A Dog With No Name


We went to a breeder and picked her out even before she was old enough to come home. She was cute, I must admit, really cute.

Before you ask, she is a Shih Tzu, a small frou-frou dog from a breed originating in China.

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a puppy at my house. I’m just not quite sure what to do with her — housebreaking, chewing, and all those horrible things that puppies do. But she is really cute.

“What’s her name?” everyone asks.

She doesn’t have a name yet. We need to think of a name.

“How about Molly?” I ask.

My honey doesn’t like that one, but he can’t think of anything else. The entire family gets in on the act, but nothing seems to fit.

I wasn’t really in favor of another dog. Honey wanted a dog, and I finally caved in. His brother has a Shih Tzu. I blame him for this.

The dog needed to go to the vet for a checkup, so the appointment was made under “female puppy”. We can’t call her “female puppy” forever. She needs a name.

I look on the internet: “Daisy, Lulu, Missy?” I suggest.

Lulu? “Like the cartoon?” he asks sarcastically.

“Daisy is cute. I like that.” But he shakes his head.

“Muffin, Buttons, Skittles, Dixie, Bubbles?”

We still can’t decide. Nothing seems right — or good enough.

We go to the pet store to get a bed and a collar. We tell the pet store lady about the new puppy and that she doesn’t yet have a name. “Just wait,” suggests the lady at the pet store. “She will name herself.”

I don’t think so. I don’t want her to end up with a handle like Trouble, Puddles, or Boo-Boo. No, we need to think of something.

“A lady at work says she gives her pets people names,” suggests honey. That’s the new trend. Pets are just like members of the family, so people name them just like a person.

“People names like Molly?” I ask?

“No, names like Sam, Alex, or Cooper,” he replies.

“Well, those are names for a boy dog. What about Bonnie?” But he doesn’t like that either.

To make it even worse, his brother’s dog has a really cute name — Harley. We have to think of something at least as cute as Harley.

What about a Jewish name? I suggest, even though she is Chinese. We looked on the internet for Hebrew dog names: Hannah, Delilah, Naomi, Rebecca, Mollie?

“Mollie is on the list,” I say.

But he doesn’t like the meaning, “bitter.”

“She’s a dog! What does it matter what it means?”

Everything else is too grand for a puppy or unpronounceable. We want something people can pronounce.

Days go by. Poor nameless puppy, I am beginning to think her name will be “The Dog.”

“I need to name her before going to the veterinarian,” says honey. “What do you want to name her?”

“What do ‘I’ want to name her?” I’ve been making suggestions for two weeks — now he wants ME to name her?

“She’s YOUR DOG!” You decide!

Finally, on the morning of the doctor appointment, he puts her in the pet carrier and gets ready to go.

“What’s her name?” I dare to ask.


We have a new dog at my house, a Shih Tzu. She is really, really cute. Just in case anybody wants to know, her name is Dixie.

Copyright 2008 Sheila Moss
Posted in Creatures, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

I Love a Parade

NOLA stompers

I love a parade! Who doesn’t?  There are homecoming parades, Thanksgiving parades, and parades for the Fourth of July. But the parade I participating in was a jazz band parade in New Orleans.

New Orleans is known as the “birthplace of jazz” and jazz has become a traditional music suitable for almost every occasion there. There are jazz bands at weddings, conventions, parties, celebrations of all kinds — even funeral processions.

The Storyville Stompers are a brass band that plays traditional New Orleans music, the kind that jazz and Dixieland are based on. They are known for their performances at Mardi Gras, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, The French Quarter Festival and numerous other national and international celebrations.

When they are around, everything else stops.

The band parades on foot through the streets of the city with a drum-major leading as only a New Orleans drum-major can, with a lively step and a waving parasol that has become a legendry part of the New Orleans tradition.

When bands paraded in early times, children often followed behind imitating the high-stepping, umbrella-twirling drum major. Soon a second line of paraders formed, a line following after the band and a tradition known as “second lining” was born.

