It has been a fine month for telling holiday tales. First there was Downtown Springfield's Holiday Walks. The weather has just turned frigid and I was more than delighted to be comfortable and warm in the Herndon Law Office. I had hopes of venturing out and seeing the live reindeer, but wimped out. Of course, I did have Sebastian, the Christmas Moose (puppet) with me. (The quest for the reindeer did, however, lead me to start writing about Sebastian, which will be shared with - or inflicted on - my readers over the Twelve Days of Christmas.)
A Clayville Christmas was my next venue. The weather was clear, and so there was a steady stream of visitors through the Broadwell Inn.
So now we have passed the Winter Solstice, and soon Christmas will be upon us. Tomorrow night I will get the tree up, and turned on the lights. And on Christmas I will light a bayberry candle, to be burnt between Christmas and New Year for health and prosperity to the house.
As to how I will be celebrating the Twelve Days of Christmas I will be finding holiday facts and tales to share. Some may even be hidden in Sebastian's story. I also invite you to make use of my Christmas bibliography too - for some festive reading.
Once there was a man who had three sons - the youngest being called, Jack, who was considered too weakly to do much. As the farm was poor the eldest went off to a hiring fair. There he met a man who offered him a hundred gold for a year's work, but with one small provision. Whoever complained first would have a strip of hide taken from his back, and would owe a hundred gold. Now the eldest son was good tempered, and could see no danger in the offer, and so....
After being over-worked, starved, and abused the first son, and then the second, came home badly wounded, and with no pay. Then Jack set off for the hiring fair.....
Of course, being Jack, he not only got the gold for himself and his brothers, but left the farmer and his wife wishing they had never met him.
Sprinkled throughout folklore are stories like this, and even more dire warnings from ghost stories. The hiring fair was practiced in many places in earlier times, and existed here in the United States. Young men and women knew that it was a necessary gamble that they put their lives into the hands of unknown employers. And that it also often meant going off to unfamiliar, distant, places; with little, to sometimes no, opportunity to communicate with family.
Now the current job market isn't quite so dangerous. Quite.
Yet there are pitfalls for the unwary. And scavengers. (I won't insult the animal kingdom by making comparisons).
What has started me on this was an experience I recently had. One that reminded me of why I loathed the online job sites, and searches, particularly because they offer the scavengers a plentiful hunting ground.
Last week I received a call from an insurance company recruiter, and as normal I was about to say, "Thanks, but no thanks. Insurance sales is simply not something I ever wished to pursue.”
(Here I should say that I have nothing against insurance companies, or insurance representatives. I know many fine individuals in the field, and know they have become successful via fairness and diligence. Nor do I believe that all insurance companies use similar recruiting strategies.)
However this particular recruiter reassured me that this wasn't about sales. Yes, they were hiring sales agents, but her manager had saved back a few resumes, mine included, to interview for training positions.
Now that was something I would be interested in. Granted I love what I am doing - being a storyteller, and also being a social media specialist, but if the right full-time (or part-time) job came along I know it would be wise to consider it. My own businesses, fortunately, are such that I can set my own hours.
So we set up a interview, and I was reminded to "bring my resume and dress professionally."
I assumed they have many who don't remember such necessities.
So last Friday I arrived at the office - and was met by a young woman in two, overlayed, tee shirts and cut off jeans. She introduced herself as the general manager.
To make a short story even shorter it turned out that it had been a bait and switch - all they were hiring for was sales. "And would have a group interview next week."
Yes, I was annoyed, but mainly at the breadth of this type of activity. The internet does provide opportunity for getting hired - as did the hiring fairs of old, but it also has as many traps.
And time wasters.
I consider myself lucky to have skills from which to build my own business, but before I made the decision to create White Fox Social Media I was amongst the dedicated job hunters (after having been downsized). During the many long hours of searching for a position I noted how the online job search engines perpetrated useless information. The one that still stands out in my mind is the "movie casting company" in Auburn, Ill.
Now Auburn is a lovely little town, but the movie capitol of the world its not. And out of curiosity I did a some research - it turned out that this was a scam that originated in Russia. Not a surprise, but what has been annoying, and morbidly fascinating, is watching this company's listing continually appearing on job listing updates. And even on the state job search.
I have no answers. Search engines cannot weigh the reliability of a listing, but there has got to be a better way.
All I know was that it was some, admittedly cold, comfort that the folktales proved that job hunting has always been a challenge. One that needed to be navigated with wariness.
And I admit that I hope that Jack, that trickster of old, comes along to shake things up a bit.
I went in an adult. I cringed at the prices, and raised an eyebrow at the stone and foliage-covered facade at the state fairgrounds. But I was urged on by a child - one that is at the core of our lives. That child in me wanted to see DINOSAURS; I could almost feel that hard green plastic brontosaurus back in hand.
The adult was back in the fore when I went in, and was faced with the very hokey mannequin in front of explorer's fire.
But the money was paid, and I went on.
Yes, the dinosaurs were nearly life-sized and moved - kind of.
