Monday, March 21, 2016


Bynum General Store Storytelling
One of the great storytellers of Bynum passed away a week and 2 days before the first official Bynum General Store Storytelling show.
I say "first official" ... Storytelling has been going on there years and years. There was always a ring of fellas sitting in a circle of chairs in the middle of the store, a little over to the left. There are still worn out spots on the floor from their boots. If you needed to know anything - how to fix a faucet or when to plant corn or how to make chicken cracker stew - they knew it. They swapped lies, fish tales, half-truths and shared stories.
2014-08-28 19.04.58.jpg
Photo by Virginia Wallace
Roy Hatley frequently said to me, "You and Louise Omoto Kessel call yourselves storytellers. They just call me a liar!" Then he'd throw back his head and laugh.
As I left, his eyes would crinkle up in a big grin. "Girl! I'm so glad you got to see me!"
He was a big burly fellow. Loud. Didn't couch his words. Like all the fellas in Bynum, you knew where you stood the minute you walked in the door. He had scared me a little bit when I first met him. Until I saw the twinkle in his eye - he was all heart.
Just inside the Bynum General Store is a slice of a big log - the end grain marred by a thousand knife cuts - a chopping block a hundred years old. Saturday night during the storytelling show, a hunk of hoop cheese and a box of saltine crackers were there. The red waxed cheddar met folks as they walked in the door - on purpose.
"The Mayor" Roy Hatley
in a Cyde Jones' mural
Many a day the fellas (and whoever else dropped by) would buy a thick slice of orange cheese and a sleeve of saltines and that would be their lunch.
Louise Kessel, Storyteller
Photo by Dave Minnich

You'd go to check the mail about 1 o'clock... Two artists, the postmaster, Roy, Jack Wheeler, Prate, Billy Joe, Dub, the UPS man, the preacher and a meter reader would be eating saltine crackers whole, rared back in their chairs listening - and one of them would be spinning a yarn. Whoever didn't have their mouth full of crackers would be denying or agreeing. Those that did were swigging their Pepsi down quick to get a word in edgewise....

As we told stories Saturday night, I felt the whisper, “If these walls could talk.” It was like someone had bumped me. And goosebumps. Reflexively i looked a little over to the left .... I could almost hear Roy's laughter and see his eyes crinkle up in a big grin, "Girl! I'm so glad you got to see me!" All I could do was smile. Louise Omoto Kessel - the storyteller - was on stage. Yes Roy. So glad.
Photo by Dave Minnich

See you soon! 
Love, Cindy