WHEN I BEGAN writing this column six years ago, one of the things I wanted to do was honor the tradition of storytelling in East Texas. We do love a good tale, well told. At their core, they usually have some solid bit of wisdom. Sometimes, however, they're simply East Texas at its most wry.
A fellow was driving through East Texas from up North. He got off the freeway and stopped at a small country store on the side of the road. As he went into the store to buy a cola, he couldn't help but notice the old timer sitting outside on a chair, a friendly and intelligent looking three legged pig sitting next to him.
As he walked past them on the way out, he stopped and asked the old timer what the story was on the three legged pig.
The old timer rose up and began to speak: "Mister, last year in the middle of the night, a fire started on the floor by my fireplace. That pig knew that was danger, so he went around the house, waking everyone up and getting everyone outside. We got the fire department there and saved the house. Everyone said that pig saved our lives that night."
The northerner replied, "So how does that figure into the pig having three legs?"
"Mister," he said indignantly, "a pig like that you don't eat all at once!"
That is the kind of story which represents East Texas storytelling to me. I have known some great East Texas storytellers. Ronnie McMullen. Mike Capps. Lynn Parker. Rick Lawrence. These were some of the guys I grew up with. Ronnie passed away a number of years ago. The other three I remain in contact with.
Rick and I were stationed together overseas in 1970 and 1971, so I got to watch him tell stories to an audience made for the shrewd East Texas storyteller. We knew guys from all over the country while in the military, and many of them harbor quaint if silly notions about most Texans. Rick knew how to play on that to maximum effect.
The other three - Ronnie Mac, Lynn Parker and Mike Capps - were guys I hung out with, played cards with, smoked little cigars with, and occasionally imbibed with. Telling a good story was a rite of passage for young men from East Texas in the 1960s. It was an age of muscle cars without seat belts, of endless pursuits of girls, of Splash Day at Galveston, of parents told we were going here when we were really going there. Those kind of things generate tall tales by young bucks verbally strutting their stuff.
I wonder if the art of storytelling is being maintained in today's East Texas. A story takes more time than a joke. There is a certain amount of pace that is required, so as not to rush the ending. If everything works out, the story ends up winding its way back.
If you see me with a three legged pig, you'll know why.
© 2012, Jim “Pappy” Moore, All Rights Reserved.
Jim “Pappy” Moore is a native son of East Texas who still makes the piney woods his email@example.com