The second year I attended the Storytelling Festival in Mineral Point, WI, I brought my son and he brought two friends. Chris had asked to bring Matt and Mark’s Mother had approached me and asked that I bring Mark too because “You do all those special, creative things with your boys.” These three boys were 11 and 12 years old. They were fully registered participants whose basic rules were that they might attend what they wished and go where they wished but had to have meals with me. We stayed in the motel with the “Sleeps 5” room again.
Author George Shannon told a story. He sat by a tree in the park outside the library, in the warmth of a spring afternoon. The three boys sat on a bench as far as possible from the group and almost within hearing distance in spite of the cars going by. Shannon told of Mama Goose and her little geese. Storyteller Beth Horner told the story of “Wily and the Hairy Man.” Others told. I listened and I watched. The park bench sprouted legs pretty soon after the telling began. It and the boys crept closer and closer until the boys could hear well and were part of the group.
Saturday evening’s concert took place in the High School gymnasium with those folding, creaking wooden bleachers. The three boys took seats in the highest, darkest corner of the bleachers. Many told. Mark Wagler stepped forward with his walking stick and told two stories, one a folktale and the other the story of Odysseus’ escape from the Cyclops. The boys moved creaking row by creaking row until when Cyclops was vanquished, they were seated almost front and certainly center.
Sunday morning’s Spiritual Stories included Larry Johnson and Elaine Wynne and their telling of “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.” We made the cranes while the three boys surrounded the doughnuts and juice to the rear of the church basement. Reid Miller then told the story of the two brothers, each giving secretly to the other and thinking himself the one blessed to be able to give. Toward the end, Reid said “and then all the friends and neighbors came…” We stood and joined hands in the traditional NSN circle. Reid looked expectantly toward the boys. We waited. The boys looked up and went back to guarding the doughnuts.
Reid spoke a bit louder and said “Friends and neighbors came from FAR AWAY…” He looked again. We looked. The boys ate doughnuts. Reid said “SOME OF THEM CAME FROM VERY FAR AWAY AND IT TOOK THEM LONGER THAN THE OTHERS…” He looked again. We looked. The boys joined the circle.
Once again, I saw the power of story.
Patricia Rose Ballard Coffie (C1982)