When I was in high school, I never wore a wristwatch. I didn’t like them. I had a few in the years before high school, but they either broke or were lost, and I thought they were uncomfortable. One day I went with a friend and his dad to a flea market. I saw a table full of pocket watches. These were not your top of the line watches, and my friend’s dad suggested I not buy one. I didn’t take his advice. I ended up buying a gold (colored), wind-up pocket watch, with a spring-loaded cover that had an eagle flying over a mountain embossed on it and a chain with a belt clip on the end. A whopping $9.
Surprisingly, it lasted several years. I took it with me all over the place, including school. I ended up with an underground reputation I wasn’t even aware of, until one day people I didn’t even know called me the pocket watch man, and asked to see my pocket watch.
That pocket watch was useful for more than telling time and impressing fellow high schoolers.
At one point in my teenage years (1997? 1998?) a friend and I went to a storytelling festival. Neither of us had been to a storytelling festival before, and I’ve never been to one since.
This particular one is (or was) called the Doggone Story Telling Festival. The sun was shining, the air was warm. The festival was nestled in the wooded hills of south central Connecticut, Chester, CT to be specific. There were a few buildings, along with several tents and buildings.
There were quite a few events, most of them – you guessed it – stories! People telling stories, singing stories, and, to some extent, acting out the stories they were telling. Stories of the Native Americans, tall tales, fables, fairy tales, and histories. There were even puppet shows, geared toward children, but I remember enjoying watching one.
One of the highlights of the day for me was sitting in a pavilion, listening to an old gentleman with a beard and a guitar relay several very funny stories. I unfortunately don’t recall any of the details, but I do remember laughing. A lot.
Anyway, after he was done making everyone listening to him fall on the ground laughing, he told us it was our turn to tell stories. Anyone could go up and tell whatever story (real or made up) that they wanted.
I know my friend went up and told a story. He was always an outgoing, out-spoken person, never without something to say or some tale to tell.
The strange thing about that day was when I got up on stage and told a story. I am definitely not an outgoing, out-spoken person. I think the only reason I was able to get up and tell a story was because I didn’t think about it too much.
I had no idea what story I was going to tell when I got up there. But I had my pocket watch with me. My cheap, $9 flea market pocket watch, with the eagle on the cover. I pulled out that watch, and made up a story about it as I was talking.
Something about my grandfather being a reclusive watchmaker, making his watches in his cabin deep in the mountains, then a snake (jealous of my grandfather’s watches) stole a bunch of his supplies, and when my grandfather tried to stop him, the snake swallowed him whole! My grandfather’s friend, an eagle, saw what happened, fought and beat the snake, releasing my grandfather and his supplies. The last watch my grandfather made was a tribute to his friend the eagle, which was the watch I had in my hands.
Something like that anyway, from what I remember. There were probably a lot of umms and uhhhs mixed in there that I wasn’t even aware of. I probably looked very nervous and awkward.
But it was a lot of fun. I think I’d like to find another storytelling festival and go again sometime. If you ever get the chance to go to a storytelling festival, I would recommend it. I don’t know if the Doggone Storytelling Festival is still an active annual event, and storytelling festivals may not be the hottest ticket in town, or most widely advertised event, but if you look around, I bet you can find one somewhere.
The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival (Orem, UT)
The National Storytelling Festival (Jonesborough, TN)
The Cave Run Storytelling Festival (near Morehead, KY)
The Bay Area Storytelling Festival (Richmond, CA)
The Three Rivers Storytelling Festival (Pittsburgh, PA)
Ahh, the power of the internet. And that’s just a few of many.