One of the nicest and most frustrating parts of being a writer of stories is that when you’re out somewhere, people will come up and tell you stories - lots of them. I’ve actually been at book signings where people have come up and stood there for ten to fifteen minutes telling me some story of theirs. For them, it's fun, for me, it’s sometimes fun (dependent on the quality of the story itself), but for the poor person standing behind them in line it’s probably not much fun at all. And that’s me being polite about it.
The only problem I run into sometimes when this happens is that the person will tell me a story, finish it, and then ask, “Ed, how would you like to use that for one of your future books or columns?” I never know what to say in response, because if the story is good I feel like I’m ripping them off, and if it’s bad you hate to tell them that. And if y’all don’t think I haven’t heard some really bad ones along the way, here are a few shortened examples of some that have actually been told to me:
>From a lady that I talked to recently at a literary festival:
“Ed, when I was a young girl over in Alabama, my daddy grew us a watermelon patch every year. We ate lots of melons, you see. One day I walked over to where one of the biggest melons in the patch was, and you know, it was really, really green. Then I noticed somethin’ move, and there was a big green grass snake right next to that melon! Why, I got so beside myself that I flinched and kicked the devil out of that melon. The good news was that it rolled over and flattened the snake. The bad news was that none of us were brave enough to go and try and pick that melon up after that, so it was left there to rot. Rotten snake, rotten melon, rotten luck, life sure is funny sometimes, ain’t it?
From a guy who has some close friends he wanted to tell me about:
“My buddies are like yer Brotherhood, except we are even wilder and crazier than you three boys have ever thought about bein.’ Why one time Alfred, one of my three best friends along with Bert, Terry, Ken, Fred, and Rabbit, burped right out loud at Mawdie Jones’ funeral. I mean, right out loud in front of the preacher, Mawdie’s family, and everybody. I guess when the preacher talked about makin’ a joyful noise that Alfred took him pretty serious. That Alfred, he’s out there on the edge, ain’t he? I’ll bet if you call him and talk it over that he’ll let you write this story, especially if you give him some of those royalties that all you writers get.”
From a very old man who told this story right out loud in front of about ten or so people at a recent speaking engagement:
“I have this huntin’ dog, Spanky, that I’ve owned for years. Best huntin’ dog I’ve ever seen, he’ll point and tree just about anything – birds, rabbits, squirrels, you just name it, he’ll tree it. Why just a few weeks ago Spanky loped down into the woods one morning, he likes to get out and stretch his paws sometimes, and the woods is where he goes. Anyway, he stayed down there a right good while, and then came out with a pair of ladies’ drawers in his mouth. I’m serious, ladies’ drawers. Thing is, they were big, ole ladies drawers, I promise they were about three feet wide across the beam, you coulda hung them up in a sailboat and gone to China on them. When I saw that, I realized that it only coulda been one of about three old gals from around here that could fit into them drawers. And then I wondered how she lost them down in the woods like that in the first place. It caused me to tell this little rhyme up in my head,
In the woods,
Should I tell this?
Yes I should!”
Man, man, man, y’all see what I mean? Bad thing is, I could’ve told another twenty or so just like these. I guess, in the end, that everyone has stories that they think are interesting, but some really do need to stay close to the vest – in fact, they need to stay very, very close to the vest. And I would say even more, but Ray and Hugh have just walked in, and we’re talkin’ about seein’ if we can get a pair of those three foot wide drawers and use ‘em to sail the S.S. Pippin across Lake Sinclair – after all:
Three foot drawers, they won’t float,
But mebbe they can move our boat!