They were in sets, with some that could be touched, mostly all with chipped paint and ill-fitting tails. And the adult began whispering things about, "A sucker born ..." Though I was honest - that included me since I had paid the money, But there I was, and with a bit of a goal, which was to test out my USB video camera. Yet as I wandered about - between roaring monsters - I watched the families too. Babes looked in awe - or terror - from their strollers, as did the toddlers. Slightly older children were torn between hesitancy and wonder as they reached out to touch the models.
And the green plastic brontosaurus became a phantom in my hand again.
A reminder that awe-filled imagination overlooks the imperfections; that the exhibits were somewhat like Plato's Shadows. The dinosaurs in the exhibits became the back drop, and the base, of dreams.
Maybe I need to find another green plastic brontosaurus to periodically remind my adult that there are times when the paint chips, and ill-fitting tails, are the illusions.
I had the privilege of performing for the Lincoln's Tomb, "Spirits of the Civil War" last Saturday.
While the day was hot it was lovely, particularly under a shady tree not far from Lincoln's Tomb. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to hear Tom Emery's talk "Eddy: Lincoln's Forgotten Son," on Edward Baker Lincoln, but I was able to enjoy Mr. Andrew Bowman's and Mr. Khabir Shareef's performances. Mr. Bowman protrayed his grandfather, Color Sgt. Andrew Jackson Smith, who received a posthumous Medal of Honor in 2001. And Mr. Shareef protrayed Maj. Martin Delaney, who was one of the few African American officers in the Civil War.
These gentlemen are with the Storyteller's Drum, and their performances are well worth seeing.
My own performance was last, and I will admit I wished I had used the offer of a mic. My sinuses were playing havoc with my voice towards the end of the show. But, as they say, a "learning experience."
My show revolved around the experiences of immigrants coming to Sangamon County.
What I decided to focus on was the influence that travel logs, memoirs, and in particular, personal letters played in influencing the decision to immigrate. While my sources were limited to books that had been reprinted, A True Picture of A Immigrant, and Eight Months In Illinois, both being for English immigrants, I was able to give some insight into what most immigrants faced. The books, and Eliza Flowers' letters to her nephew, offered good windows into the challenges and hazards faced - from the time they went to port - to arrival in Illinois.
One story I would like to pursue further was of Mary Nagle, later wife of John Burkhardt, who sailed from Bavaria in 1841, aboard the Oceania. The ship wrecked off the coast of Jamaica, and Mary didn't arrive in St. Louis until 1842, when she learned her father had died. I found reference to her in the Unigraph edition of The History of Sangamon County.
There was a fine attendance for all performers, despite the heat, and I was sorry when it was all over. But am definitely looking forward to the full evening of history, "The Fiery Trial: Civil War Stories by Candlelight."
Yesterday was the Forever Home Feline Ranch's Open House, which I was definitely looking forward to. So I dutifully checked the address, checked Google, and wrote down all needed phone numbers. All of this was needed, because the truth is that I can get lost in a brown paper bag.
And off I headed for Rochester, Il.
While a hot day it was also a lovely day, and made for a pleasant drive. I made it to the older part of Rochester, and realized I may have not written the directions correctly. And the phone numbers were going to voice mail. So....
I logically stopped in one little store, Dollars and Cents, which is a lovely coin shop located, appropriately, in a 19th century bank. They weren't sure where Hobbs Road was, and sent me to the antique store.
A very gracious lady, who unfortunately wasn't from Rochester, sent me to the quilt shop next door, and they sent me to the vet's office. They, mercifully, were able to give me directions. Nor could I really complain about my little side trip through Rochester, since I learned of many interesting new places to explore.
Some further driving took me out to Buckheart, IL, and down a couple of country roads to the Forever Home Feline Ranch.
A breeze had kicked up, which made the day more pleasant, and I was situated under a large shade tree - all the better to appreciate said breeze. I had also brought one of my Folkmanis kitten puppets with me, a little ginger one, and as planned, it helped as an attention-getter. As individuals finished tours of the ranch, or finished with the games, they would come over to hear a story or two.
Popular tales of the day were "Jack and the Friendly Animals," and "Dick Whittengton and His Cat." Later I was able to go visit with the three ranch donkeys, and to try and get some photos of the ranch.
The donkeys, it is hoped, will one day be able to live at the Ranch, since they will help protect the farm against coyotes. To do this, however, ranch will need the funds to repair the barn. As I came over to their pen the donkeys vied for attention, but when I stepped back to get a picture - all three turned their tails to me. I guess they had had enough of that for the day.
The Ranch is neatly organized, and has lovely grounds. There are four small houses; three of which are homes for the cats; with two of the houses dedicated to cats who have transmittable diseases.
Mr Hugh Moore was there to perform his music, though I didn't get a chance to go over and hear him.
As the breeze began to blow harder it became apparent that rain was probably headed our way, and slightly before 3 pm folks began to pack up. However, that was at the end of successful day, since there had been a good number of visitors. Hopefully many will become volunteers for the ranch, or, at least, adopt one of the cats.
Sometime this evening I will get what pictures I have up. I won't swear to my photographic skills, but hopefully they will give some idea of the ranch.