Attendees at a conference I attended in New Orleans had to walk several blocks from the hotel to a meeting at the Aquarium. Why walk when you can dance? And so the conference planners hired a traditional jazz band and before we knew it, we were high stepping and second lining as if we had been doing it for a lifetime.

It is hard to stand still when the Stompers play. No one can avoid dancing along. When a band plays jazz New Orleans style, the only thing that matters is having a good time.

We prepared. We bought kazoos to play and umbrellas to twirl. Here we were, a group of writers, nerds, and old folks, dancing through the streets of a city like a bunch of giddy kids.

Traffic stopped for us, tourists stopped for us, cameras flashed, and we boogied on. In New Orleans they have grown accustomed to street performances and only smile, wave and applaud, wishing they could join in or maybe even dancing right along.

I twirled my umbrella and danced just like everyone else. After all, what good is life if you can’t have fun? We marched into the aquarium, past the fish and aquatic animals and into the room where our event was being held.

I don’t know if the creatures were accustomed to such festivities or not, but they seemed not to mind. It was hard to play my kazoo and twirl my umbrella at the same time. Maybe I’m one of those people who can’t walk and chew gum without forgetting to do one of them.

We all made it in spite of traffic, rough sidewalks, gawking tourists, flashing cameras, heat and humidity, and hysterical laughter. Now, if anyone should ever ask, I can say that I’ve been second lining in New Orleans .

I really doubt that it will ever come up, though. It never has before.

Life is short and the world is a small place. Someday I can say, “And then there was a time in New Orleans when I went second lining with the Storyville Stompers Brass Band.”

I’m sure when I tell about it, the grandkids will simply say, ‘We’ve heard that story before, grandma. Tell us another one.”

Copyright 2008 Sheila Moss
Posted in Humor, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Beowulf Was Here

BeowulfOnce again I received a reminder that I’m not as young as I used to be. This time it’s bursitis. It’s pitiful when you get so old that all you have to talk about is your aches and pains. So, I tried to ignore it.  Mind over matter — if I don’t acknowledge it, maybe it will go away.

Unfortunately, this ache was in my right shoulder and I’m right-handed. It was starting to affect my computer arm. As much time as I spend clicking a computer mouse, it was starting to get down-right aggravating.

You can only ignore pain for so long. My mind over matter theory was melting quickly. I tried warm showers, long soaks in the tub, ice packs, and the old stand-by favorite, menthol rubs. Have you tried those new stick-on patches with icy-hot menthol built in? As good as they are, it was obvious that I needed something more than a stick-on patch.

“I feel like the monster in Beowulf!” I told my honey. Most people have studied the ancient epic poem called Beowulf, probably in a high school literature. To refresh your memory, Beowulf was the young hero of the story. To make a long classic short, Beowulf saved the mead (beer) hall when he killed a beast named Grendel by pulling it’s arm out of the socket. [Maybe that was how arm wrestling was invented?]

Regardless, it was time for me to see a doctor.  I couldn’t wait for an appointment by now. I was in too much pain. I considered an emergency room, but I was rather embarrassed to go to an ER for something that had had been hurting for two weeks. Why do we do things like this?

I went to the local urgent care clinic, sometimes called a “doc-in-the-box.”  Doc was sympatric and gave me a shot of cortisone and prescription for muscle relaxers.

Ah, sweet relief!

I quickly forgot that I was as ancient as the Beowulf epic and went right back to my regular routine. As you have probably guessed, as soon as the cortisone shot wore off, my pain came back. By this time the bursitis was a raging monster, threaten to devour my entire arm.

“Down beast!”

I’d better go to an orthopedic doctor. But I couldn’t wait. I had let it get out of control again. So, it was back to the old urgent care clinic. I knew the routine by now. But this time the doctor was a different one, a female. She was not as understanding.

“You’ve been here for this before?” she asked. I nodded in the affirmative. Old grouch, I thought. “You need to see your primary care doctor,” she said.

The doctor is telling me to see a doctor? What is she? Anyhow, she did give me another short of cortisone.  Funny thing about cortisone, it can makes things hurt much worse before it starts feeling better. Now I know why Grendel died of a displaced arm. I thought I was going to die too.

