I know the thousands of readers of this blog have probably clicked here to see what fascinating things I have to say, and have been disappointed by the lack of activity. Well, get off the computer and come to LaCrosse! Our storytelling festival started last night with the "Tales of the Creepy and Scary." A perfect night on the banks of the Mississippi River. Our new sound system mastered at last. The campfire-in-a-stubby-grill-apparatus lending just the right mood. And best of all...full moon rising over the Julie Belle Swain across the river.
The stories started out just a teeny, tiny bit scary with Phyllis, telling everyone that was the scariest story she could stand. The audience was wonderfully large this year. A hundred chairs had been set up. They were filled. The hay bales down front were filled. Blankets on the ground were filled. Lawn chairs carried in filled the edges. More chairs were brought over from the tents. Wonderful. Many families attended, and many small kids were still there after the break, when the stories took a turn for the creepier and bloodier. Mine was one of those. As I looked around and saw all those little faces, rapt in the stories, I asked Terry Visger, who was doing a wonderful job as emcee, what she thought. It's a dilemma faced by most tellers who tell scary stories. Do you tone down your story, or forge on ahead? The program was advertised, announced and progressed. They chose to stay. As Terry pointed out, "These kids play video games where they kill each other."
I was introduced, and looking out across the crowd, difficult to see beyond the little faces up front because of the spotlights, I moved them into the time "long ago," when a woman was walking with her husband, a husband who didn't take her advice, through the forest on a moonlit night such as this. The crowd was silent as she warned him about staying the night in an abandoned lodge. No one breathed as she crept closer to the door over hours, so as not to alert the vampire skeleton that had eviscerated her husband, hoping to escape.
I mastered the distance from the mike for the screams of the skeleton. As the skeleton transformed into a fireball, then Great Horned Owl at the climax of the tale, I called convincely like the owl it had become. My pauses were right on. The final line about the "story of the man who didn't listen to his wife" allowed everyone to laugh and release the tension.
All the stories were perfect. The night was perfect. My reward came afterward, when a little girl of about 7 found me.
"That story about the man who didn't listen to his wife was REALLY scary!"
I told her I hoped she didn't have any bad dreams. She shook her head and said, "I don't know."
I looked her in the eyes and said, "You won't have to worry. I can tell you're a good listener."
So, get off the computer, down to Pettibone Park and enjoy the stories. Bagpipes open the festival at noon. Food, music, art for sale and best of all a day full of storytelling. Oh, and the weather is again perfect!