The weather was wonderfully cooperative for both the Central Illinois St. Andrews' Highland Games (http://www.central-illinois-standrewsociety.com/), and for Clayville's Spring Festival (http://www.clayville.org).
On Saturday I spent the morning at the Highland Games' Heritage Tent. They had an very nice set up, with banks of computers for individuals to research Ancestry.com. Along with this attraction, author, Wendy Wilson (http://wendywilsonbook.com/), was signing her book, A Touch of Irish, and there was a talk by Tara McClellan McAndrew (author of Stories of Springfield) on, "The Irish in Springfield, Il." She is at
Ms. McAndrew's talk was very interesting, and Ms. Wilson's puppy, Zero, was quite the hit with everyone.
The high point for me was when one young lady, and later her older brother, came to listen to tales. The young lady was probably about 13 or 14, and so for the first round I told, "Tam Lin," and later, when she and her brother came back, I told "The Selkie Bride," and "The Elderly Seal." It is always lovely when teenagers, and young adults, take a interesting in storytelling.
Sunday saw me out at Clayville, and after finding a nice, shady, tree to place my chair I settled to tell tales (and occasionally have saltine crackers with homemade butter).
The 114th Cavalry was in fine form with their western skirmishes, and there was a steady crowd. My tree was right by the main route so I was able to tell my stories to people passing by. I often invited them to come, "Share my shade, the breeze, and a tale."
I wish I had had more time to explore as I could hear the drums of the Native dancers, and caught a glimpse of the array of vendors. But by the time I was through I was just warm enough to be ready to pack up and held for some dinner.
There are a lot of themes wandering through this Story Musing. Over the last couple of weeks I have walked through historical exhibits, and have spoken with individuals about slavery in the 21st century. And across it all runs the theme of stories.
A few weeks back I attended, with some friends, the opening of At Home In the Heartland exhibit (http://www.museum.state.il.us/exhibitions/) at the Illinois State Museum. It is a beautiful exhibit of quilts and clothing, artifacts, and letters from the Civil War era. The note cards for each item tell snippets about the women who sought to support their loved ones, and a greater war effort. Taken all together they form a tapestry, or a quilt, in their own right.
This was followed by a tour of the Illinois Military Museum (http://www.il.ngb.army.mil/museum/)by the Sangamon Historical Society (http://sangamonhistory.org/). We were privileged to have a private, evening, tour. The Military Museum is one of Springfield's rare gems of a museum, which not only recognizes the sacrifices of past warriors, but of those who have given their lives in current conflicts. On the first floor is a tribute to Illinois soldiers, and a very personal one for local Guards men and women.
The director asked us to remember that, "Everything in the museum once belonged to a living soldier."
This week offered the Illinois Historical Society's (http://www.historyillinois.org/) symposium on the Emancipation Proclamation out at the University of Illinois - Springfield. Many of the panels were interesting, but the most powerful was the one entitled, "Historians Against Slavery."
I was able to attend the first part of this, and was able to learn of a student organization, named, "Western Against Slavery." (http://www.wiu.edu/news/newsrelease.php?release_id=10060). This is a multi-disciplinary group that is endeavoring to educate the public about the very real issue of human trafficking, which is a global problem.
I ended the week with a meeting with the director of Unity 4 Christ, which is a organization focused on helping unwed mothers. The stories I heard that afternoon were both sad and hopeful. Both the director, and her young charges, are all working toward shaping something better.
And while the director was happy to have me offer storytelling there was the unspoken question, "Why do you want to? What is your reason for volunteering this?"
She had offered me honesty, and honesty is something I returned.
Storytelling is a talent that was gifted to me; along with a secure and loving childhood. I had parents that not only gave me that safe life, but also helped mentor others. And who listened to those who came with troubles.
If I can return a little of those blessings to others than it is definitely a life worth lived.
Storytelling may be a business that I want to be in, but that doesn't mean that if I can't offer it as a gift when needed.
The last few weeks have been one of launching new projects, with the main one being my new site - Tales of Sangamon (http://www.talesofsangamon).
I am hoping that with the site I can gather some of the stray stories and legends that exist in Sangamon County, and in the surrounding area. Over the years I have been given enough hints, via fragments of stories, to bolster my belief that others might be out there.
The more I read the more I believe that the stories traveled through Illinois at some point. Just recently I have been reading Leonard Roberts' books, South from Hell-fer-Sartin and Old Greasybeard: Tales From the Cumberland Gap. One of the tales in the later book is, "The Man and the Devil's Daughter" is very similar to a story I found in one of Vance Randolph's books on Missouri Folklore. In both cases the story is a wonder tale about a traveler (of farmboy in the case of the Missouri folktale) who goes to work for a rich man, who turns out to be the Devil. The daughter takes a shine to the worker, and by magical means helps him complete 3 impossible tasks. She then flees with her boyfriend, and once safely away from her Pa she renounces her magical heritage to live a normal life.
As always there are hints.
Other projects that I have on the list include voice lessons, teaching myself Excell, and the rather bemusing occupation of rebuilding a lamp.
(Its my favorite reading lamp, which is attached to a table, so I hate to get a new one.)
