Storytellers far and few between now

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 14, 2004

There aren't enough good storytellers left in the world. I hadn't really thought about this much until I had the pleasure to meet and hear stories from one of Alabama's most treasured resident's Kathryn Tucker Windham this past weekend.

Windham was attending the Okra Fest in Lowndes County as a featured storyteller. Even though she has many miles behind her she hasn't missed a beat. She can still spin the yarn as well as she ever could.

Having grown up reading many of her books, it gave me a great deal of pleasure to finally be able to meet the woman whose stories had kept me entertained throughout my school days.

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To be able to hear her address an audience was definitely an experience. The festival, which had been abuzz, suddenly became quiet when she stepped on that porch.

There were people from four years old to around 80 sitting quietly to hear her speak. She didn't disappoint them.

As good as her stories were two statements she made in casual conversation stuck with me more. These two statements made me realize that Mrs. Windham and myself are fighting for two common causes.

The first is to keep sugar out of cornbread. The second is to keep our favorite folk tales and stories from the past moving down the line.

Growing up I used to love to listen to my grandparents and their friends tell stories about when they were children. They would talk about how tough the depression times were, or how uneasy they were in times of war. Hearing stories like this first hand has a much deeper effect on a child than reading it in a textbook. It gave me an interest in history that will never die.

On the other hand, there are some stories that are just for fun. Many of the stories they told were simply about tough situations they found themselves in during their younger days.

I never missed a chance to listen in when they got started.

Hearing the stories is something Mrs. Windham referred to as "lap time." A time to take your children or grandchildren and just sit on the porch telling stories. She said it was time to turn off the televisions once in a while, unplug the video games and get back to talking to one another.

There is a lot to be said for someone who can rely on their wits to tell a good story and entertain people.

Mrs. Windham has kept this skill for years and hopefully, I will have the opportunity to see her many more times.

But we need more like her. More people willing and able to pass on stories from the past. Children need "lap time" with their parents and grandparents to remind them that things weren't the way they are now.

Without a first hand account to supplement what they learn in history books, the appreciation for the times just isn't there.

The world needs more storytellers like Mrs. Windham to remind us of how we made it this far and why we continue to plug on.

Rick Couch may be reached at

383-9302, ext. 132 or

via email at rick.