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A little less than a happy high
Stories to tell
Part of the benefit of Paul's visiting his family in Arkansas was that he came back with a new arsenal of his family's oral history. As we sat in John Harvard's he told me story after story about things that his grandmother remembered. Paul's folksy storytelling is something I'd recommend to anyone. His normally subdued demeanor is replaced with a kind of quiet enthusiasm. It's almost as though knowing how the story turns out animates him. His humor punctuates everything, and the raised eyebrow or slight smile becomes as important to the story as the story itself.

Because you might not have the opportunity to be audience to his recounting, and because I like the idea of having things recorded, I'm going to keep a few of them here.

One of the first things that he told me was that he had ancestors who fought on both sides of the American Civil War. When you think about Arkansas, you don't really consider a great deal of familial crossing of the Mason-Dixon, and true to form, the connection to the "damned Yankees" is a little convoluted.

It turns out that Paul's great-great-grandmother was a a child when the Civil War came through her area. There was a chicken who had built a nest under their porch, and she had grown fond of that chicken and started thinking of it as her pet.

As happens, when the Union army came through the area, they began to gather livestock, chickens, eggs, and whatever else they could find to supplement their field rations. Paul's great-grandmother caught sight of a soldier who started crawling under the porch to go after her chicken and she freaked. She grabbed a nearby pail and hit him about the legs and butt repeatedly, screaming, "You damned Yankee! Get away from there! Don't you eat my pet chicken!"

The soldier was understandably amused, so he crawled out and sat down with this firey little girl and talked to her. They talked for hours. Eventually, his company had to move on and he said good-bye.

The chicken was left behind unharmed.

After the war ended, he came back to live with her family and work on the farm. When she turned 16, he proposed to her and they were married shortly thereafter, bringing his damned Yankee blood into a right upstanding Johnny Reb family.

Current Mood: entertained

7 comments or Leave a comment
From: bullhead Date: September 19th, 2002 06:24 am (UTC) (Link)

alice munro has a great short story called "how i met my husband". i love those stories--hers sort of has a red herring in it, too.
komos From: komos Date: September 19th, 2002 06:51 am (UTC) (Link)
I just love the idea of a little girl beating up the hind-side of a soldier with a pail while calling him a "damned Yankee" all because of a beloved chicken. I mean, how much more adorable can you get?

I can't say that I've read Alice Munro, but I'll see if I can find it. Thanks!
From: uruz Date: September 19th, 2002 06:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Paul's stories are always fun.
cosmicserpent From: cosmicserpent Date: September 19th, 2002 06:58 am (UTC) (Link)
That's a cute story, but now I'm going to be thinking of the rock opera "Damn Yankees" all fucking day.
komos From: komos Date: September 19th, 2002 07:41 am (UTC) (Link)

Get out of my MIINNND!

It's too bad there isn't a rock opera called "Eating Pet Chickens."

It would be a classic.

You could even work in a not at all subtle anti-government/anti-war theme. Yeah, that'd be cool.

cosmicserpent From: cosmicserpent Date: September 19th, 2002 09:13 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Get out of my MIINNND!

I think it's time we all quit our jobs and wrote nothing but Rock Operas. It'll be grand.
komos From: komos Date: September 19th, 2002 11:48 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Get out of my MIINNND!

It would take but a subtle push to drive me over the edge.
7 comments or Leave a comment