Thursday, April 19, 2012
Tell Me A Story
I saw a television story a few years ago about Don Hewitt, the creator of 60 Minutes. According to the program, he would ask his journalists to “Tell Me A Story”.
I love telling stories. If it’s a good story, readers will want to read it, and that gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.
Is storytelling becoming a lost art? Are we so inundated with digital content that we’ve forgotten the art of sitting around a campfire, swapping stories? Consider the societies in the world that pass on knowledge verbally. Stories handed down for hundreds of years, virtually verbatim. It boggles the mind. Could we do that? I doubt it.
I find myself wishing that I had listened more closely to the people in my life who had unique stories to tell. My grandfather on my father’s side worked on building the CPR across Canada. He was obviously highly skilled, as he was allowed to bring his family on the train as they moved. What I’d give to go back in time and hear his experiences.
My grandmother on my mother’s side emigrated from Ireland with my mother after her husband was killed in WWI. She must have been a great storyteller because I recall her telling me how she worked in the linen factory. The details escape me, but she was young at the time and worked in a confined space where the looms whizzed very close to her. Come back, Grandma. I’d like to hear more.
My own father rode the rails with a friend across Canada in the “dirty thirties.” He and a Peeler were hauled off the train by the police in Alberta and sent to work on a farm. Probably the best food they had; they went back the following year and worked there again. He told me about the hobo camps along the way, and how he actually rode on Kettle Valley section of the railway, only a portion of which still exists as a tourist destination in the town where I now live. Dad also worked in a gold mine in northern Quebec as a mucker. His knuckles were misshapen for the rest of his life, but he was still a sight to behold when he was fly fishing. How many people do you know would say "no thanks" when National Geographic asked to film him fishing? That was my Dad.
My husband told me stories about a year spent commercial fishing off the west coast of Vancouver Island. He told me of foggy nights in his bunk, listening to the screws of huge tankers coming close, closer, and then finally passing. Or of circular bait balls of fish measuring fifty feet across, dotting the surface of the ocean as far as could be seen.
I can’t get those stories back now, but these days I’m more likely to slow down and say “Tell Me A Story.”