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Posts Tagged ‘stories’

Photo: Nathanael Coyne, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Native tribes have wonderful stories about relations with animals, including “man’s best friend.”

This morning I got a kick out of talking to Stuga40 in Sweden about my post on dog research and the entertaining corroboration that Hannah sent. So I decided to continue the theme with something from the radio show Living on Earth.

“BOBBY BASCOMB: Many Native American communities belong to a clan which identifies with an animal. There are bear, deer, and loon clans to name a few. Those animals are featured in their traditional stories. So, to hear some of them I called up Joe Bruchac. He is a storyteller and musician with the Nulhegan Abenaki tribe of Vermont and Upstate New York. And Joe carves and plays traditional flutes. …

“JOE BRUCHAC: We say that the flute came to be when a woodpecker made holes in the hollow branch of a tree that was broken off at the end and the wind blew over it and created that first flute music. So when we play the flute, we try to keep in mind, it’s a gift of the trees and the wind, and the birds. A flute could be played for pleasure or to keep yourself from feeling lonely. …

“BASCOMB: I hope to hear some more of your flute music a little later in this segment. But first, can you get us started with a story? I understand you’re going to tell us a traditional story about dogs.

“BRUCHAC: That’s right. They say that long ago, the one we call Gluskonba, the first one in the shape of a human being was walking around. This was the time before the people came to be on this land. Now one of the jobs Gluskonba had been given by the Creator was to make things better for those humans when they got here. And so he thought, I wonder what the animals will do when they see a human being for the first time. I better ask them.

“And so Gluskonba called together a great counsel of all the animal people. And then as he stood before them, he said, ‘I want each of you to come up and when I say the word for human being, tell me what you will do.’ Now the first one to step forward was the bear. In those days bear was so large, he was taller than the tallest trees. His mouth was so huge, he could swallow an entire wigwam. And when Gluskonba said the word ‘alnoba,’ which means human being, the bear said ‘[bear grunt] I will swallow every human being that I see!’

“Gluskonba thought about that. He thought to himself, ‘I do not think human beings will enjoy being swallowed by bears, I’d better do something.’ And so he decided to use one of the powers given to him by the Creator, the power to change things, a power that we human beings also have and often misuse. Gluskonba said to the bear, ‘You have some burrs caught in your fur, let me comb them out with my fingers.’ And so the bear sat down in front of him, and Gluskonba began to run his fingers along the bear’s back and as he did so, combing out those burrs, he also made the bear get smaller and smaller, until the bear was the size that bears are to this day.

“And when Gluskonba said to him, ‘And now what will you do when you see a human being?” that bear looked at itself and said, ‘[bear grunt] I will run away!’ Which is what bears usually do to this day.

“Now the next one to come forward was one we call Kitschy moose: the big moose. Moose by the way, is one of our Abenaki words, it means the strange one, and that moose back then was really strange. It was so large that his antlers were bigger than the biggest pines, they were sharper than the sharpest spears, and when Gluskonba said the word ‘alnoba’ that moose said, ‘I will spear every human being I see, spear them on my horns and throw them over the tree tops, and stomp them with my hooves until they’re as flat as your hand!’

“And again Gluskonba thought, ‘I do not believe human beings will feel much pleasure at being speared and flattened by moose. I’d better do something.’ So he said to that moose, ‘Nidoba, my friend, you appear to be very strong. Let us have a contest, I will hold up my hands and you will try to push me backward.’ The moose agreed, it leaned forward, putting its nose in one of Gluskonba’s hands, its huge horns in the other, and began to push, and push. But Gluskonba did not move. And that moose’s horns got smaller and rounder and the moose itself got very, very, very much smaller than it was before and also his nose got all smushed in. And the moose looked at itself when Gluskonba said, ‘And now what will you do when you see a human being?’ the moose said, ‘Uhh, I will run away.’ Now one after another Gluskonba talked to many animals. There’s almost for everyone a separate story. … But finally, just one animal was remaining.

