Partial to home: Storytellers, present and past

November 19, 2012 10:12:57 AM

Birney Imes - [email protected]


If you took in any of the first annual Possum Town Tales Storytelling Festival, you don't need anyone to tell you how good it was. If you missed it, well, as they say, there's nothing to do around here. Lest anyone get the wrong idea, there is a remarkable amount of stuff going on in the Triangle. 


Beverly Norris, whose sister Jan Swoope is Dispatch lifestyles editor, was behind it. Anything Jan and Beverly are associated with is usually first rate and this was no exception. One mother told me her son has been talking about Len Cabral's folk tales all weekend. 


At the hometown tellers event at the Rosenzweig Thursday night, we met a couple from Canada who were traveling on the waterway with their two pre-teenage boys, and a couple from Australia who have been cruising this nation's waterways in a small Chris-Craft cabin cruiser for three months. 


The Australians are from a suburb of Sydney -- I wasn't taking notes so I didn't get their name or hometown. They said they had been at a restaurant in Australia overlooking a waterway one evening and saw a boat cruise by. One of them made an off-hand comment about how cool it would be to travel in such and the next thing they knew they were in Minneapolis, Minnesota in the United States of America buying a boat. 


It's been great, they said of their life on the water. They plan to sell the boat in Mobile. "It's not much, and we'll probably lose money on it," they said, "but it's really been a cheap way to travel." 


And it seemed a good way to experience America's heartland, they said. They're thinking about cruising Europe in longboats next. 


Both the Australian couple and the Canadian family seemed charmed by Columbus. 


Shane Tubbs, a local musician and actor, gave a brilliant country boy's rendition of Romeo and Juliet. Wearing a plaid shirt and brown Carhartt overalls, Tubbs performed the piece with flawless timing and -- what I later found out -- amazing recall. Afterward someone mentioned the piece was taken from an Andy Griffith recording. Still, Mr. Tubbs did the sheriff of Mayberry proud. 


On the way back from Jackson Saturday, Beth and I landed in Starkville just in time for the 7:10 p.m. screening of Lincoln, who was himself a great storyteller. There's been plenty written and said about the 16th president occasioned by Steven Speilberg's just-released movie about Lincoln's last month of life and his Herculean effort to get the 13th amendment passed abolishing slavery. Lists vary, but after Jesus and Shakespeare, Lincoln is among the most popular subject for biographers. 


Plenty of great actors have played Honest Abe in movies, but I can't see how any of them could approximate Daniel Day-Lewis' portrayal. While there are things you can criticize about the movie, Day-Lewis' performance isn't one of them; you don't doubt for a moment that that is Abraham Lincoln up there on the screen. The British actor seems to channel Lincoln. It is said during the shooting of a movie Lewis stays in character for the entire time, both on and off the set. 


The story is affirming and timely in that it shows how our messy democracy, with all its flaws, can end up working as it should. 


One wonders how different the world (and the South) would be if Lincoln had lived and there had been a more gentle Reconstruction. 


While in downtown Jackson, we rode by and saw the lovely plantings around the entrance of the Mississippi Museum of Art. If you're in the capital, go by and have a look and visit the museum; it's time well spent -- and it's free. The garden is dedicated to the revered landscape architect, the late Ed Blake of Hattiesburg, and it is one of his last works. Blake helped design the recently-opened soccer park in Burns Bottom.

Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.