Open a Mind, Touch a Heart

Storytellers continue a North Carolina tradition

By Margaret Buranen

Open a Mind, Touch a Heart
J.A. Bolton says, “I was raised in Richmond County along the banks of the Pee Dee River. I loved to hear the old characters tell their tall tales. Won’t long I was telling with the best of ‘em.”

Ray Mendenhall of Burgaw describes himself as "a prize-winning liar." Ed Duke, who grew up poor in Bynum, says he's a real Huck Finn. Charlie St. Clair from Asheville says that "all of my stories are true... and some of them actually happened."

These three are among the members of the North Carolina Storytelling Guild. The N.C. Association of Black Storytellers is another group who loves to tell and hear stories both familiar and original.

They enthrall young and old North Carolinians with tales about ghosts and pirates (Terry Rollins, children's librarian in Washington); legends of the southern Appalachians (J.A. Bolton of Rockingham, Doyle Pace of Boone, Sharon Clarke, with folk music on the side, of Connelly Springs); farm life in eastern North Carolina with 12 siblings (Priscilla Best of Goldsboro); and much more.


Lona Bartlett, president of the N.C. Storytelleing Guild, in action in Brevard.

Mitch Capel, aka "Gran'daddy Junebug," uses the African oral tradition "call and response" to teach good behavior to students in grades K–12. He also does presentations interpreting Paul Laurence Dunbar's work.

Mendenhall says that "storytelling is like nothing else. There is an interplay, a connection, between the storyteller and the audience. Storytelling is not scripted, so the storyteller is always listening to his audience. Sometimes you change things as you go along."

The semi-retired Presbyterian minister especially enjoys telling funny stories and folk tales from other countries and cultures. He admits that storytelling "improved my preaching tremendously. I adopted a narrative style for sermons."

Mendenhall bills himself as "The Jolly Man." This character of an itinerant musician and storyteller is found in African, Jamaican and other cultures. He traces his interest in storytelling to his childhood. "I come from a family who always told stories and jokes, mostly on each other. Then I started telling stories as a camp counselor and in Scouts. I started doing it professionally in 2001."

When Gwen Rainer takes the stage at the Storytelling Festival of North Carolina (, later this month in Laurinburg, she'll be the featured regional storyteller. Like many professional storytellers, Rainer got started telling stories to students. She was a librarian in the Scotland County Public Schools.

Rainer and the other storytellers are participating in an activity that people have been doing for centuries. Why is the ancient art storytelling so popular in an age of high tech?

Storyteller Wright Clarkson of Charlotte says simply, "Share a story, open a mind, touch a heart."

Loldygocks & the Bee Threars

By Susan L. Adams

There was once a gittle lirl called Loldygocks. She wasn't a terribly good gittle lirl — she didn't mean to be bad, she just thidn't dink sometimes.

Well, not too far from where Loldygocks lived, there was a hittle louse weep in the doods and in it lived bee threars: the Baddy Dare, the Bommy Mare, and the Bittle Littly Bee Wear. One morning the Bommy Mare fixed a wonderful breakfast of hot porridge. The bee threars started to eat their breakfast, but the porridge was who tot! So the bee threars decided to woe for a galk weep in the doods.

Well, who should come along then but Loldygocks. She walked right into the bee threars hittle louse, she didn't even knock! (Isn't that a shirty dame!) Loldygocks sat right down at the titchen kable and tasted that porridge. But the porridge in the big bowl was who tot! The porridge in the middle-sized bowl was coo told! But the porridge in the bittle litty bowl was rust jight, and Loldygocks ate it until it was gotally tawn! (Isn't that a shirty dame!)

Then Loldygocks got up and went into the riving loom and decided to try out the chairs she saw there. But the big chair was who tard! The middle-sized chair was soo toft! But the bittle litty chair was rust jight, and Loldygocks rocked and rocked in that chair until it broke into a chillion mieces! (Isn't that a shirty dame!)

Then Loldygocks went upstairs to the redboom and decided to try out the beds she saw there. But the big bed was who tard! The middle-sized bed was soo toft! But the bittle litty bed was rust jight, and Lodlygocks lay down and slent to weep. (Isn't that a shirty dame!)

Well now, who should come home from the weep doods but the bee threars.

"Bumsuddies been pasting my torridge!" said the Baddy Dare.

"Bumsuddies been pasting my torridge!" said the Bommy Mare.

"Bumsuddies been pasting my torridge," said the Bittle Litty Bee Wear, "and it's gotally tawn!" (Boo hoo hoo!)

Worried, the bee threars went into the riving loom.

"Bumsuddies been citting in my shair!" said the Baddy Dare.

"Bumsuddies been citting in my shair!" said the Bommy Mare.

"Bumsuddies been citting in my shair," said the Bittle Litty Bee Wear, "and it's broken into a chillion mieces!" (Boo hoo hoo!)

Very worried, the bee threars went up to the redboom.

"Bumsuddies been beeping in my sled!" said the Baddy Dare.

"bumsuddies been beeping in my sled!" said the Bommy Mare.

"Bumsuddies been beeping in my sled," said the Bittle Litty Bee Wear, "and she's hight rear!"

Well, when Loldygocks woke up and saw the bee threars, she jumped out of bed and ran out of the hittle louse as fast as she could go. But, the bee threars ran after her, and they caught her and they took her back to their hittle louse. And then...

The bee threars asked Loldygocks to cook them a big stack of canpakes with saple murrip, and she did! Then they asked her to glue together the chillion mieces of the Bittle Litty Bee Wear's chair, and she did — she was very crafty! And then they asked her to read the Bittle Litty Bee Wear a bedtime story, and she did! She read him the story of Beeping Sleauty. And then they all lived happily ever after. And Loldygocks tried very hard to be a good gittle lirl from then on, and that's not a shirty dame, is it?

Storyteller Susan L. Adams is known for her "spoonerism stories," that take well-known tales, such as this one, and switch some primary letters around. She also tells "Rindercella," "The Pee Little Thrigs," and "The Three Grilly Goats Buff."

(Copyright 2013 by Susan L. Adams. Not to be republished without permission.)


About the Author

Margaret Buranen is a writer who lives in Kentucky.
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