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Saturday, September 24, 2016

Pyle - Apple of Contentment - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

How perfect that "Johnny Appleseed" or John Chapman was born on September the 26th at the busiest time for cider mills and the core time for apple festivals!  You do know, I presume, that he wasn't the same as the folk hero of tall tale fame

nor Disney's American Legends cartoon version.  Fort Wayne, Indiana lays claim to being where he died and celebrates him in many ways, but doesn't mark his grave.  A bit closer to me, Findlay, Ohio notes his work there.  I've never been able to locate any proof of his planting here just a bit north in Michigan.  I guess his influence was sufficient to create the plethora of orchards and cider mills.

As a result I have a real taste for telling apple stories.  For those wanting to separate Johnny Appleseed fact from fiction, there's the inevitable Wikipedia article, but you might also try 9 Facts That Tell the True Story of Johnny Appleseed (my browser said it was still trying to download the page, but it actually was downloaded), the supplemental 10 Things You Didn't Know About Johnny Appleseed, and Smithsonian's The Real Johnny Appleseed Brought Apples and Booze to the American Frontier.  I consider the last article best, if you will only read one.  In several of them you will discover Prohibition actually resulted in almost all of his trees being chopped down!  On a happier note, I was delighted to find the Disney film was accurate in its use of the Swedenborgian hymn you may recall singing: Oh the Lord is good to me and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need, the sun, the moon and the apple tree.

Last week I mentioned Howard Pyle in connection with his Book of Pirates, which was actually a collection of his various writings and illustrations about pirates.  None were short enough for here and today's story is long, but it's my favorite apple story.  It comes from Pepper and Salt; or Seasoning for Young Folks, which I recommend along with his The Wonder Clock; or Four and Twenty Marvelous Tales, Being One for Each Hour of the Day and the less easily found in stores and libraries, Twilight Land.  He did other books, but these three are wonderful anthologies of his own tale telling and deserve tasting again and again.  So don't just take a bite out of this story, it's worth gobbling it all up.  When you re-tell it, you barely need to digest it for today's listeners as it tells well even though long.

At times it seems as if the title should be the Apple of Discontentment, since it is reserved for Christine.  Similarly I have a bit of discontentment as my second page is only just legible with the binding tighter than I like.  After that I was able to push it down for better viewing, but even then you will notice a bit of a shadow.

When I talked earlier about the possibility of renaming this the Apple of Discontentment, there are a few other thoughts occurring to me.  As I mentioned earlier this is a long story to tell.  When telling at an apple festival or cider mill where people are wanting to move about, shorter stories are easier.  Go to Jackie Baldwin's old site of ideas from fellow storytellers for Apple stories and folklore resources.

On a personal bit of discontentment, I had a twisted, dead tree tangled in with an apple tree cut down only to discover the apple tree had been using the other tree as a prop!  The apple tree started to tip and, before any additional support could be added, a strong wind storm finished the job.  Neighborhood deer were the only ones eating those apples as it was a roadside volunteer.  Often I've tossed the cores of my favorite apples, Ida Reds and Granny Smiths, out a car window or in my own fields hoping to be another "Johnny Appleseed."  I'm already planning how this tree will be replaced with Granny Smiths currently and then add Ida Reds when I can get them.  (By the way, I have a true story I love to tell about the real Granny Smith of Australia.)

In the meantime, I hope you keep reading from the Public Domain.  Here's my closing for days when I have a story in Keeping the Public in Public Domain
***************** 

This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  


At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it. 

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend -
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key. http://folkmasa.org/motiv/motif.htm
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!


Saturday, September 17, 2016

Talk Like a Pirate Day with a Keeping the Public In Public Domain story and more

AARGH! 

Let me shout AHOY, MATEY!  (Pirate volume always seems to be at shout level.)

September 19 is a great date to tell pirate-inspired tales.