“It sat there in front of him wagging its tail. It was of course the dog, and Gluskonba said to dog, ‘Nidoba, my friend, are you going to do something to harm the human beings when they arrive here?’ And the dog shook its head and said, ‘No, I’ve been waiting for human beings to come! I want to be their best best friend, I want to play with their children, I want to go hunting with them, I want to live in their houses with them and share their food and even climb in bed with them, I want to be their best best best best friend!’

“And Gluskonba looked at that dog, and he saw that dog’s heart was good. He said ‘Nidoba, my friend, you will be the best friend that human beings will ever have, a better friend than some of them deserve; and so we will know you by this name: Aalamos, the one who walks beside us.’ And so it is that to this day, it is the dog who walks beside us, our best best friend.”

For other delightful animal stories and some Abenaki flute music, click at Living on Earth, here.

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Owen-Jim-Copp

Photo: Playhouse Records
Back in the day, Jim Copp (right) “made recordings [with Ed Brown] that offered children funny fables replete with sound effects, and were literate and charming enough for adults,” says the
New Yorker.

Years ago, the older of my two younger brothers received a record player that looked like a jukebox and flashed colored lights. It was the beginning of his long romance with records. Neighbor kids came over to see this wonder, and we listened not only to music on the records but also to stories. Call it an early podcast platform. David Owen has a bit of history at the New Yorker.

“When my wife was a kid, in the early nineteen-sixties, she and her siblings listened, over and over, to records by Jim Copp. … Copp made nine records between 1958 and 1971. They contain stories, poems, and songs that he wrote, performed, and recorded with the help of his friend Ed Brown. …

“Stories involve a family that takes a cross-country car trip with a cow; a duck that, with excruciating effort, manages to speak just enough English to warn his housemate, a carpenter, that their kitchen is on fire; a dog with the longest name in the world who goes to Yale; … a nearsighted heron; and a feeble-minded old man, Mr. Hippity, who thinks his chicken pull toy is sick. Copp may be the reason that my wife and her siblings and both our children have always had good vocabularies: destitute, vituperative, locality, inauspicious, gauche, megalomaniac, union suit. …

“Not long after my wife received [tapes] from her brother, she noticed a tiny advertisement in The New Yorker for rereleases of Copp’s records, on cassette. She called the telephone number in the ad, and eventually realized that the person taking her order was Copp himself. … In 1993, I [interviewed] Copp in his home. …

“In 1939, friends whom he was visiting in Chicago dared him to enter a talent contest at the old Edgewater Beach Hotel, whose ballroom was popular with movie stars and mobsters. He performed several humorous pieces that he’d written as a student — ‘Arabella and the Water Tank,’ ‘Peaches and Myrtle’ (about two showgirls, one of whom murders the other), ‘The Mystery of the Revolving Tree Trunk’ — and won. …

“Copp got hooked on performing. During the next three years, he appeared, as James Copp III and His Things, in some of Manhattan’s most famous night spots, among them the Blue Angel, Le Ruban Bleu, the Rainbow Room, and Café Society. … In 1941, Liberty released six of his night club pieces, on a set of three 78s.

“He was drafted a year later, and became the adjutant of an intelligence unit that took part in the Normandy invasion. … He returned to the United States in 1946, but decided that New York and its night clubs had changed in ways he didn’t like.

“Copp decided that his best chance of preserving his night-club material was to rework it, slightly, for children. He experimented with a wire recorder — a tape precursor, which recorded magnetically on steel wire. He sold one piece, ‘The Noisy Eater,’ to Capitol Records, which Jerry Lewis recorded, in 1952. … He decided that from then on he would make his own records. He … would record a single character or instrument or effect on one machine, then play that tape in the background as he recorded another on one of the others. For some pieces, he ‘ping-ponged’ as many as ninety layers. He sped up some voices and slowed down others, all without fancy equipment, and he added homemade sound effects.” For the long read, check out the New Yorker, here.

