Whittle: Storytellers born to tell whoppers

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t being called a storyteller, along with other names that can't be printed in a family newspaper.

When my story-telling days on earth are over, I'd be honored to have "storyteller" listed on my memorial stone by favorite undertaker Thomas Bucher at the historic Woodfin's Funeral Home after I'm planted in the lovely nearby Maple View Cemetery.

Instead of expensive flowers and mourning over my un-alive carcass, go to the beautiful and free to use Tennessee Fisher House and share some "stories" in my name with the ailing military veterans. That way, my story-telling legacy will live on after I'm dead and gone.

It meant a lot recently when friend Laura Williams crowned me with the title "gifted story-teller" live and on the air on Truman Jones Talk Show I co-host on most Wednesdays.

Note, not just a storyteller, but a "gifted storyteller," according to retired Police Captain Detective Williams, and police officers don't fib.

How long have I been telling stories?

I'll let Momma Whittle's words from her death bed tell that story during one of our last mother-son pleasurable visits: "Son, do you remember when I'd thrash your scrawny little legs with a willow tree switch when I'd catch you telling one of your whoppers?"

"Yes ma'am, I recall those thrashings," I confirmed very firmly.

"I remember making you go get your own switch from one of our beautiful willow trees," Momma added. "I shouldn't have made you go get your own switch."

"I agree it was undue pain and agony to go get my own switches," I chimed. "But then, I didn't let you know that I always whittled out only the smaller switches."

"And Mom, I didn't think they were beautiful trees at the time!"

"And the bigger your latest 'whopper' of a tale, the harder I would switch Little Danny Whittle's tail," Mother shared as if to get this off her chest before she went to where good farm ladies go to rest after picking their last sack of cotton.

"Mother, that's pretty well how I remember those days too," I concurred as her last living child.

"And now (2003), here I am on my death bed at Peachtree Nursing home, and you're a paid professional storyteller," Mother praised. "I'm proud of your story-telling talent ...however, I want it known that your talent for telling whoppers from your daddy's side of the family."

How to tell early in life if you're a natural teller of tall tales?

About age 3, I recall other farm neighbor boys and girls would play hide-in-seek, while I loved sitting quietly, but near enough to hear the "old folks" tell their stories after feasting on Mother's larruping good thickening gravy and biscuits.

"When Preacher Sullivant comes for Sunday dinner, don't dare reach and get that last piece of fried chicken," I recall Mother's firm after-church dining instructions.

You think I had a dull life in remote farming country? I learned early in life to be a good storyteller, you had to listen up close and personal.

By listening, I remember the day Daddy explained why we were required to hang Granny Grunts' underwear behind the sheets out on the clothesline during Mother's "wash days" in the old back-yard black kettle.

"Granny Grunt doesn't like for her drawers to be seen hanging out there to dry and be seen by the lusting prying eyes of the tractor drivers going up and down our farm road," Daddy explained.

That was valuable family information for a little boy to learn. Otherwise, I'd not be able to share the story with you today about why Granny Grunts' drawers were always hidden out-of-view behind the big broad bed sheets.

Would you like to hear the story of about how she got the name "Granny Grunt?"

I remember asking older brother Van to explain that to me one Sunday afternoon as the "old folks" were gathered under one of our large "hicker nut" trees after we shared some vittles for the visiting Whittles, who lived over yonder at the Trailback Plantation.

Brother pridefully claimed to be the one to first call her "Granny Grunt," a name that stuck until she died and went to her own grave as a devout "foot-washing" Baptist church-going lady.

"She's always moaning about something," big brother began, "Or she's griping that she's out of her favorite Sweet Garrett snuff that's imported from some town called Nashville way on the other side of the Mississippi River."

Which brings me to a story about older sister Mary June, may the Good Lord let her rest in peace now that she's no longer a cotton chopper back on the farm. I repented a long time ago for referring to her as a "cotton ho'er" in one of my books about life.

As a senior at our little farm school of advanced thinking and higher ciphering, June had started dating an "older man" who had served in Europe while in the Air Force.

"June, have you ever been out of the country?" Air Force guy asked after bragging he'd been to some faraway fancy place called Paris.

Sister quickly let him know our family had been around too: "Why yes, we went to two St. Louis Cardinal baseball games last summer."

And back to why friend Sir Thomas Bucher is my favorite undertaker?

Well, that's a story for another time!

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Dan Whittle
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