Saturday, December 28, 2013

In which there's another story to celebrate the sharing season

I've been telling this one so long, I'm not sure where I originally found it.  Lots of tellers share it--you can too!


Heaven and Hell (China)
There once was an old woman who knew that she would soon die.  She wanted to know what Heaven and Hell would be like.

The old woman went to see the wisest man in the village.  “Can you show me the difference between Heaven and Hell?”

The wise man led her up a strange and twisted path, far into the mountains.  At last they came to a fabulous palace, and went inside.  There, they saw many people sitting at a huge banquet table laid with an incredible array of food.  But the people were all thin, and angry, for the only utensils at the table were chopsticks…and the chopsticks were all three feet long. 

The people could not eat with such long chopsticks, and so they were surrounded by food and yet still hungry.  That was Hell.

Next, the wise man led to another fabulous palace.  Inside, they saw many people sitting at a huge banquet table laid with the same incredible array of food.  And here again, the chopsticks were three feet long.

But in this place, the people were well-fed, and happy.   

 For in this place, the people were feeding each other.  That was Heaven.

Friday, December 27, 2013

In which I share a story of friendship (send it to ALL your best friends!)

I spend a lot of time on this blog--and in real life--with some wonderful friends.  They will totally understand this story.

If you have friends like that, don't hesitate:  send them this story!  I collected it from storyteller Diane Wolkstein's classic collection of Haitian folklore The Magic Orange Tree.

Tipingee  (Haiti)
There was a girl named Tipingee.  Her father was dead, and her stepmother was selfish.

One morning, the stepmother was cooking sweets to sell in the market and the cooking fire went out.  She had to go into the woods to get more firewood.  She walked for a long time, and came to a place where there was lots of firewood.  There was too much for her to carry, but she didn't want anyone else to know about the place.  So she stood in the middle of the forest and called out, “There is so much wood!  Who will help me carry the wood?”

A strange little old man appeared.  “I will carry the wood,” he said.  “How will you pay me?”

“I will give you something when we get to my house,” said the stepmother.

The old man carried the firewood.  When they got to the house, he said, “Now what will you give me?”

“I will give you a servant girl,” said the stepmother.  “I will give you my stepdaughter Tipingee.”

But when she said this, Tipingee and her friends were nearby, and they heard her say it. 

Then they heard her say, “Tomorrow I will send Tipingee to the well for water.  She will wear a red dress.  Call her by her name, Tipingee, and she will come to you.  Then you can take her.”

“Very well,” said the man, and he went away.

Tipingee did not want to be a servant girl.  She and her friends made a plan.

The next day, the old man went to the well.  He saw a girl in a red dress.  He saw another girl in a red dress, and another.  “Which of you is Tipingee?” asked the man.

The first girl said, “I’m Tipingee.”
The second girl said, “I’m Tipingee.”
The third girl said, “I’m Tipingee too!”

All the girls began to clap and skip and sing: 
I’m Tipingee, she’s Tipingee, we’re Tipingee too!
            I’m Tipingee, she’s Tipingee, we’re Tipingee too!

Rah!  The old man went back to the stepmother.  “You tricked me.  All the girls at the well were wearing red.  They each said they were Tipingee.”

The stepmother tried again.  “Tomorrow she will wear a black dress.  Then you will find her.  The girl in the black dress will be Tipingee.  Call her and take her.”

But Tipingee and her friends heard what the stepmother said.  They made a plan.

When the old man went to the well the next day, he saw one girl in a black dress.  He saw a second girl and a third girl in a black dress.  “Which of you is Tipingee?” asked the man.

The first girl said, “I’m Tipingee.”
The second girl said, “I’m Tipingee.”
The third girl said, “I’m Tipingee too!”

And all the girls began to clap and skip and sing: 
I’m Tipingee, she’s Tipingee, we’re Tipingee too!
            I’m Tipingee, she’s Tipingee, we’re Tipingee too!

Rah!  The man was getting angry.  He went to the stepmother and said, “You promised to pay me.  You tell me to take Tipingee and everyone here is Tipingee, Tipingee, Tipingee.  If this happens again, I will come and take you for my servant.

The stepmother told him to go to the well the next day and call for Tipingee.  And again, Tipingee and her friends made a plan.