The story brought back memories, especially of my father’s wire recorder. He had a couple of his recordings made into actual records, and when I grew up, I found someone to turn a record featuring my squeaky voice (“The Birth of Willie”) into a cassette tape.

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The Little Golden Book called The Poky Little Puppy, by Janette Sebring Lowrey and Gustaf Tenggren.

Golden Books were a big part of my childhood. What about yours?

My mother especially liked to read us The Poky Little Puppy, I guess because we were all inquisitive — and took too long with everything.

Recently, NPR offered a trip down that memory lane.

From Lynn Neary: “In the 1950s and ’60s, if there were any children’s books in a house, at least one of them was likely to be a Little Golden Book. … Those beloved books celebrate their 75th birthday this year.

“First introduced shortly after the start of World War II, many of them — such as The Tawny Scrawny Lion, The Saggy Baggy Elephant and The Poky Little Puppy — have become classics. …

” ‘Up until then, children’s books were found mostly in libraries or high-end book stores and were meant to be handled with care. They tended to be very expensive. So even if you could find one of these books in a store, only a certain percent of the population could afford to bring them home,’ explains author Leonard Marcus.

“Marcus wrote The Golden Legacy: The Story of the Golden Books. He says the printers, publishers, writers and artists who brought Golden Books to the market had a lofty goal — they wanted to “democratize children’s books,” making them both affordable and accessible. To that end, they were sold in department stores, train stations, drugstores and supermarkets. …

“Golden Books became a kind of totem of the times for baby boomers who grew up in the 1950s and ’60s. George Saunders, author of the bestselling Lincoln in the Bardo, says Golden Books were a highlight of his visits to his grandmother. …

“He says he remembers the pictures best: ‘In those editions there’s some magic between the words and the images. … I could feel in my mental and physical reaction to those books that something really incredible was going on.’ …

“The books are now published by Penguin Random House.” More.

I loved Golden Books. My father preferred to read us books he considered classics. He was certainly amusing when reading Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories. But my brother and I found Hans Christian Andersen stories creepy (the children of Dickens found Andersen himself creepy when he visited). The one upbeat tale in our Andersen collection — “The Tinder Box” — we insisted our father read over and over no matter how often he urged us to pick a different one.

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I have decided that if Ireland ever names people as national treasures, it should include James J. Hackett of Moate.

Last night at the Kellys’ party, James clinked the glasses at the table and called everyone to attention. Then he recited Yeats’s poem “The Ballad of Father Gilligan,” preceding it with a little history and acting out all the parts.

The grandson of a man who taught Latin and Greek in a hedgerow school back in the dark days when the English forbade sending Irish children to school, James has taken it upon himself to preserve the culture. His ordinary conversation is a living history, and he is frequently dropping into poetry.

James’s book Days Gone By is written in the way he speaks when talking to friends or taking people on a tour of some ruin. Consider this sample.

“It was long past the witching hour when the poteen revellers came upon Kate resting on the puchann and in a most distressful state.* They took her along to the wake, where she related all her adventures. Great was the wonder and fear that was expressed at hearing this story, and needless to say, many a post mortem was held upon Kate Brambles’s account of the witches’ dance at the half way house in Ballylurkin Bog on the Hallow’een night that Tubbs Lanigan was waked.”

Recent chronicler of Ireland lore and customs Turtle Bunbury discovered James in Moate and has included him in one of his Vanishing Ireland books. Bunbury also features James on a Facebook page, which I hope to access as soon as Turtle accepts my friend request.

[Update: Turtle has just put my post on his page, here.]

You may recall that I blogged about James once before, here, at another time that he was visiting his Rhode Island cousin.

(*James says a “puchann” is a little hill in a bog.)

Photo: Suzanne’s Mom
James J. Hackett in New Shoreham. He made his own shillelagh of blackthorn. He also made one for John and mailed it to him with instructions on how to cure the wood.

070314-james-hackett

 

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