I finally called my primary doctor and made an appointment. Dr. Grouch at the clinic mentioned that I might need physical therapy. But, my arm is starting to feel much better today. I don’t know why I’m going to the doctor Monday when I feel fine on drugs.

As I said, it’s pitiful when you get so old you have nothing to talk about but your aches and pains. If my arm comes out of the socket, though, I won’t be able to type; so I figured I’d better get my column written while I still can.

If there is no column next week, you will know I have died of Beowulf syndrome.

Copyright 2008 Sheila Moss


Posted in Health, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hot Wings from Hell


“How about some hot wings from the new carry-out place?” my honey asked.

“I don’t remember a hot wings carry-out place. What’s the name of it?”

“Wing City or something like that… I can’t remember.”

“Okay, sounds good — as long as they are not too hot.”

I checked with my daughter.

Yes, she wanted some hot wings too — as long as they were not too hot.

We had a bad experience previously with wings from the pizza place. Somehow they got the hot sauce mixed up with the mild sauce. That little fiasco turned me against hot wings for a while. I don’t mind spicy food, but food so hot you can’t eat it is another matter.

We finally decided on bone vs. boneless, mild vs. hot, and regular Buffalo wings vs. other varieties. We were not sure what they had, but Honey was off to the new wing place to give it a try.

The food smelled delicious when he returned and the sticker on the box said MILD. I made sure of that. We were ready to chomp down.

I bit into the first wing. Something was wrong. “My mouth! My mouth! They are too hot!”

“But it says ‘mild’!”

Flames were shooting out of my mouth and I couldn’t reply. If this was mild I could not imagine hot. No celery to cool down with, nothing, I thought, as I fanned my flaming tongue with my hand.

I must be a fluke — I’ll try a different one. But it was hotter than the first. I tried to chew with my teeth and not let the food touch my tongue. Tears rolled from my eyes as molten lava filled my mouth. I quenched the inferno with half a diet coke while steam spewed from my nostrils.

I was going to kill my honey. He better prepare to die.

“Are yours too hot?” I asked my honey.

“Mine are the ‘medium’ flavor,” he said munching happily.

They couldn’t be any hotter. The man has no taste buds. His tongue must be made of asbestos. These wings were so hot the box was charred. These hot wings were from hell.

My daughter, who, also had the “mild” wings agreed.

Maybe if I wash off some of the sauce, I thought. I held one under the faucet and then tried one more time.

My mouth exploded like I had eaten a hand grenade. As rockets flared and fireworks lit the kitchen ceiling, I wiped the sweat from my face and visualized my death by cremation.

There was no use. I could not eat these wings. It could not possibly be that a different place had also mixed up the sauces? I couldn’t even throw them away in the trash can. They needed to go to the toxic waste dump with other hazardous materials.

I staggered into the kitchen for an ice cube to cool my blistered tongue and promised God that I would never eat another hot wing from hell as long as I live, regardless of how mild they are supposed to be.

Some people are flame-eaters and some are not.

Copyright 2008 Sheila Moss


Posted in Food, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments

New Orleans

DSCN1227The party never stops in New Orleans. The people are tourist-friendly and the visitors bureau is jazzed you are there.

The French Quarter is a quaint area of town where brightly-colored buildings have wrought iron balconies and flower boxes. The streets are very narrow since they were built in the 1700’s. In the evenings, bars are wide open and streets crowded with young people and pick pockets.

New Orleans summer weather is so hot and steamy that my hair immediately frizzed like an SOS pad. A walk down the street gave me a hot flash that even a pink hurricane drink in a souvenir glass couldn’t cool.

Everyone gives you strings of Mardi Gras beads to wear, which help identify you as a tourist. There is a mime, clown, human statue, or jazz musician on every corner working for tips. They seem to have more entrepreneurs per square foot than tourists.New Orleans-56

The fact that I had a camera around my neck and stopped to take a picture every two feet probably helped to identify me as an easy mark. There were so many tourists in the French Quarter that it was hard to tell if you were tipping the locals or each other. Everybody had their hand out.