September 19, 2016 is International Talk Like a Pirate Day. While you might call it a  pseudo-holiday, since it only began in 1995, it even has an interesting story connected with its founding in Albany, Oregon.  According to Wikipedia two men were playing racquetball. One of the men was injured and called out “Arrr.” The pirate-sounding lament lead to the holiday’s invention, although it didn't hurt (at least not as much as the racquetball injury) that Dave Barry decided to promote it in his syndicated humor column.  To the best of my knowledge there's absolutely no restriction on using the title or the above graphic (unlike a few recent events which have had me grumbling, but I guess, when not shouting, pirates do tend to grumble along with an occasional AARGH!)  Even better, at last check there were a few fast food places dispensing free food to Piratical linguists who also bother to dress the part on Talk Like a Pirate Day: Krispy Kreme gave out free doughnuts and, of course, Long John Silver did something, too.  I've gone to their maps, er websites and haven't been able to verify this is still true, but even a free bit of grog is worth calling a nearby store to be sure the treasure is still out there.  By the way, be sure to check the Wikipedia paragraph about "Linguistic Background", too, for how we came to think pirates sounded this way.

Well this is as good an excuse as any for some of those pirate-inspired tales.  If you look here with the label of Pirates you'll find a lot of ideas as that was the Summer Reading Club theme and my 2013 Summer Reading Club program was "Dig for Treasure in the 398s" complete with my puppy puppet Buzz dressed up as a pirate.  Frankly you can take that mate, make him walk the plank, and I guarantee he'll survive doing, what else?, the dog paddle.  Aaaargh!

If that joke doesn't work for you, be sure to visit that post as it includes some online spots for pirate humor.

I also want to give you a bit of an update to that article.  One of the places I suggested you go was to the blog of my storytelling friend, Karen Chace, who always positively overflows with ideas and resources.
When I let Karen know what I was planning, Shiver my timbers!  -- she went to my 2013 article and verified all her links for you.  She also sent me this newer picture of herself.  It does an excellent job of capturing her spirit.  Speaking of spirit, drop down to the resources in my haunted library which always follows segments of Keeping the Public in Public Domain. Karen is there in the Blogroll of Honor I made listing sites who also have Public Domain stories for you.  As you might expect, my friends there are listed alphabetically by last name as I could never hope to rank them otherwise.  Karen's second there, but her blog started way back in 2008 and she probably takes second place to no one when it comes to storytelling resources.


Earlier we were tossing around a few pirate jokes, but pirates aren't all humor, by any means (especially what passes for piracy nowadays -- but we're enjoying the stereotype here) and some even manage to be perfect for spooky storytelling, too, which is perfect for looking ahead to October.
Today's story is from a journal wanting stories passed along and is short enough to tell in any event.
 

Since that's so short, if you want more I recommend heartily Howard Pyle's Book of Pirates, yes, including a ghost story.  The stories are all too long to post here.  There are various editions, Pyle died in 1911, and I really thought it was overdue for an ebook online.  A Google search said NO, but fortunately I double-checked and Project Gutenberg says YES.  Prior to that only LibriVox dared to record it and put it online.

The title page gives this subtitle: Fiction, Fact & Fancy concerning the Buccaneers & Marooners of the Spanish Main.  This is the same edition Project Gutenberg used and is from 1921.  It was only as I was writing the subtitle that I noticed it continued: From the Writing & Pictures of Howard Pyle: Compiled by Merle Johnson.  Compiling is a thankless job, but personally I loved the way the stories feature areas where I've been telling stories all over the "Spanish Main."  Of all the places I especially enjoy the Dominican Republic which is roughly half of Hispaniola, sharing the island with Haiti.

Thinking in a ghostly way today, plus various inquiries from venues have me working ahead and thinking ahead.  October here will probably have spooky stories from the Public Domain so I'm free to hit the road.  Hmmmm.  Hope I don't find any urban legend Vanishing Hitchhikers, as that's not one of my favorite stories, but I put the link to Google's search if you like it.  Although there is a local variant dating back to Prohibition here in our area that I do enjoy telling. . .
*******
Here's my closing for days when I have a story in Keeping the Public in Public Domain
***************** 

This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  


At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it. 

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend -
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key. http://folkmasa.org/motiv/motif.htm
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

9/11 and a Coyote story - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

This weekend is the tenth anniversary of a date most people just think of as 911, the same as the North American emergency phone number.