The old man went to the well.  He saw one girl, a second girl, a third girl.  “Which of you is Tipingee?” asked the man.

The first girl said, “I’m Tipingee.”
The second girl said, “I’m Tipingee.”
The third girl said, “I’m Tipingee too!”

“WHICH OF YOU IS TIPINGEE?” the old man shouted.

But all the girls began to clap and skip and sing: 
I’m Tipingee, she’s Tipingee, we’re Tipingee too!
            I’m Tipingee, she’s Tipingee, we’re Tipingee too!

The old man knew he would never find Tipingee. 

He went to the stepmother and took her away. 

After that, Tipingee lived in her own house, and she was happy.

A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

In which I share a story for you have time to share it

The Magic of Mushkil Gusha (Iran)
Once in the royal city of Isfahan, there was an old woodcutter who lived alone with his young daughter.

Every day, the woodcutter went out to the desert to gather thorn bushes, then sold them in the marketplace as firewood. In this way, he earned enough for the two of them.

One morning, the woodcutter’s daughter said, “Father, we always have enough to eat. But just once, it would be nice to have something special. Do you think you could buy some date cakes?”

The woodcutter agreed to cut some extra wood, so that they might buy date cakes.  The next day, he walked farther to gather more thorn bushes. But he took longer than he meant to.

By the time he got back with the wood, darkness had fallen. It was too late to go to the market. It was so late that, when he reached his house, he found that his daughter had already bolted the front door and gone to bed.

Knock as he would, there was no answer. So he had to sleep outside on the doorstep.

The next morning, the woodcutter awoke while it was still dark. He told himself, “I will go out right now and get another big load of wood. Then I can sell twice as much and buy even more date cakes.”

So he left his load and went back to the desert to gather more thorn bushes. But again he took longer than he intended, and when he got back, it was dark and the door was bolted. So again he had to sleep on the doorstep.

He awoke once more before dawn. “There’s no sense wasting a day,” he said. “I’ll go back out for one more big load. Think how many date cakes we’ll have then!”

But yet again he took too long, and yet again the door was bolted when he got back.

The woodcutter sank to the doorstep and wept.

“What’s wrong, old man?”

He looked up to see a dervish in a long green robe and a tall green cap.

“Holy sir, for three days I have gone out to gather thorn bushes, and for three days I have come home too late to get into my house. And in all that time, I’ve had nothing to eat.”

“What night is this, old man?”

The woodcutter said, “Why, Friday eve, of course.”

“That’s right. It’s the eve of our holy day. And that’s the time of Mushkil Gusha.”

“Mushkil Gusha?” said the woodcutter.

“That’s right, old man—the ‘Remover of Difficulties.’”The holy man took some roasted chickpeas and raisins from his pouch and gave some to the woodcutter. Together they shared the simple food.

“You may not know it,” the dervish went on, “but Mushkil Gusha is already helping you. If you want your good fortune to continue, here’s what you must do: Every Friday eve, find someone in need. Then share what you have, and tell a tale of Mushkil Gusha. That way, you both will be helped.”

And with that, the holy man vanished.

As the woodcutter stared at the empty spot, the door to his house swung open.

“Father, where have you been? Oh, please come inside! I was so worried!”

A few days passed, while the woodcutter and his daughter enjoyed the many date cakes he bought after selling his wood. Then one morning, when the woodcutter had gone to the desert and his daughter had finished her housework, she decided to go walking in a park.

She was strolling down a broad path when a carriage stopped beside her.

“What a pretty little girl!” said a royal young lady. “I am the daughter of the king. Would you like to be my handmaiden?”

“Oh, yes, Your Highness,” the girl said.

So the woodcutter’s daughter became a handmaiden of the princess. With the gifts the princess gave her, she and her father became quite rich. He bought a nice house, and he didn’t have to gather thorn bushes anymore.

But somehow he forgot what the dervish had told him.

A month went by. One day, the princess went on a picnic to one of her father’s private gardens, and she brought along the woodcutter’s daughter. There was a small lake there, so they decided to go for a swim.

The princess took off her necklace and hung it on a branch overlooking the water. But when she came out, she forgot all about it.
A few days later at the palace, the princess looked for the necklace but couldn’t find it. She turned angrily to the woodcutter’s daughter.