As to the voice lessons I am hoping my instructor survives with some patience intact. She has some hope of disproving the belief that I am tone deaf, and so we are struggling to get me on the proper key. Granted, I have no belief that I will become a singer, but it is something new and interesting to learn, and hopefully will add to my vocal strength.
I knew it had been a long time since I wrote, but I hadn't realized how long; nor can I blame it all on the scorching summer (though it does explain the last few weeks).
Nor has it been due to a lack of things to do - there have been many an interesting activity. So interesting that I still want to do an overview:
April offered two fascinating events.
The Sangamon County Historical Society
(http://sangamonhistory.org/) offered a bus trip to the C. H. Moore Homestead (http://www.chmoorehomestead.org/) in Clinton, Illinois. The C. H. Moore house is a beautifully restored Victorian home, with exquisite furnishings, and material examples of the life of the time. The curator, Larry Buss, has a wealth of knowledge on the house and grounds, and along with the house's collection there is also the DeWitt County History Society's museum in the basement, three farm museums, a blacksmith shop, and a telephone exhibit.
This fine outing was followed by the Springfield Art Association's "Titantic Tea." (http://www.springfieldart.org/)
They had the Tea Ladies (http://www.thetealadiesinc.com/)back to host a tea party, which offered foods that would have been on the Titanic. The Tea Ladies then offered a brief history of the people on board, and asked that all those attendees of the tea party to read a card (or more) regarding some of the survivors.
With the coming of May came both the Central Illinois Highland Games (http://www.central-illinois-standrewsociety.com/)and the precursor to the heat), and Clayville's Spring Festival (http://www.clayville.org/).
Both were as fun to perform at as always.
The increase in the heat did cut into the performing schedule, with Clayville not having their usual July activities, and the Elijah Iles House (http://www.ileshouse.org/)cancelling their Strawberry Festival, but I have not been idle.
During this time I have decided to launch Tales of Sangamon (http://www.talesofsangamon.com/), which is a website devoted to collecting stories of Sangamon County, and the surrounding area.
I am truly excited about the site, and hope that some will use it so that stories of the area can be documented, since there is so little Illinois lore in print.
Though this probably also should be called, "From Memorial Day to 4th of July," and it admittedly has a touch of "Story Musing."
While not intentional, since I kept hoping to write sooner, I seem to have managed a thematic framework in terms of dates.
On Memorial Day Springfield had the opportunity to recognize a long-forgotten hero, Leroy Key, who was buried out at Oakridge Cemetery. For the expanded story here are links to two Illinois State Journal-Register articles: (http://www.sj-r.com/top-stories/x487935511/Dave-Bakke-Civil-War-buffs-find-grave-of-Andersonville-prisoner-in-Springfield) and (http://www.sj-r.com/top-stories/x1555987949/Dave-Bakke-Hero-of-Civil-Wars-Andersonville-prison-to-get-grave-marker-at-Oak-Ridge).
What better way to recognize Memorial Day then to awaken the memory of a man who had long been lost and forgotten. A man who not only survived the horrors of Andersonville Prison, but organized against the Raiders - men who preyed on fellow prisoners. Yet a man who had to carry the weight of his actions as he was the one to supervise the trial, and execution of these Raiders - men who were also Union soldiers.
And that weight, plus health issues, may have led to his suicide in 1880. Over a century later who is to say.
Author Frank Crawford, and his brother John Crawford, found the grave, which lacked a tombstone, while researching,
Proud to Say I am a Union Soldier: The Last Letters Home from Federal Soldiers Written During the Civil War, 1861-1865.
The day for the unveiling of the stone was a perfect day, crystaline skies, with fluffy clouds, and though warm it was not so hot as to be stifling.
And for whatever spirits might linger at Oakridge, particularly Mr Key, and the other civil war veterans, the scene would have seemed reminiscent of the early Memorial Days. The Municipal Band played, and with the fine outfitting of the 114h Regiment Reactivated and the 10th Illinois Volunteer Cavalry Regiment Reactivated, and the ladies of the Aid Society, the scene could have been cut from a hundred years past.
The speeches were very moving, and as was fitting for Memorial Day, the ceremony bound together a recognition of all of our veterans.
I was also privately proud of my Treeing Walker Coonhound, Winston, as he proved as calm as ever as the 21 gun salute went off. (To be accurate - he slept through it.) I know it sounds strange that I brought my dog with me, but Winston has already proved unaffected by loud sounds (he gets bored with bagpipes, and gets even more bored being home), and I have hopes he can train as a therapy dog due to his patience and gentle temperament. He's come a long way from being the nervous young hound that I brought home from the Animal Protective League.
My silence of the month actually stems from other canine activity, since I also added a 3 month old coonhound mix, Fiona, from Animal Control. I, however, will admit that I should never name anything when tired, since I later learned that "fiona" means "white" or fair," and the pup is nearly all black.
On July 1st I performed at the Elijah Iles House, "Clara Irwin's Strawberry Party." (http://iles-house.blogspot.com/)
This is always a delight to perform at. While the weather the was hot the evening was clear, and I was out under the tent. This makes for a very casual time for telling as families would come out so their children could try their hands at marbles, checkers, or ring toss. And soon they would settle for story or three, and a little discussion of history.
Nor was an offer of strawberry shortcake turned down.
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.