I'll be telling at a memorial service and wanted to share one of the stories I find particularly useful when the subject is death.  There are various versions with some having major changes, but the most frequently published version is here.  (It let me find a copy that reproduced well.)  Coyote is a trickster character who often manages to seem like the cartoon character in his foolishness.  We miss something if that's all we see.  His role in Native American folklore, whether foolish or even by other viewpoints downright immoral, still often manages to create good or, as in this case, set standards by which the world lives.  Another name for those standards is a "pourquois" tale because it explains "why" something came to be the way it is.  Like many tricksters, he also is often a great example of "what not to do."  Today he's in the position of setting in motion the way the world lives . . . and dies.

The most commonly presented version was collected by a Bureau of Indian Affairs doctor, George Benson Kuykendall, back in the 19th century when "ethnology" led many to collect Native American folklore.  Today some would say this is yet another way white Europeans took what wasn't theirs.  Trickster that he is, I bet Coyote laughs at that.  This story comes from Fort Simcoe on the Yakima Indian Reservation in the Northwestern area where yet another trickster, Raven, is said to have spilled out a deluge of languages upon the first people there.  Many of those languages have gone extinct and others are working to preserve any remaining languages and culture.  Yes, much of that would still be around if there hadn't been efforts by many to eliminate it in the Indian Schools.  Not everyone wanted to do that and it's why I believe we should respect the ethnologists and thank them at least for saving what they did.  Kuykendall didn't write the story, merely record it, but I believe it fairly fits public domain by virtue of when he collected it.  I'm not a lawyer, haven't even played one onstage yet, but hope this is acceptable to reproduce as it certainly matches the aims of Public Domain (see my standard closing below for whenever I reproduce something in my "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" segments).

Coyote and Eagle in the Land of the Dead 

(often listed as being Yakima because of where it was collected, but the Wishram people are probably its source)

On this sad anniversary many would probably wish otherwise, but the lesson most often gained from this story is that our bodies have their limits and this is how death releases us from pain.  It's hard for those who remain behind, which brings up yet another tale that the living stand on the shore while our loved ones get into the boat across to the Land of the Dead.  We stand and wave goodbye, while over there those who have already gone there are waving in greeting.  
********
Here's my new closing for days when I have a story in Keeping the Public in Public Domain
***************** 

This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  


At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it. 

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend -
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key. http://folkmasa.org/motiv/motif.htm
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Happy Birthday, Star Trek

Space. . . the final frontier
and fifty years ago! on September 8 in 1966 appeared the first Star Trek episode with six t.v. series and 13 films - including this past summer's Star Trek Beyond (debuted 7/22/2016).  Don't have much science fiction material nor storytelling opportunities, but can't overlook a cultural phenomenon like this.
I know they've been super-inclined to make people take down any offiffiffic'al graphics, but I should be able at least to show my own pins.



There have been five Captains:
  1.  James T. Kirk (Original series)
  2. Jean-Luc Picard (The Next Generation)
  3. Benjamin Sisko (Deep Space Nine)
  4. Kathryn Janeway (Voyager)
  5. Jonathan Archer (Enterprise)
(Was Trek Talks the sixth series?)

Resistance is futile . . .
There will be more than one touring exhibit, from the science/technology end of the spectrum all the way to the arts with one called Star Trek: 50 Artists 50 Years and a book by the same name.  There will even be a cruise out of Miami, but presumably it's only sailing on the ocean.  Tons of books are coming out, novels, even a teen graphic novel series called Star Trek Academy the publishers hope will be a "Star Trek Hogwarts", as well as miscellaneous nonfiction, including more trivia than Tribbles, even a Star Trek Mad Libs, plus more serious reference books, as well as enough retrospective items brought back to fulfill for their creators the Vulcan wish to "Live long and prosper." (Now where did I put that book that was supposed to teach me Klingon?)  There have been many reference books over the years with Harper Collins revising and enlarging to two volumes its Star Trek Encyclopedia (originally published in 1999) again by the writers of many of those other reference books, Denise and Michael Okuda, a couple who occasionally wrote for both t.v. episodes and the movies. The most interesting combination of fiction and nonfiction comes from National Geographic and claims to be "where sci-fi and real science collide" with its Star Trek; The Official Guide to Our Universe -- The true science behind the Starship Voyages by Andrew Fazekas (& a Foreword by William Shatner) and promises to combine snapshots and scenes from episodes with facts on the solar system, exoplanets, stars, nebulae and more.

