Storytellers make us think, remember

Grant McGee

Are you a storyteller? Are you nurturing your storytelling skill?
What is a storyteller? I think the first requirement is you need to remember. Then there’s how the tale is told. Dry accuracy and such, that’s the realm of the researcher, reporter, historian and teacher. Remembering and telling a good story, ah, that’s the realm of storytellers.

I got to thinking about storytellers recently amid the making of the movie “Believe In Me” around here. The story is based on stuff that happened years ago involving girls basketball coach Jim Keith. Keith was speaking in Clovis back in September.

Hearing of his talk, I recognized Keith as a storyteller.
I think good storytellers come mostly from the American South and West.

Someone told me Keith is from Oklahoma.

Then I remembered Coach Joe.

Joe was from Arkansas. He’s gone now, one of those folks I’ll always remember. Joe told good stories.

Like Joe’s tale of running the bar at the Non-Com Club on Okinawa during the Korean War. “Yeah, I had this monkey,” he’d say, “and if I needed to cut someone off, I’d trained the monkey to go over and…” Well, it’s a family newspaper. Let’s just say the monkey did something to the beverage.

There was the story of Joe coming to Roswell.

“Yeah, we were headed west. We broke down out there on the caprock east of Roswell. I hitched into town, asked if they needed a coach. They did. I had a job.”

Joe’s daughter told me she discovered later he already had the job; they broke down just before they got to Roswell. For years she believed her father had landed the coach’s job after hitchhiking to town.

Sitting in his home in Roswell in 1996 he told me about “The Water Cure,” a poem so good I wrote it in my journal.

“Sometime when you’re feeling important, sometime when your ego’s in bloom; sometime when you take it for granted you’re the best qualified in the room; sometime when you feel that your going would leave an unfillable hole; just follow these simple instructions and see how they humble your soul.

“Take a bucket and fill it with water, put your hand in it up to the wrist; pull it out, and the hole that’s remaining, is a measure of how you’ll be missed.

“You can splash all you wish when you enter, you may stir up the water galore; but stop and you’ll find that in no time it looks quite the same as before.

“The moral of this quaint example, is do just the best that you can. Be proud of yourself but remember, there’s no indispensable man.”

“I’d tell that to my players,” Joe said. “A few would come through who’d think they were the end-all to beat-all.”

It turns out the poem was first published in 1959, written by Saxon White Kessinger and titled “The Indispensable Man” (the Internet sure is a handy thing). What struck me when I found the words on a Web site was Joe knew that poem word for word.

Joe was a storyteller, and a good one at that. He may have embellished the truth a bit, but so what?

So if you’re a storyteller, tell those tales.

They help us all remember, make us smile.

And make us think.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: