swag.  The Swag is an award winning country inn located right against the boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is owned and operated by our friends, Annie and David Colquitt.  

Each day I tell stories from five to six o’clock in the late afternoon just before dinner time. When the inn is full, there are only thirty-four people here.  It is a great change from the multi-thousand tents at the Festival last week.

The elevation here is 5,000 feet and the fall colors are just moving into their full glory.  Today was a picnic day and we led a “slow walk to the picnic” taking people on the Cataloochee Divide Trail to Gooseberry Knob for the picnic.  This gives me a chance to tell people all about this place where I romped around in my growing-up years. It was a lovely crisp autumn day.

We are here until Sunday and each day the colors promise to become more and more vibrant.  What a good way to regroup after the busyness of last week.

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Back in Jonesborough!

 We have just finished a very busy week back in Jonesborough, Tennessee, for the 50th National Storytelling Festival.  

My first Festival was forty-two years ago and I have been on the stage there every year since.  Trish and I even came to Jonesborough last year when the Festival was COVID-cancelled because that is where we belong on the first weekend in November.

I started the week as the Teller in Residence for the week and did ten shows in the center theatre from Monday through Thursday.  Wednesday night we were in the library tent for a wonderfully full and excited audience.  Everyone has been so happy to be back at the Festival in person.

On Friday morning the full Festival started with all the other tellers.  There were both old friends and new tellers to meet and work with for the weekend.

One exciting new teller was Brigid Reedy who came with her brother, Johnny, from Montana.  They immediately bonded with our great friend, Josh Goforth, and even played together a couple of times during the weekend.


The Yarnspinner Party on Saturday night was a great celebration of fifty years of storytelling in Jonesborough.  We are already looking forward to coming back next year as things continue to return to normal after our involuntary COVID hiatus.

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Ocracoke to Jonesborough

 We left the island on Wednesday on our way to Jonesborough.  We had already planned to leave on this day much before Hurricane Ian came on the scene.  We thought that, perhaps, more people would be departing, but the ferry was mostly empty and it was the last ferry of the day.

It turned out that our plan was a good one as, following our ferry, nothing ran across the Sound for the next two days and even the Hatteras Ferry shut down.  We would not have been where we needed to be had we not left early.  This is just one of the things you have to keep in mind when living in an island.

After all was over, there was just a bit of rain and wind.  Enough to disrupt travel but not enough to cause us any damage.

One of the reasons we came to Jonesborough this early before the Festival is so that I could play with the Uke Band at the Senior Citizens’ Center on Thursday.  I play with the Jonesborough Novelty Band throughout the Festival Weekend, so, this is a good warmup for the coming week.

The band, led by our friend and host, Terry Countermine, started out as a group of people learning ukulele.  It has evolved into a group of multiple instruments with people who just wanted a chance to get together and play every week.  By now they even have some performance events to which they are invited.  What a wonderful thing to have in a small community.

By being here early we also got to hear our friend, Beth Horner, tell stories at the Storytelling Center as part of the Teller In Residence program.  We love to settle in to Jonesborough and be all rested before the busy week of the Festival.  By being here early I also am invited by our friend, Allen Huff, to preach at the Jonesborough Presbyterian Church this Sunday.  

Next week…all the work and fun begins!

Hazelwood School

 I spent the first six years of my educational life at Hazelwood Elementary School. Hazelwood was a very small mill town on the outskirts of...