How I wish that included transporters!  Even though I suspect, since Star Trek did inspire some scientific and technological advances, initial efforts will be just as difficult as when Doctor McCoy used to worry about his molecules being scattered.  I know I remember reading somewhere that labs have indeed tried to create a way to transport objects (and lab animals?).  It may be filled with problems, but still as Captain Picard loved to say, "Make it so."

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Anonymous? Stories about Bose the St. Bernard - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

I'm becoming incredibly grumpy about the number of times I must find a way to discuss something online without being sued!  Yesterday was a National Day celebrating an animal I consider part of my family.  I can't name what kind of animal that is within the title of National ___ Day unless I want to pay the dot com running that day the equivalent of a storytelling program!

I love Huskies and Malamutes!

The missing word is the mirror image of the word "GOD" and that look in the mirror fits my mood right now.

I appreciate this group wants to see adoptions, both specific breeds and mixed breeds, they want to stop bans of specific breeds, and they are suggesting donations to shelters and rescue groups.  I have dealt with various rescue groups and especially supported K9 Stray Rescue League who have been wonderful, but I would prefer to donate my services to that specific group or another local group than be told by a national entity that I must become an offiffiffic'al partner if I want to name their holiday.  The funny thing is they will consider letting something be free IF the request comes from a big enough non-profit with sufficient followers of their social media.

I trust you'll understand my going GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!

Today's some stories first appealed to me as possible stories to tell at a Rescue event.  Stories Witty and Pictures Pretty, is one of those anonymously produced 19th century children's books I would normally reject.  I try to sample a book of stories before buying it.  Today's book, has some tales in it about a St. Bernard named Bose that captured me right away.  Bose, too, like my own "malamutt" had to adapt to a new human.  The stories were in the reverse order of the way I'm presenting them as I prefer to give them chronologically.  Possibly the publisher, W.B. Conkey Company, of New York and Chicago was correct, as right away I could think of  similar incidents that matched the final episode with Bose and his canine friend, Sam.  It would be too easy to dismiss as being from another era and possibly sentimental.  It's not.  It and the other stories are good examples of why so many people can't help but love dogs.  When I mention the word "dog" beyond the mirror image of "God", I'm also convinced dogs are His best creation.  They certainly surpass humans in many ways.  Today's stories give a good taste of why I say that.


































































and in conclusion
For those of us who love our pets as family members, when a pet dies I also recommend the story of The Rainbow Bridge which has grown since 1997 to become an online support site.  

While we're looking online, I also went looking about that part where Bose cried actual tears.  If you want to know more go to http://peanutpaws.com/can-dogs-cry/ which also is part of a site which is a good resource for dog owners and people thinking about getting a dog.

My apologies for the way a story sometimes isn't squared perfectly.  My scanner is across the room and so I must dash back and forth between it and my computer to start the process.  In the case of a delicate old book, this leads me to be gentler to its binding.  Today's book will probably never be scanned and put online.  I've no idea who "Kham" was nor the even more anonymous illustrator was, but one of the joys of old books can be traces of its history.  This was the book's first page.
That Christmas of 1896 someone named Julia gave Cleveland Bandholtz the book as a present.  I couldn't resist peeking into history a bit.  I've no idea if it was the same Cleveland Bandholtz, but he was born in 1891, the son of General H.H.Bandholtz and May Cleveland Bandholtz, and even has a Michigan connection, spending part of his early life at the family home in Constantine, when not being an "army brat" following his parents to the Philippines and other army stations.  He grew up to be a lieutenant colonel, serving in both World Wars and was awarded the Legion of Merit for his World War II service.  He's buried in Arlington National Cemetery, while his father is in Constantine.  I've no idea who Julia might have been, but reading about the man I suspect was the recipient of my book I like to think her gift helped to shape who he was.
*******
Here's my new closing for days when I have a story in Keeping the Public in Public Domain
***************** 

This is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  


At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it. 

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend -
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key. http://folkmasa.org/motiv/motif.htm
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!














Saturday, August 20, 2016

Audubon - The Burning of the Forests - Keeping the Public in Public Domain

With forest fires destroying large parts of California and other parts of the western United States, today's story reminds us summer's heat is the least of what could be happening.  Back in 2010 I had a house flood.  Nothing on the scale of what's going on in Baton Rouge currently, nor Hurricane Sandy, which hit in 2012, but I encourage people to check out my earlier disaster segments here since, from time to time, disasters change our lives.  Whether total loss or adjusting to the chaos of any major crisis, I tried to find as many ways for working through it all from others who had the same or worse events.  Right now I'm reading Wayne Muller's A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough.  In some cases I wish I could sit with Muller and disagree or question some of what he says, but on pages 136 and 137 is "What Grows After a Fire" and he talks about visiting an area only three weeks after a major fire destroyed dozens of homes.  Already, in the midst of the blackened refuse was a sea of green from 6 to 10" oak seedlings blanketing the forest floor without human interference.  His conclusion is that life is like this and "When we learn this, when we finally realize who we are, what we know, and of what we are truly capable, any fear of never having enough of anything gradually and inevitably falls away."

After today's story I will mention some Michigan forest fires mainly pre-dating the U.S. Forest Service.   I initially thought today's story was about an incident experienced by the great ornithologist, John James Audubon.  I found "A Forest on Fire" in Story Hour Readings, Fifth Year, which was part of a series for 1921 readers by educator, Ernest Clark Hartwell, for the American Book Company.  Hartwell gives some sources on his Acknowledgements page, but gave only a by-line attributing it to Audubon.

Of course that sent me hunting.  Audubon's Wikipedia article gave me a clue it might have happened while he lived in Kentucky.  Prowling Project Gutenberg, I found the story in Audubon and His Journals, volume 2 by Maria R. Audubon.  (This is the continuation of the Missouri River journals by John James Audubon in volume 1.)  The problem is Hartwell's reader simplifies the story and also doesn't explain this is a story told to Audubon by an unnamed hunter in Maine talking about an incident with his equally anonymous wife and daughter.  It's still a worthwhile story and, to identify where the actual story started in the reader, I'll give the introductory phrase in red.

I can't even identify the illustrator for the story's header as the title page explains.  By the way, as of this writing there are other years of the Story Hour Readings online, but not yet the Fifth Year.  The reader's version is easier to tell.  If you would like me to scan it and send you a copy, email me with Forest Fire Story Request in the Subject line.



or as the journal calls it 
THE BURNING OF THE FORESTS.

With what pleasure have I seated myself by the blazing fire of some lonely cabin, when, faint with fatigue, and chilled with the piercing blast, I had forced my way to it through the drifted snows that covered the face of the country as with a mantle. The affectionate mother is hushing her dear babe to repose, while a group of sturdy children surround their father, who has just returned from the chase, and deposited on the rough flooring of his hut the varied game which he has procured. The great back-log, that with some difficulty has been rolled into the ample chimney, urged, as it were, by lighted pieces of pine, sends forth a blaze of light over the happy family. The dogs of the hunter are already licking away the trickling waters of the thawing icicles that sparkle over their shaggy coats, and the comfort-loving cat is busied in passing her furry paws over each ear, or with her rough tongue smoothing her glossy coat.
How delightful to me has it been when, kindly received and hospitably treated under such a roof, by persons whose means were as scanty as their generosity was great, I have entered into conversation with them respecting subjects of interest to me, and received gratifying information. When the humble but plentiful repast was ended, the mother would take from the shelf the Book of books, and mildly request the attention of her family, while the father read aloud a chapter. Then to Heaven would ascend their humble prayers, and a good-night would be bidden to all friends far and near. How comfortably have I laid my wearied frame on the Buffalo hide, and covered me with the furry skin of some huge Bear! How pleasing have been my dreams of home and happiness, as I there lay, secure from danger and sheltered from the inclemency of the weather. 295
I recollect that once while in the State of Maine, I passed such a night as I have described. Next morning the face of nature was obscured by the heavy rains that fell in torrents, and my generous host begged me to remain, in such pressing terms that I was well content to accept his offer. Breakfast over, the business of the day commenced; the spinning-wheels went round, and the boys employed themselves, one in searching for knowledge, another in attempting to solve some ticklish arithmetical problem. In a corner lay the dogs, dreaming of plunder, while close to the ashes stood grimalkin, seriously purring in concert with the wheels. The hunter and I seated ourselves each on a stool, while the matron looked after her domestic arrangements.
"Puss," quoth the dame, "get away; you told me last night of this day's rain, and I fear you may now give us worse news with tricky paws." Puss accordingly went off, leaped on a bed, and rolling herself in a ball, composed herself for a comfortable nap. I asked the husband what his wife meant by what she had just said. "The good woman," said he, "has some curious notions at times, and she believes, I think, in the ways of animals of all kinds. Now, her talk to the cat refers to the fires of the woods around us, and although they have happened long ago, she fears them quite as much as ever, and, indeed, she and I and all of us have good reason to dread them, as they have brought us many calamities." Having read of the great fires to which my host alluded, and frequently observed with sorrow the mournful state of the forests, I felt anxious to know something of the causes by which these direful effects had been produced. I therefore requested him to give me an account of the events resulting from those fires which he had witnessed. Willingly he at once went on, nearly as follows:—
"About twenty-five years ago the larch, or hackmatack, trees were nearly all killed by insects. This took place in 296 what hereabouts is called the 'black soft growth' land, that is, the spruce, pine, and all other firs. The destruction of the trees was effected by the insects cutting the leaves, and you must know that, although other trees are not killed by the loss of their leaves, the evergreens always are. Some few years after this destruction of the larch, the same insects attacked the spruces, pines, and other firs, in such a manner that, before half a dozen years were over, they began to fall, and, tumbling in all directions, they covered the whole country with matted masses. You may suppose that when partially dried or seasoned, they would prove capital fuel, as well as supplies for the devouring flames, which accidentally, or perhaps by intention, afterwards raged over the country, and continued burning at intervals for years, in many places stopping all communication by the roads; the resinous nature of the firs being of course best fitted to insure and keep up the burning of the deep beds of dry leaves or of the other trees." Here I begged him to give me some idea of the form of the insects which had caused such havoc.
"The insects," said he, "were, in their caterpillar form, about three quarters of an inch in length, and as green as the leaves of the trees they fed on, when they committed their ravages. I must tell you also that, in most of the places over which the fire passed, a new growth of wood has already sprung up, of what we lumberers call hard wood, which consists of all other sorts but pine or fir; and I have always remarked that wherever the first natural growth of a forest is destroyed, either by the axe, the hurricane, or the fire, there springs up spontaneously another of quite a different kind." I again stopped my host to inquire if he knew the method or nature of the first kindling of the fires.
"Why, sir," said he, "there are different opinions about this. Many believe that the Indians did it, either to be the better able to kill the game, or to punish their 297 enemies the Pale-faces. My opinion, however, is different; and I derive it from my experience in the woods as a lumberer. I have always thought that the fires began by the accidental fall of a dry trunk against another, when their rubbing together, especially as many of them are covered with resin, would produce fire. The dry leaves on the ground are at once kindled, next the twigs and branches, when nothing but the intervention of the Almighty could stop the progress of the fire.
"In some instances, owing to the wind, the destructive element approached the dwellings of the inhabitants of the woods so rapidly that it was difficult for them to escape. In some parts, indeed, hundreds of families were obliged to flee from their homes, leaving all they had behind them, and here and there some of the affrighted fugitives were burnt alive."
At this moment a rush of wind came down the chimney, blowing the blaze of the fire towards the room. The wife and daughter, imagining for a moment that the woods were again on fire, made for the door, but the husband explaining the cause of their terror, they resumed their work.
