Thursday, January 22, 2015


By Beatrice M. Hanson

Story-telling, once so much a part of the family’s leisure hours, has since been replaced by the voice of radio, and in more recent years, the television. When I was young we invented our own games and ways of entertainment.
On rainy days, we spent long happy hours in the two large attic rooms of the farmhouse, changing the furniture from doll hospitals, to schoolrooms, to stage sets and back again.
However, the tail-end of the summer vacation found us bored and restless with many of the activities we enjoyed earlier.
I recall it was such a day, when, losing all interest in "Make- believe” one of us suggested we visit “Aunt Sophie”. The idea was applauded with delight.
Aunt Sophie, as she was nicknamed, lived quietly alone in an old homestead a quarter of a mile up the road from our home.
She was famous for her stories of the Civil War days and equally so with her tales of the unfriendly Indians.
No sooner spoken than we were out of the house and hurrying up the quiet tree-lined street. Soon we came to a large white house set back from the highway by rolling lawns.
Scaling the embankment we made our way to the massive door with an impressive gold knocker. Being too short to reach it, we used our knuckles in unison to attract attention.
Soon could be heard the shuffling of slippered feet as Aunt Sophie made her way to open the door, opened it and stood looking at us. She was a small woman with sparse gray hair pulled tight back from her head, with but one lock on her forehead rolled in a wire curler. “Yes?” she inquired.
Our little spokesman stepped forward. “We would like to hear a story, please,” she said. Aunt Sophie hesitated only for a moment before graciously inviting us to enter. The hallway smelled of musk and rotting wood as we passed through to the front room. She excused herself for a moment but gave us permission to play with the toys stored under the sofa,
with the exception of a calico-dressed doll that had belonged to her mother. It was very old and very precious to her.
We sat on the edge of the black horse-hair sofa for its roughness pricked the skin on our bare legs, as we played with Noah’s Ark and the assortment of farm animals.
Presently she returned, carrying a plate of cookies, and as she seated herself on a straight-backed chair, began her story telling. We made a ring around her chair by sitting on the floor cross-legged. As we passed the plate around, we kept our eyes on her face.
One, I remember, concerned the true story of a run-away slave who begged protection from her grandfather who took pity and hid him in the barn. Later soldiers on horseback surrounded the buildings looking for him. The man was so well concealed under piles of hay, they left without discovering his hideout. She told tales of Indians capturing the white man. Their ability to travel swiftly and silently, the canoe paddles making scarcely a ripple on the water - of horrible massacres - the shrieking of the unfortunates which sent shivers down our spine, and told them with such intensity we'd forget, for a moment, where we were.
When the story telling was over we smiled our thank yous and filed out the door, quite grateful, after the stay in a decaying house, to see the sun shining again. But never forgetting the experience of knowing such a distinguished and remarkable lady.