However, the street people all worked, entertained you, played music or posed with you for an unforgettable snapshot for the folks back home. One clown told me I could probably sell his picture on eBay. I guess he forgot that clowns don’t talk.

Horses and carriages give picturesque tours of the city. You can also take an old-fashioned streetcar which runs down the tracks in the middle of Canal Street, but you have to get off and change streetcars to come back. It helps if you can remember which side is downtown and which side is uptown.

When the wild partying starts in the Quarter at night, old people like me go back to the hotel to growl about the noise, sirens, and cursing in the streets. But even the hotel had a Carousel Bar that revolved like a merry-go-round and made you a bit dizzy whether you were drinking or not.

DSCN1246One evening a brass jazz band led us through the streets to our evening event, and we followed in a New Orleans tradition called “second lining”. I’m sorry I didn’t get a picture but I was too busy twirling my umbrella. Even the crowd on Bourbon Street stopped to watch when we boogied by.

Walking down Bourbon Street one morning to check out the cheap souvenir shops, I saw a dog asleep on the sidewalk while his owner apparently visited a local watering hole. I took his picture and he didn’t even open an eye. I’m surprised he didn’t have a tip jar.

In the shops, the price is never the price. If you hesitate, the price begins to go down. I went to the French market one afternoon where I found a cool copper bracelet, that is supposed to help arthritis, at least according to the guy who sold it to me. Maybe I should have bought a voodoo doll. They were cheaper and no telling what I could have cured with one of those.

They have wonderful food and restaurants and a soup called gumbo that is full of shrimp, seafood and rice. They say you just have to eat it and not worry about what is in it. They eat crawdads there, although they have changed the name to crawfish to make them more appealing.

I heard our hotel had ghosts and I intended to check it out at about midnight. Unfortunately, I was so tired by nighttime that I couldn’t stay awake late enough. I did notice, however, that the hotel had no thirteenth floor on the elevator.

I’m still trying to recover from the trip. All the tourist areas are up and running and I definitely recommend it as a great place to visit.DSCN1223

Copyright 2008 Sheila Moss
Posted in Humor, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments


DSCN0356Last weekend my honey and I decided to go to the Oktoberfest in Germantown — that is, I decided and he went along. Other than having the distinction of spelling October with a “k”, what’s the difference between an October fest and any other fest? Well, to tell the truth, not much. A few tents with crafts and T-shirts, and a few with food and beer — which made honey hungry as soon as we arrived.

This Oktoberfest is a street festival billed as the oldest ethnic festival in Nashville; however, I only found out about it this year when I saw it in the paper. It’s in the oldest residential area of Nashville’s near northside with homes and cottages dating back to the 1800’s. Some are still residences; many have been turned into art studios, restaurants, or other business ventures. In the olden days, the area was populated largely by German residents, hence the name of the area.

DSCN0365editCapitalizing on a historic past, many cities are trying to rebuild blighted urban areas. Germantown is in the process of urban renewal, attempting to revitalize the area by updating and remodeling older, dilapidated residences. My honey was less interested in history than in finding a good parking place on the narrow back streets. The most ethnic part of the festival was the presence of several polka bands dressed in native costume and entertaining with lively music while visitors did the chicken dance. There seemed to be an unusual amount of sauerkraut available, a dish that I’ve always been able to pass by without regret — but I guess it wouldn’t be a German fest without out it.

DSCN0344What was most interested to me was the tour of homes. I dragged honey past the beer tents and we followed the map through the walking tour. Can you imagine anyone letting thousands of people walk through their personal residence? Some houses were in early stages of refurbishment. Others look like pages out of a home-decorating magazine. Even homes that were not open for public viewing had been refurbished in antique colors with appropriate fall decorations on the doors. In spite of a few jewels, the overall area still has a long way to go before totally successful development. Its strongest point is the location, within walking distance from the heart of the city.