“You stole my necklace! You must have taken it when we went for our swim!”

“No, Your Highness, I wouldn’t do that!”

“You’re a thief and a liar too! Get out of my sight!”

The woodcutter’s daughter ran home in tears. But an hour later, soldiers came to the door. They arrested the woodcutter and carried him off to a public square in front of the prison. Then they locked his feet in the stocks and left him there.

Now, that evening was Friday eve. As the sun set, the woodcutter cast his thoughts over all that had happened to him in the past weeks. All at once, he cried out.

“Oh, what a foolish, ungrateful wretch I am! Didn’t the dervish say to share what I have each Friday eve and tell of Mushkil Gusha? Yet I haven’t done it once!”

Just then, a packet of chickpeas and raisins landed at the woodcutter’s feet. When he looked up, he didn’t see who had thrown it. But he did see a beggar boy coming by.

“Young friend!” called the woodcutter. “Please share this with me while I tell you a story.”

The boy sat down and gratefully took what was offered. As he ate, the woodcutter related everything that had happened, from when his daughter asked for date cakes, to when he was put in the stocks.

“Thank you, sir,” said the boy. “I needed the food, and the story was good too. I hope it has a happy ending.”

The beggar boy went on his way. He gained good fortune too.  But that is another story.

The next day, the princess had another picnic in her father’s private garden, and again she went down to the lake for a swim. She was about to step into the water when she saw the reflection of her necklace. She looked up into the tree—and there was the necklace itself, right where she had left it.

“That woodcutter’s daughter didn’t take it at all!”  By the end of the day, the woodcutter was free from the stocks, and his daughter was back in the palace.

And every Friday eve after that, the woodcutter always remembered to find someone in need, share what he had, and tell his tale of Mushkil Gusha.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

In which there's another gift of story for you to share with your friends

A lot of people of celebrating a lot of different things today.  Maybe you're one of them.  Maybe you aren't.  Either way, here's a story.  Enjoy!


The Four Harmonious Friends, a Jataka tale (Bhutan)
One day a peacock planted a little seed. 

Along came a rabbit. She asked, “Can I help?”
“Yes”, said the peacock. "Please bring water." So the rabbit watered the seed.

Along came a monkey. He asked, “Can I help?”
“Yes,” said the rabbit. "Please bring fertilizer."  So the monkey fed the seed.

 Along came an elephant. She asked, “Can I help?”
“Yes,” said the monkey. “Please watch the seed.”  So the elephant guarded the seed.

A seedling sprouted. A little plant grew.  The little plant became a big tree. Beautiful fruit grew on the tree.

“I cannot reach the fruit,” cried the elephant.

“I can help,” said the monkey. He jumped onto the elephants back. “I cannot reach the fruit, either,” cried the monkey.

“I can help,” said the rabbit. She jumped on monkeys back. “I cannot reach the fruit either.”

“I can help,” said the peacock. He jumped onto the rabbits back. 

The peacock picked for everyone, and together they shared the fruit of the tree they had grown together.

It is said that when the story of the Four Harmonious Friends is told, auspicious events will occur.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

In which there are winter stories to share with your friends and family

For many years now, I've been sharing stories.  Not just the everyday kind of "what kind of crazy stuff I did with my horse this week" stories, but actual folktales that I collect and tell--live, on the radio, and on this blog.

The story-behind-the-story of why I do this is HERE.  It's a story about Xmas, and love, and being sick-to-death-of-the-mall, and carrot-cauliflower soup.

I look for new stories and poems all year, and at the end of each year, I bundle them up into a little booklet.  If you live nearby and want a booklet, come find me.  I hand them out to family and friends during the holidays...and also to total strangers who seem like they could use a bundle of stories.

If you don't live nearby, do not despair!

I'll post all the stories and stuff here, beginning today.  Feel free to share these stories around.  I stole most of them from elsewhere, and it's only fair that folks should steal them from me.

Today's story is my own version of a tale I found in a book called Her Stories: African American Folktales, Fairy Tales and True Tales by the renowned folklorist and storyteller Virginia Hamilton.
She doesn't say if this is a folktale, a fairy tale, or a true tale.  So, neither will I.