While I have been pursuing a social media strategy for my storytelling business for a while I never quite dreamed I would be creating a new division for it.
What sparked the move, though, was hearing so many business people say, "I know I need to do social media consistently, but I don't have time"
And I know from owning White Fox Productions, Ltd. that the social media packages are usually beyond the means of a small business.
So White Fox Productions, Ltd, and its resident storyteller, are bravely launching White Fox Social Media (http://www.whitefoxsocialmedia.com). All in an endeavor to help my fellow small business owners get there story to their customers.
Finally I have sometime to sit down and consider a few conversations I have had recently.
Back in mid-May I attended LLCC's "Welcome Visitors," which was the lead off to Community Learning's intensive Interpreter training week. (http://www.llcc.edu/commed/CommunityLearning/tabid/989/Default.aspx) The evening was very interesting, and the speakers discussed the role in customer service at historical sites. I wish I could have participated in the whole week of classes, but that weekend was already booked.
This was followed by Clayville's Spring Festival (http://www.clayville.org), and conversations with many of the volunteers about what all had needed to be done to prepare for the festival.
I had had a little sample of the preparation, since I had been out that week to help dust, and I have to salute all of those who had been at it continually.
All of this is on top of keeping the site open weekly, and for private functions, such as weddings.
Later, thinking over the week, I considered how fragile the support is for many of our historical sites, since so many of the volunteers are retired individuals; many of whom are elderly. The main thing driving them is their great love of history, and their particular site.
It's not just Clayville that faces this, but many of the smaller sites, where the main bulk of their volunteers are in their later years. And the work they do isn't just talking to people and taking them on tours - it can require cleaning and some heavy work.
Now I'll grant that for Clayville's many festivals there is help of all ages, but the normal, weekly, part falls to just a few people.
What happens when they can't do it anymore?
Who will step in?
Places such as Clayville, the Elijah Iles House, and the Grand Army of the Republic - to name a few - are staffed by dedicated people, but the demands can be hard. These individuals strive daily to see the stories of these places told, and that the sites live on for other generations to know where history happened.
It also made me wonder if we couldn't create a youth volunteer program for historic sites, such as what is done with the Henson Robinson Zoo (http://www.hensonrobinsonzoo.org/page.php?8) and Lincoln Memorial Gardens (http://www.lincolnmemorialgarden.org/programsatthegarden.html)? Maybe there is one. Hopefully there is. And if not, one should be created as we need one to train future custodians of these sites.
But foremost, I offer a challenge - take some time this summer to help at a historic site. They need people to help keep them clean and ready for visitors.
And to preserve the property.
Plus you are helping the city by showing our many attractions in their best light to visitors.
Recently I've noted that a lot of folks are searching for white fox folklore, and realized I didn't have much to offer on the site. Which seemed a shame since my website is White Fox Stories, and I do love foxes.
So a little web searching allowed me to discover a nice retelling of "The White Fox Wedding" from Tales of Old Japan.
The web site is - http://www.sarudama.com/japanese_folklore/whitefoxwedding.shtml
Along with that I have added a Fox Bibliography to the site.
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.
To set the stage - I had a booth at the Pet Expo, which was held last Saturday to raise money for the Animal Protective League (http://www.apl-shelter.org/). This was a joint effort with the APL and Mid-West Family Broadcasting (http://www.alice.fm/). The Expo was held in the Exposition Building on the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
The whole thing was very well organized (if chilly), and hosted not only animal-oriented vendors, but a whole floor of adoptable pets. It was also an opportunity for whole families to come - this included their four-legged family members.
As mentioned, the vendors were mainly animal-oriented, which led to a polite quip, made by one attendee, of, "I'm sure pets really enjoy stories."
Which led to a nice discussion on the uses of storytelling; along with the fact that I was more than happy that the booth fee helped out the APL.
More importantly it allowed me to gather several concepts together in my explanation. The main one being that storytelling helps build empathy - whether for animal or human.
Of course there are many stories told from animals' point of view, and then there are others where animals are helpers. This later theme runs through many cultures' folklore, particularly with the hero or heroine proving their worth by their kindness to animals, or the elderly.
A good example of this type of story is the Grimm's Fairy Tale, "The Queen Bee." (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/2591/2591-h/2591-h.htm#link2H_4_0040).
The basics of this story go along this line....
Once there was a king who had three sons, with the youngest being rather weakly, and the king sends out the elder two sons to seek their fortune. Finally he allows the youngest to go after them, which does not please the older two boys.
Along the way the youngest is able to protect an ant hill, a bee hive, and a flock of ducks from his brothers. In turn the ants, the bees, and the ducks aid the youngest when he is given three tasks, which he must complete in order to keep from being turned to stone like his brothers. And thanks to the insects and ducks the youngest not only saves his brothers, but wins them all brides.
Within the fluidity of the old tales animal, plant, and human flow between one another - with all being worthy of kindness. These stories were reminders to both the children and the adults in ages past, and still have validity today.
I am a Springfield, IL based storyteller with a fascination for how folklore travels, and for history.