"Poor things," said the lumberer, "I dare say that what I have told you brings sad recollections to the minds of my wife and eldest daughter, who, with myself, had to fly from our home, at the time of the great fires." I felt so interested in his relation of the causes of the burnings that I asked him to describe to me the particulars of his misfortunes at the time. "If Prudence and Polly," said he, looking towards his wife and daughter, "will promise to sit still should another puff of smoke come down the chimney, I will do so." The good-natured smile with which he made this remark elicited a return from the women and he proceeded:—
"It is a difficult thing, sir, to describe, but I will do my best to make your time pass pleasantly. We were sound asleep one night in a cabin about a hundred miles from 298 this, when, about two hours before day, the snorting of the horses and lowing of the cattle which I had ranging in the woods suddenly awakened us. I took yon rifle and went to the door, to see what beast had caused the hubbub, when I was struck by the glare of light reflected on all the trees before me, as far as I could see through the woods. My horses were leaping about, snorting loudly, and the cattle ran among them with their tails raised straight over their backs. On going to the back of the house, I plainly heard the crackling made by the burning brushwood, and saw the flames coming towards us in a far extended line. I ran to the house, told my wife to dress herself and the child as quick as possible, and take the little money we had, while I managed to catch and saddle the two best horses. All this was done in a very short time, for I guessed that every moment was precious to us.
"We then mounted, and made off from the fire. My wife, who is an excellent rider, stuck close to me; my daughter, who was then a small child, I took in one arm. When making off as I said, I looked back and saw that the frightful blaze was close upon us, and had already laid hold of the house. By good luck, there was a horn attached to my hunting-clothes, and I blew it, to bring after us, if possible, the remainder of my live stock, as well as the dogs. The cattle followed for a while; but, before an hour had elapsed, they all ran as if mad through the woods, and that, sir, was the last of them. My dogs, too, although at other times extremely tractable, ran after the Deer that in bodies sprung before us, as if fully aware of the death that was so rapidly approaching.
"We heard blasts from the horns of our neighbors as we proceeded, and knew that they were in the same predicament. Intent on striving to the utmost to preserve our lives, I thought of a large lake some miles off, which might possibly check the flames; and, urging my wife to 299 whip up her horse, we set off at full speed, making the best way we could over the fallen trees and brush-heaps, which lay like so many articles placed on purpose to keep up the terrific fires that advanced with a broad front upon us.
"By this time we could feel the heat; and we were afraid that our horses would drop every instant. A singular kind of breeze was passing over our heads, and the glare of the atmosphere shone over the daylight. I was sensible of a slight faintness, and my wife looked pale. The heat had produced such a flush in the child's face that when she turned towards either of us, our grief and perplexity were greatly increased. Ten miles, you know, are soon gone over on swift horses; but, notwithstanding this, when we reached the borders of the lake, covered with sweat and quite exhausted, our hearts failed us. The heat of the smoke was insufferable, and sheets of blazing fire flew over us in a manner beyond belief. We reached the shores, however, coasted the lake for a while, and got round to the lee side. There we gave up our horses, which we never saw again. Down among the rushes we plunged by the edge of the water, and laid ourselves flat, to wait the chance of escaping from being burnt or devoured. The water refreshed us, and we enjoyed the coolness.
"On went the fire, rushing and crashing through the woods. Such a sight may we never see! The heavens, themselves, I thought were frightened, for all above us was a red glare mixed with clouds of smoke, rolling and sweeping away. Our bodies were cool enough, but our heads were scorching, and the child, who now seemed to understand the matter, cried so as nearly to break our hearts.
"The day passed on, and we became hungry. Many wild beasts came plunging into the water beside us, and others swam across to our side and stood still. Although 300 faint and weary, I managed to shoot a Porcupine, and we all tasted its flesh. The night passed, I cannot tell you how. Smouldering fires covered the ground, and trees stood like pillars of fire, or fell across each other. The stifling and sickening smoke still rushed over us, and the burnt cinders and ashes fell thick about us. How we got through that night I really cannot tell, for about some of it I remember nothing." Here the hunter paused, and took breath. The recital of his adventure seemed to have exhausted him. His wife proposed that we should have a bowl of milk, and the daughter having handed it to us, we each took a draught.
"Now," said he, "I will proceed. Towards morning, although the heat did not abate, the smoke became less, and blasts of fresh air sometimes made their way to us. When morning came, all was calm, but a dismal smoke still filled the air, and the smell seemed worse than ever. We were now cooled enough, and shivered as if in an ague fit; so we removed from the water, and went up to a burning log, where we warmed ourselves. What was to become of us, I did not know. My wife hugged the child to her breast, and wept bitterly; but God had preserved us through the worst of the danger, and the flames had gone past, so I thought it would be both ungrateful to him and unmanly to despair now. Hunger once more pressed upon us, but this was easily remedied. Several Deer were still standing in the water, up to the head, and I shot one of them. Some of its flesh was soon roasted; and after eating it we felt wonderfully strengthened.
"By this time the blaze of the fire was beyond our sight, although the ground was still burning in many places, and it was dangerous to go among the burnt trees. After resting awhile, and trimming ourselves, we prepared to commence our march. Taking up the child, I led the way over the hot ground and rocks; and, after two weary days and nights, during which we shifted in the best 301 manner we could, we at last reached the 'hard woods' which had been free of the fire. Soon after we came to a house, where we were kindly treated for a while. Since then, sir, I have worked hard and constantly as a lumberer; but, thanks be to God, here we are safe, sound, and happy!"