Happy Merry Everything, Y'all.  I'll post another story here tomorrow.


Miz Hattie Gets Some Company (American South)

One time, there was Miz Hattie.

Miz Hattie lived all alone in the piney woods.  That was all right in spring, when the flowers were blooming and the air smelled sweet.  In the spring, she’d sit on her porch and admire the clouds up in the sky. 

It was all right in summer, when the sunshine warmed the trees, and the garden needed tending.  It was all right in the fall, when the pumpkins and the corn came ripe, and there was harvesting that needed to be done. 

But the piney woods in winter were not so good.  Miz Hattie was cold and lonely in her little house.  The only visitors who came were varmints.  Weasels stole her chickens.  Rats ate her corn.  And mice—well, sometimes it seemed like the mice were everywhere.

And Miz Hattie was afraid of mice.  She gather up her skirts and holler “Mercy me!” and those mice would skitter around her feet, and grab at her bootlaces, and torment her terribly.

One cold night, bad came to worse.  A whole squeak of mice was in the house—in the cupboards, in the bread box, and running around on Miz Hattie’s bedquilt itself.

Miz Hattie gave a yell like never before.  Loud as the wind itself, it was. 

“Oh, mercy sakes!  Lord, help me!” she shouted, and threw the quilt to the floor, mice and all.

Suddenly, there came a loud, booming knock at the door.  That frightened Miz Hattie even more, but the night was too cold for man or beast.  She went, and she opened the door.

And right there in the doorway stood the Lord himself, come all the way to help Miz Hattie as she’d asked.

He didn't say a word at first.  He pulled off one of his gloves, and threw it on the floor.  And that glove, lo!  It started to move.  Miz Hattie couldn't believe her eyes.

“Lord, is your glove a-moving there?” she asked.

He spoke gently to her.  “I believe it be so, Miz Hattie,” he said.

Sure enough, she saw the thumb of that glove turn into a tail.  The fingers of the gloves turned into four legs, and in no time at all, that glove had changed into a creature that stretched itself and worked its claws…and then it sniffed at the mouse tracks.

By-and-by, the new creature jumped at one of the little skeezicks that poked a head too far out the hole, and caught that mouse.  Then it laid that mouse at Miz Hattie’s feet.

Miz Hattie picked up that creature, that cat. 

Held it in her arms and nuzzled it some.  That cat was so pleased, it hunkered down in Miz Hattie’s lap and purred.

So that is how the cat came to be a friend. 

You must always watch out for cats and show them kindness, for they are made of the Lord’s own glove.  

That’s what Miz Hattie did, and she was happy.  She had some company at last.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

In which I finish the five-day-challenge, finally (it's about time!)

21. Favorite classes rides to watch

If I'm not out on the trail, it's always good to hang out at the finish line with a stethoscope in hand, ready to pulse folks in as they return to camp.  Pulsing the 100-mile horses is always incredibly inspiring...someday, Fiddle will be one of them!

22. What’s in your cooler at horse shows endurance rides?

Since many meals in ridecamp are potluck

Sausage, fried potatoes, gravy...just the beginning of a ridecamp morning feast!

it seems like I can throw just about anything in the cooler, and combine forces with two or three other people and their coolers, and end up with some pretty spectacular food.

Food I won't leave home without:
V-8 juice
goldfish crackers
a 25-pound bag of carrots

It occurs to me that my go-to foods are mostly yellow.  What's up with that?  I guess other people must bring red and green and stuff.

23. One thing about competitions you wish you could change?

Early morning start times.


Fiddle is not a morning horse, and I am not a morning rider.  Between us, we manage to stumble around in mostly-the-right-direction until the sun comes all the way up.


24. Your ringside crew

Usual Suspects, L-to-R: Gail, Duana, Little Meaghan, Patty, Sirie, Me
Not pictured: Jim, Dory, Dean, Tim, Katie, Monica

25. Best prizes

I like T-shirts (like the Renegade shirt most of us are wearing in the photo (above).  And useful stuff, like buckets and water bottles.

bucket o' apples from the Jubilee Ride

Mostly, I like the feeling of finishing a long ride with a great horse.
Isn't this a great prize by itself?

Coming soon:  STORIES for the season!