Several homes were remodeled especially well and furnished with collections of antiques and memorabilia that would excite anyone even halfway interested in home decor. An especially interesting detail was use of bright paint on walls; some were red, and others featured various deep hues on different walls of the same room. While it sounds rather strange, it seemed to accentuate the older character of the homes. It also provided a perfect backdrop for the various collectibles of the owners. While I was visualizing my own walls painted in various bright colors, my honey was visualizing more food. I visited the arts and crafts tent while honey visited his favorite vendor for refreshments.

DSCN0358I’ve always found that the best way to become acquainted with a community is to attend local events, and to join in the spirit of the fun. Often the funds raised with these activities go to further upgrade a community. So, we sat on the street curb to rest and cool off while deciding what to do next.

As population and new construction have moved further and further from the places where people work, many people have become disenchanted with the daily commute in rush hour traffic, and cities have turned inward trying to reestablish the charm and convenience of older neighborhoods. It is interesting to see the possibilities and the lifestyles of those who have moved toward the city instead of away from it.

My honey was just happy when we figured out where we had left the car.

(c)2004 Sheila Moss
Posted in Humor | 3 Comments

Howl-o-ween Party


Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you find out you “ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.”

The other night we went to a Halloween party. Now I’ve been to Halloween parties before and have seen some pretty weird sights, but this one was strange in a different way. It was a Halloween party for dogs.

Yes, you read it right — dogs!

We have a pet store in town over in the new shopping plaza. It’s a cool place as they have gourmet dog food that helps our dog with her digestive problems, and cat litter that attracts cats who have an aversion to the litter box — all kinds of good stuff.

But that’s another story.

I’ve seen the pet clothes and pet costumes there and wondered who in the word, except maybe Paris Hilton, would put a dress or a costume on a dog. Well, at the party the other night, I found out. There are a bunch of people that do.

It seems that parties for dogs have been around a long time. I’ve just never been to one before. I really need to get out more.

There were all kinds of dogs and all kinds of costumes. There were princess dogs, bumble bee dogs, dog witches, and devil dogs. There were pirate dogs, clown dogs and even my favorite, a hot dog.

The dogs waited in line to get pictures taken (of course). Then they received their trick or treat bags, a much bigger hit with the dogs than the costumes. After the picture taking, there was a judging contest for the best dog costume. I felt really bad because our dog did not have a costume.

Wait! Am I nuts? I feel embarrassed because the dog does NOT have a costume?

At least she had Halloween bows in her hair, complements of the dog groomer. Actually the dog is more pampered that I am. Where are our priorities anyhow?

Pets are big business. People spend a fortune on pet products, an estimated 43 billion this year. I saw row after shinny row of food, all flavors for pets of all varieties. And that’s not to mention every pet accessory and toy the creative mind can imagine from beds, to leashes, to shampoo, to purse carriers.

Did I mention that there was a snake at the party? And I’m not speaking metaphorically here. It was a real snake, a really big snake, and the stupid thing even had a costume on. It’s as if dog parties are not bad enough. I suppose he came because he didn’t get invited to a Halloween snake dance.

Anyhow, I guess our dog had a good time. The treats were her favorite part, of course. When we got home, she ate them all up and then proceeded to try to pull the bows out of her hair and eat them too. I’m afraid she just isn’t going to make it as a party-dog.

There’s another dog party for Christmas. Don’t know if Santa Dog will be there or not and I’m not really sure if I want to know. Our dog is probably making out her wish list already. With all the dog toys she saw, it will probably be difficult for her to decide what she wants in her Christmas stocking.

New hair bows and a gift card might do it.

Copyright 2008 Sheila Moss
Posted in Creatures, Holidays, Humor | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Great Pumpkin Test


Most people don’t know this, but when my kids were small, I became rather adept at carving jack-o-lanterns. I thought that I could put away the carving tools when I became older and just make pumpkin pies or pumpkin bread, the way a respectable grandma should.

That’s what I thought.

“Do you want to go to the pumpkin farm and get a pumpkin?” I asked my grandson, envisioning the colorful photos I would take among the pumpkins, gourds, and Indian corn.

That’s what I thought.

But when arrived there, he ran from one thing to the next so fast that there was no hope of getting a picture of anything but a blur. He petted the farm animals, and ran through the corn maze where I got lost on the muddy path. I thought I’d never find my way out of the thing.