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All that talk about the hunter now calling himself a lumberer brings me to thinking about the List of Michigan wildfires and in 1881 how it changed the face of Michigan's Thumb area into cleared farmland.  Ten years earlier, on October 8, 1871, at the very same time everybody's attention was switched to the Great Chicago Fire (so familiarly attributed by a song to Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicking a lantern over), the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and on into Wisconsin with the Peshtigo Fire, came history's deadliest wildfire.  It even left evidence in concrete reminiscent of the atomic bomb.  I read books about that fire and was impressed to learn it not only was missed because of Chicago's disaster, but it was also on the same day as a fire across the bay in Wisconsin's Door Peninsula and several locations in Michigan at Holland, Manistee, and Port Huron.  Here it was just called the Great Michigan Fire.


It's been a long time since I grew up hearing Smokey the Bear cautioning us about not carelessly starting fires.  Even that bit of official public service announcement gathered a story, after the fact, when a black bear cub was rescued after being rescued from a New Mexico wildfire.  Of course the cub was later named Smokey after the advertising mascot.  He lived a long and apparently happy life at the National Zoo.  The hotlink manages to give even more information about him.  Nowadays, while careless fires still can start devastating fires, controlled burns supposedly eliminate the brush that can fuel a wildfire.  I remember walking my dog past one at Orion Oaks Park and seeing an emerald green snake gasping at the edge of the burn.  He was half burnt up.  The next time I walked there he was gone.  Probably eaten.  Rather like the story of the unknown hunter who told his story to Audubon and killed a deer after the fire was over.
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Today's story was long, but I want to include this is part of a series of postings of stories under the category, "Keeping the Public in Public Domain."  The idea behind Public Domain was to preserve our cultural heritage after the authors and their immediate heirs were compensated.  I feel strongly current copyright law delays this intent on works of the 20th century.  My own library of folklore includes so many books within the Public Domain I decided to share stories from them.  I hope you enjoy discovering new stories.  


At the same time, my own involvement in storytelling regularly creates projects requiring research as part of my sharing stories with an audience.  Whenever that research needs to be shown here, the publishing of Public Domain stories will not occur that week.  This is a return to my regular posting of a research project here.  (Don't worry, this isn't dry research, my research is always geared towards future storytelling to an audience.)  Response has convinced me that "Keeping the Public in Public Domain" should continue along with my other postings as often as I can manage it. 

Other Public Domain story resources I recommend -
  • There are many online resources for Public Domain stories, maybe none for folklore is as ambitious as fellow storyteller, Yoel Perez's database, Yashpeh, the International Folktales Collection.  I have long recommended it and continue to do so.  He has loaded Stith Thompson's Motif Index into his server as a database so you can search the whole 6 volumes for whatever word or expression you like by pressing one key. http://folkmasa.org/motiv/motif.htm
  • You may have noticed I'm no longer certain Dr. Perez has the largest database, although his offering the Motif Index certainly qualifies for those of us seeking specific types of stories.  There's another site, FairyTalez claiming to be the largest, with "over 2000 fairy tales, folktales, and fables" and they are "fully optimized for phones, tablets, and PCs", free and presented without ads.
Between those two sites, there is much for story-lovers, but as they say in infomercials, "Wait, there's more!"
You can see why I recommend these to you. Have fun discovering even more stories!