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Push the play button to hear about my interview with Dolly Parton

 

The All-Day Talker

Here is a story that I made up

 

A storyteller needs at least two things: a story and an audience.

Charlie Owens had neither.  All his life Charlie had wanted to be a storyteller.  He was 75 and lived on Hogback Mountain, located in the uppermost corner of South Carolina, in the place known as The Dark Corner.

Charlie would tell his version of “stories” to anyone who would listen. His clear blue eyes would come alive. He would go through all the motions. He would smile or grimace, and he would gesture with his hands waving in the air. Sometimes he ran his fingers through his thick mane of white hair and then slapped his forehead when making a point.

Trouble was Charlie’s stories seldom had a point. Sometimes he would start a story in the middle and put the beginning at the end. He could ramble on and on non-stop from one recollection to another. He mixed up bible stories with fairy tales:

“Jack climbed the beanstalk and jumped on a donkey and helped Delilah cut Samson’s hair at the Battle of Jericho and then a big ol’ bear came up ate their porridge.”

Charlie had a hard time holding an audience. Maybe you know storytellers like this. Charlie enjoyed his tales more than anyone else enjoyed hearing them. But people liked Charlie because he was a real nice fella, never had bad feeling toward anyone.  People just tolerated his constant chatter.  But they did not call him a storyteller. They called him the all-day talker.  He’d start talking in the morning when he got up and would still be talking when the moon came out.

When no was around, he talked to himself. He would laugh at what he thought was a funny line. He was often by himself at his cabin on Hogback because his wife, Esther, passed away a few years back. Some of the less-kind, mean-spirited gossips around The Dark Corner said he talked her to death. It was not true.  She lost her hearing about 10 years before she passed, so she just turned off her hearing aid and smiled and nodded while Charlie yapped away. We don’t know for certain whether he noticed.

In his 75th year, Charlie fell ill and was facing his final days. He had a bad heart.

But he kept talking right up to the moment that he was sedated for heart surgery and woke up from it still talking. The surgery just gave him only a few more months. As the end was drawing near, Charlie lay in a hospice bed, talking to the nurses and any visitors.

The hospice called his only child, his grown daughter, Lilly, to be with him during his final hours. She held his hand as he told her about being visited by an angel during the night.

 

“This angel showed me the future,” he said. “She took me up on a bluff on Hogback. It was fall and the mountain side and valley below were splashed with colors, red, yellow, gold.”  His face broke into a big grin.  “Gentle autumn breezes were blowin’,” he said. “Oh, Lilly, it was so beautiful and peaceful.” 

 

“That angel showed me how I would spend eternity. Up on that bluff was a big ol’ rockin’ chair, like a throne, where I would sit. And under a big ol’ oak were rows and rows of chairs where people were sittin’ and listenin’ to me. To me, for God’s sake.”

“And I knew some of ‘em, like your departed husband Ralph who was killed in that car wreck. And there was Pete, the bartender at the No Name Saloon who died from a sickly liver last year.  And there was Uncle Bill and Aunt Hattie. They passed away years ago from the fever. And I saw ol’ Pastor Ludlow Bean who was killed in that unfortunate moonshine still explosion.   There was others. Strange thing is I didn’t see your Ma there. Maybe she was on one of the back rows.”

 

Lilly was surprised because this might be the most coherent yarn her father had ever spun.

“Oh, Lilly, I finally had an audience,” Charlie said.  “I’m not afraid to die now. I’m actually lookin’ forward to it, getting’ to tell my stories forever.”

 

Lilly started sobbing and patting his hand. “Oh yes, Daddy, it will be wonderful if heaven is what you always wanted.”

When he slipped into a deep sleep Lilly stepped out into the hall. She continued to sob.

A nurse who had been in Charlie’s room came over and put her arm around Lilly.

The nurse said, “I can see that you are overcome with his lovely vision of heaven. Forever fall on Hogback Mountain would be a wonderful thing,”

 

“Yes, yes it would great for him,” said Lilly. “But I’m not crying for him.  I’m crying for my late husband Ralph and Uncle Bill and Aunt Hattie and all those other folks.  ‘Cause while Dad’s gonna be fine in Heaven, but they all must be Hell.”

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Here is another story I wrote for Tampa's Straz Center blog:

The World Storytelling Day article from The Straz Center blog 
Click on: ​World Storytelling Day – Caught in the Act (strazcenter.org)











 

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