Sunday, July 14, 2013

Who's dropping in for a story?

Balloons! Well, one bloody great big one!

So for the last few years, I have been privileged enough to be invited to a family camp in Vermont to tell tales.  It is a little over an hours drive away (although it was a lot closer before we moved to New London).  The 'patrons' of this camp vary.  The very first time I visited, it was for General Electric power players.  There are some groups I have told to, who are families of the Vermont Guard. Every week during the summer whilst the family camps run, I have gone up on a Sunday evening and told stories, mostly outdoors with the sun setting as I tell.  It is an amazing place.  There is an ambiance about it that is rarely found anywhere else I have gone.  It is almost a spiritual experience going there, for me, and I have heard the same from some of the families there too.

Today I journeyed north there.  I packed my gear in the car, my drum, my Irish Breakfast tea and a litre of water and off I went. I arrived and it was a beautiful evening.  The sky looking calm and dry, and the clouds were already catching some colour as I set up my apple box and tuned my drum.  People seated themselves around me after the bell was rung, with the lodge as my backdrop for the listeners, and the sky as the backdrop for me, behind them! Some people had seen me before, others had not.  This place is so great many families come back year after year. The kids were at the front on blankets, the parents, for the most part, on the Adirondack chairs and camp / lawn chairs behind the blankets.  There was some heckling from the kids, but we got underway and headed into the stories.

I began with a tale I was not planning on telling, but because we began talking about my drum and other musical instruments, I felt a musical story should be told, and it was perfect.  Although I do not tell this story often, I love it.  I first heard it told on Amy Friedman's CD Tell Me A Story 3: Women of Wonder. The story is an English story called The Cleverest Tune I did a few more other stories, ones I had planned on telling, and was into my last tale for the night: one of everyone's favourites, The Goat from the Hills and Mountains!  One of the parents pointed, from my angle, to a tree and I wondered if there was a bear up there.  We were in the woods of Vermont, here! But it turned out to be a balloon.  A hot air balloon.  With this slight distraction, I carried on, but the balloon got closer and closer and we could hear it's dragon's breath over and over and it got louder and louder!  The climax of the story was getting close as I tried to tell it between bursts of hot air.

The balloon was also getting close - very close and very low.  By now it was crashing through the trees and the pilot was calling out for someone to grab the line which he deftly dropped.  My guess was that the weather was not ideal for ballooning, being as hot as it was.  The bottom of the basket looked damp, which informed me that it might have taken a dip in the nearby lake! Although I had been trying to incorporate the balloon into the story, my formerly attentive audience was lost to the excitement of a bloody, big balloon landing on us! Children and adults alike! And the noise was more than dragon-like at this point and no one could hear except between the bursts!

One parent who had not rushed over to see the balloon pulled from the trees and sky asked me if the goat was squashed under a hot air balloon.  I laughed and said 'no'. Once the balloon was stabilized (a chaser van had arrived and the balloon was attached to it), and children were made safe from the descending basket, and bag of hot air, the kids were offered an up-and-down ride.  Whilst some were thrilled about the prospect of a free hot air balloon trip (up and down 50 feet or so), some wanted to hear what happened to the goat. So those who were interested (old and young) came into the hall where I finished the story.

I chatted a while and then packed up.  As I said my farewells to the people there (including the aeronaught), some of the adults who had snagged an elevation ride, asked about the end of the story and what had happened to the family and the Goat From the Hills and Mountains.  I suggested that their children had heard the ending and some of the adults had heard it too, and they could ask for the end to be told by the people who had moved with me, to tell them the story over breakfast.  I told them, however, that the goat, as one had suggested, was not killed by a hot air balloon!

The story, The Goat From the Hills and the Mountains can be found on my CD More Second-hand Tales or in the book where I found the story: Tales Our Abueli­tas Told by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy who gave me permission to tell the story and record it.  The book is published by Atheneum For Young Readers.  I highly recommend this book (it would be interesting too, for those interested to see how a story changes in the telling.  When I recorded the story, I thought I was being very faithful to the original.  Apparently the story took on it's own personality with my help!  (Alma said of my version: "What a wonderful retelling!" which made me very happy!)


Tony Toledo said...

Simon, what a trooper you are. To have your storytelling visited by a hot air balloon and still keep on keeping on. bravo, sir, bravo.

Ms. Piazzi said...

That never would have happened if you had been telling "Around the World in 80 Days"! I've been in a balloon that touched down in a pond, so I understand the dampness. I have never been in a balloon that touched down on a storyteller! You could probably win a prize with this story someday!

Ms. Piazzi said...

That never would have happened if you had been telling "Around the World in 80 Days"! I've been in a balloon that touched down in a pond, so I understand the dampness. I have never been in a balloon that touched down on a storyteller! You could probably win a prize with this story someday!

Granny Sue said...

I have had many odd things happen during a telling, but nothing like this! Thanks for the laugh, and believe me I was laughing with you and not at you :) Poor goat. I hope everyone got to hear the end of his story. And kudos to you for keeping on keeping on with such competition.