We drove out to the Altapasss Orchard tonight to hear a woman tell stories about the ghosts of Mitchell County. Counting the five of us, we were an audience of about two dozen–and all five of us were the youngest people in the room.
The woman telling stories has just completed a book, in which she had compiled a number of first- and second-hand stories of “supernatural encounters.” I’ll leave the scare quotes (pun intended, I suppose) there for you to do with as you wish. I suggested that we all go for two reasons. First: I know my wife likes a good ghost story. And second: it was my kids’ first exposure to mountain culture storytelling.
The storyteller could spin a fairly good yarn, but the highlight of the night, really, was when she turned the telling over to the audience. One by one, these older residents of the mountains told their own ghost stories–some dating back a long time, and some from recent memory. We also got our first taste of Brown Mountain Lights stories.
We don’t actively restrict screens in our house. My kids watch as much television as the next kid (with some variation from child to child), and my two oldest pretty much go nowhere without their phones. But all three of them appreciated this very different kind of evening’s entertainment. And I think all three of them understood that what they were experiencing was a very old form of entertainment, well-practiced in this region.
No, I don’t have any fantasies about any one of my children keeping Jack Tales alive for the next generation. But it feels good to know that they got to experience first hand, and in a very low key, non-touristy way, our local storytelling culture.