This edition of the Storytellers Channel’s newsletter I’m going to regale you with Storytellers at the Field Day of the Past. A quaint little country fair in Goochland County in the foothills of Virginia
The Storytellers Channel
When you take the Rockville exit off Interstate 64 just west of Richmond you find yourself on Ashland Road. The land bordering the exit to the south is a wide open expanse of what looks like bucolic pasture. Down the road a short ways you’ll see an Exxon station and behind it you may notice a little white, clapboard, country church and next to it what appears to be an old Shell station with a Forest Service look out tower behind it. Just pass it you’ll notice the Short Pump Garage. The problem is these are all behind a barbwire fence. There doesn’t appear to be a way to get to them and most of the year the place resembles a ghost town.
But that changes the next to last weekend in September every year. For theses are grounds of the Field Day of the Past. A little country fair that raises money for local charities and celebrates American industry’s past glories. Antique car enthusiasts show off their “babies”, there’s a blacksmith shop, an operating sawmill, water pumps and metal fabricators all interspersed with barbeque, corndogs, funnel cakes, roasted corn and my favorite fried oysters.
There are tractor pulls and 4-H exhibits with children proudly showing off their rabbits, cows and sheep. The Scots are in their kilts playing their bagpipes and a lone Confederate reenactor trudged around the grounds shouldering gold-fringed Stars and Bars. Tents offer everything from cowboys hats and military surplus for sale amidst home improvement companies and insurance agents showcasing their offerings.
Scattered among these entrepreneurial enterprises were an Agra-Magic show alternating with a hypnotist and at the intersection of Old Short Pump Road and Look Out Lane in the shadow of the look out tower between the Shell station and the Short Pump Garage sat two tents. (Don’t you just love my thumb in the picture? Adds verisimilitude.)
Marion, Virginia’s Jeff Robbins’ Mountain Music tent and across the lane sat The Storytellers Channel’s tent. On the other side of road sat the Pig Races. That’s a story for another day.The week leading up to this year’s Field Day was eventful in and off itself. Greater Richmond had felt the effects of Hurricane Florence, we’d had tornadoes all that rain had turned a good chunk of that pasture land into swamp. This had necessitated moving the Mountain Music tent from over next to the 4-H and Agra Magic show to right next to our tent. Now Jeff and his compadre, Scott, were welcome, but unfortunately, they’d scheduled our shows at the same times. So, Jeff and I made the executive decision to stagger our performances and use our shows to draw audiences for each other.
The sun shone Friday and Saturday and we were happy to have the shade of our tents, not to mention the cover when the rain returned on Sunday. But that’s the weather in central Virginia. You don’t like it; just wait a little bit and it’ll change to something else you can complain about. The wind gusted up a storm and we were thankful again for the parachute cord we’d brought as we battened down our brand-new Storytellers Channel sign.
I dropped the stage off on Thursday evening and on Friday morning all I had to do was hump the sound system in. I got everything all set up and discovered they’d neglected to run power to our site. Jeff and Scott came to the rescue and ran a cord across the road for us and we were ready to tell.
Joan Swift, a Virginia Storytelling Alliance member and one of the founders of the Shenandoah Storytelling Guild, joined me from Staunton (pronounced Stant-un) and we had a great time together. Joan told a Grandfather tale called, Mutsmag, from the stories collected by Richard Chase in the Appalachians back in the 1930’s.
And I told PawPaw’s Monkey and tried out a new story for me at least from Spain called The Flea.
On Saturday, Clinton Atwater, a Michigan native who now lives down near Roanoke drove in and we had a great day. Clinton’s new to storytelling. He’s an accomplished Toastmaster, but a new member of the Virginia Storytelling Alliance. Matter of fact he’s going to be producing a Tellebration event down in Roanoke in November. I’ll tell you more about that as we get closer to the event.
Clinton shared a story about Sleeping Bears sands on Lake Michigan as well as a native American creation story. I used this opportunity to polish The Flea. Two separate times children drug their parents back to hear us again. And the folks at the exhibits surrounding us said they enjoyed our shows as well. I was worried they’d get tired of hearing the same stories, but I listened to Jeff Robbins’ show over and over and never grew tired of hearing Turkey in the Straw.
Sunday dawned with the return of the rains or I should say the mizzle. Just enough to wet you down without soaking you to the bone. The crowds were sparser, but none the less appreciative for the cover. Richard Hansen, one of our tellers from Storytellers Channel joined me and told his Space Elevator story which you can find on StorytellersChannel.com.
My wife, Marie McGranahan-Turner, joined us toward the end of the day and I thoroughly enjoyed introducing her to the folks at the other exhibits. Unfortunately, due to the weather the pig races were canceled, but that didn’t dampen Jeff Robbins enthusiasm or ours.
One thing the rain did put the kibosh on was Jeff’s instruments. He and his dad made the fiddle, banjo and mandolin he plays, and the super humidity was bad for them; so, we had to settle for him making old-time music on his new-fangled, store-bought banjo. It was magic none the less.
Normally, this event is a showcase for Jim Lavender’s tales from the swamps of Mississippi, but he was telling in Williamsburg with Donald Davis at Darci Tucker and Sheila Arnold’s 9th annual Tucker-Arnold Production weekend workshop. Jim will be back next year, I’m sure.
Well, it’s raining in Richmond, again. Thankfully, I mowed the lawn last night. The front yard was looking like a savanna. Marie and I are headed to Jonesborough, TN next week for the National Storytelling Festival. We hope to see you there. Look for us, I’m a Lead Tent Monitor, most often at the Creekside tent. Don’t hesitate to let me know if you’re one of our subscribers.
Until then, remember you matter and your stories matter, so tell them well. And don’t forget either that listening is one of the nicest things you can do for anyone.
Ciao for now,