We now would select a nice child-size pumpkin to take home.

That’s what I thought.

He choose the largest pumpkin he could find off the $12 table, while I looked longingly at the smaller $3 pumpkins all the other children were carrying away.

We could just set the huge pumpkin on the porch for a harvest decoration, I figured.

That’s what I thought.

We were hardly inside the door until my grandson was ready to carve. “I want a scary face!” he declared.

We surfed the Internet looking for designs. Such artistic creations I’ve never seen in my life! I thought jack-o-lanterns were just a mouth, nose and two eyes, not masterpieces of vegetable creativity.

That’s what I thought.

My grandson had his own idea of the perfect pumpkin and drew a picture of what it should look like. Thanks goodness, his idea was closer to mine than to the more elaborate stuff.

“Grandma will do the knife part. Get a spoon and you can help with the inside.” He assured me that he knew how to use a knife. I assured him that he didn’t.

We decided do the honors outdoors so we wouldn’t have a big mess in the kitchen. After much cutting and tugging, I finally managed to cut the top off. Now he could scoop out the pulp inside.

That’s what I thought.

“Yuck! I’m not touching that stuff!” he proclaimed. How a boy could like snails and frogs and not the inside of pumpkin, I’m not sure, but I got to scoop out the pulp too.

Bees were attracted by the fresh smell of pumpkin and began buzzing around my head. I swatted bees away with one hand and carved with the other. This job should be completed in about half an hour.

That’s what I thought.

“You’re not doing it right! Carve this part! Where are the eyes? There’s still three seeds left inside!” proclaimed the pint-sized critic. Big pumpkins have extra thick and extra tough shells, I discovered. We labored on into the long afternoon, me carving, him supervising.

The neighbor across the street decided it was the perfect time for a bonfire, and the smoke drifted over into my yard. “Where’s the smoke coming from?” Surely it wouldn’t continue.

That’s what I thought.

We inhaled smoke, scooped pulp, fought bees, carved pumpkin, and wiped sweat until the last feature was carved, the last plug removed, and the pumpkin was finished – one tooth on top, two on bottom, just like the picture. By the time we finished cleaning up pumpkin seeds and hosing down the patio, I was ready to retire from the pumpkin carving business — forever this time.

That’s what I thought.

I may have to change my mind because I don’t know whose grin was the biggest, my grandson’s or the pumpkin’s.

Copyright 2004 Sheila Moss

Posted in Crafts/Hobbies, Family, Humor | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Good Samaritan


About halfway home from work, there was a loud bang like something had hit the side of the car. What was that noise? Then the car began to drive funny and was hard to control. By the time we got to the right lane, it was obvious we had problems. The tire had blown out and we were riding on the rim of the wheel, barely able to get off the road.

The tire was in shreds. So much for “drive flat” tires.

Here it was about 988 degrees and we were sitting on the side of the Interstate with a flat tire. I called AAA for emergency roadside assistance. “Are you safe?” They asked. I guess that’s a routine question. “About as safe as you can be stranded on an Interstate highway.” At least we were off the road.

AAA would make us a priority, they said. Somebody would be there in 90 minutes. 90 minutes? Good grief. That’s priority? If it takes that long in a populated area, I wondered how long it would take if we broke down in a remote location.

Nothing to do but wait.

We left the motor running so the air conditioner would work and watched the $4 per gallon gas slowly drain away. We put on the emergency blinkers. Cars roared by us at a deafening 70 mph, and we hoped no one would swerve into us.

The police flew by and pulled over a speeder up the road, but didn’t come back to check on us. Not that they could have done anything but call a tow truck anyhow, which we had already done.

Then a car pulled up behind us. The driver said he worked in the automotive field and offered to change the tire. He found the jack under the back seat, got the tire from under the car, jacked it up and changed the tire.

We were soon out of the heat and on our way, thanks to the help of a stranger. I called AAA back to cancel the tow and I told them a Good Samaritan changed it.

