Being a North Georgia girl I had both sets of grandparents who were excellent storytellers. Storytelling is an art. The speaker has to know their breaks and deviations to pad the basic story and to add spice, but they also have to be aware of their audience. I was fortunate. Three out four grandparents could spin a yarn and I got lots of family stories. Who were my storytellers?
By far, the greatest was the reserved Little Grandpa who had little hair to comb in the front and it was dark grey and light grey. His hands were enormous and would envelop me when I came near- one hand could grab my wrist and the other would give me an Indian rub, or he’d wrestle with one hand while I pulled and giggled. He was mostly silent and the only time he talked was in their screened in porch, or to Grandma Marjorie watching Grand Ole Oprah or telling her to sush because she’d get upset and start up a hissy, and all that would calm her right away were the few words, “Hey, now” and she’d become quiet and then begin to prattle away in a happy voice.
During storytime he’d be in the rocker and ever so gently he’d go back and forth and inhale and exhale his cigarettes. I’d be laying on the glider behind him next to the vine and trellis listening to him and Grandma Marjorie talk. Often he or Grandma Marjorie would bring an apple and peel it for me. Little Grandpa would make one peel. He’d make a spiral of the apple skin and hand it to me to eat. Grandma Marjorie would slice the apple and they'd eat the fruit with a few pieces given to me. Then, the story would come and my grandmother would be silent, a feat in itself, and the only other sounds would be the rocker and glider going back-n-forth on the same beats. His voice was mildly deep and had little range. He was not dramatic, but let the words and pauses and digressions move the suspense forward.
I’d always asked for the story of Ghost Hound and although I’m 45 and I’m going into my memory some 37 years back to age eight. I still get a racing heart. The story is short and little room for digressions, but let me try…
Hey, now, we was poor. You know, but we lived well. We didn’t know we were poor. There was always food, but we had to work hard. Our farmlands were not ours. We worked them. I had a big family. There was eight of us and mass of dogs, cats and even a goat. I remember we’d built a cart for the goat to carry us in. We’d hook him up and ride. He’d run down near the fence far down our property that boarded the land that was not ours. Our land was through the woods, on the other side. You know. We didn’t have TV. We had radio, but even then we’d get too hot in our house and at night after last chores we’d sit on the porch- a wide one without screens, and look at the sky and tell stories. But, this is true. I saw it with my own eyes. I don’t lie. It isn’t worthwhile to lie because then you have to remember your untruth and it stays with you. There were all sorts of dogs at our place and mainly huntin’ kind. But, daddy had a pin for them and one of us always had to feed them. We’d had an old grey hunting dog, but he died and this happens on farms your animals die on ya. Think nothing of it. But, one night we was lookin’ out and saw a glowing light. A big light size of that dern ol’ coon dog. It was him, alright. We stopped talkin’ and someone called his name, but he disappeared. A few days later we saw him again. This time we kept quiet and watched. He was going to the fence. Ain’t lyin’ we all saw him. Eleven of us on the porch- with one of daddy’s brothers visitin’. You could hear us breathin’ but nothing else. We watched him go through the wires of the fence. Like they weren’t there. Next, morning we go down to the fence and there are paw prints. Never saw him again.