Do you know why people who do kindnesses for strangers are called Good Samaritans? It comes from a story about a man who was attacked by thieves and left by the side of the road. Others passed him by without stopping, but a man from Samaria stopped and helped him.

Anyhow, I had planned to go get a haircut that evening, so I went on to the beauty shop after the incident was over. While I was waiting, a lady was there trying to get a haircut and take care of two little kids who were wriggling and crying. Where’s her husband? He should be babysitting the kids.

When finished, the lady tried to pay with a check, but the shop wouldn’t accept checks. After she left to go to the bank for money, another customer who had seen the problem paid her bill as well as his own.

That’s weird! Another Good Samaritan? Two in a row?

Then I realized that I had messed up. Guess I wasn’t paying attention when that last urban legend was forwarded by email. Someone did a random act of kindness for me. This was my opportunity for payback and I let someone else do the paying.

In the legends, someone helps you and then you are given an opportunity to help someone back unknowingly. Undoubtedly, that was the stranger’s wife and kids who didn’t have the money to pay for a haircut. According to legend, I paid her bill and then found out the reason she was there with the kids was because her husband was helping someone with a flat tire on the Interstate.

I never was good at urban legends. I guess that’s why they are called “urban legends” instead of urban realities. In reality, things just don’t happen that way.

Copyright 2007 Sheila Moss
Posted in Automotive | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Art of Storytelling


It’s hard to believe that a sleepy little town like Jonesborough could come alive the way it does once a year. But come alive it does with so many people that you can’t imagine where they all come from or why they are interested in something as simple as storytelling.

Often we trek to East Tennessee to the tiny town of Jonesborough. It is the oldest city in Tennessee, but is better known as the storytelling capitol of the world and the home of the International Storytelling Festival.

Many in the crowd are seniors who remember the days when rocking on the front porch or sitting around the pot-bellied stove, telling stories and listening to those told by others was splendid entertainment. The ability to spin a good yarn was a highly regarded asset and good stories might be passed from generation to generation.

Stories may be true or embellished with the imagination of the teller to make a good story even better. Sometimes it is difficult to tell the truth from the fiction. In fact, a good liar with an obvious exaggeration might be considered even better than the truth and telling tall tales is a skill of its own.

At the storytelling festival there is a little bit of everything. Some folks specialize in traditional folk stories passed down for so long that no one really remembers where they came from. Folk tales may be told while wearing colorful native costumes and the oral history helps to keep heritage alive.

Most visitors have favorite tellers. After all, it is not only the story that is important, but the delivery and the way that a particular story is told. Jonesborough began in the tradition of the great southern humorist, Jerry Clower, who could spellbind an audience with his funny stories of the rural South.

Modern favorites seem to be tellers such as Donald Davis, a teacher whose story of riding a mule to the bottom of the Grand Canyon puts you right in the saddle and on the edge looking down hundreds of feet from a mule so bored that he might go to sleep at any moment and walk off the edge.

Bil Lepp is another audience pleaser who uses redneck humor. He came from the tradition of liar’s contests and his stories carry you right along with him painting a house on stilts, being chased by gophers and catching on fire from a bonfire. The situation gradually becomes funnier and more absurd until you realize he is skillfully pulling your leg.

Another beloved teller was 90-year-old Katherine Windham, whose sharp wit could still charm an audience with true tales from her life as a southern journalist. Her moving stories of a segregated south brought smiles and tears. One moving story was about a barefoot child who never forgot the gift of a pair of shoes and as an adult law enforcement officer still visited the benefactor to thank her.

Stories are told by many different voices. Great stories make you laugh or cry, sometimes both in the same story. Music is sparse and mainly consists of folk music with a guitar or autoharp. The real music is not from instruments, but the music of the human voice and the harmony of souls sharing a common listening experience.

Every year when the leaves begin to change color in the fall and the hills beckon, folks return to sit shoulder to shoulder with others in the great musty tents, to hear the stories, to share the laughter and emotion.

We return to a place where stories come alive, past becomes present, and legends become art in the tiny town of Jonesborough, tucked away between hills in the autumn splendor of Tennessee.

Copyright 2008 Sheila Moss
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