by Sharon Stevens

“The telling of a tale links you with everyone who has told it before.

There are no new tales, only new tellers in their own way,

and if you listen closely you can hear the voice of everyone who has ever told the tale.”

by William Brooks


by Rives Collins & Pamela J. Cooper

I always jump at the chance when asked to volunteer as a storyteller for the annual Panhandle Plains Historical Museum (PPHM), “Cemetery by Twilight Tour”. Who wouldn’t be excited with the opportunity to research and celebrate the lives of those at rest in the historic Llano Cemetery.

For one minute after answering the call I am utterly elated, and the next terribly dejected. The task before me begins to swell like a Tsunami, simply because what I am expected to accomplish. One, I have to complete the assignment before Saturday October 15, 2011 at 3:30, and, two, condense one hundred years of community history from a mountain to a molehill within just one area family. And three, I have to limit my story to eight minutes or less. With hours of research facing me this is just a tad bit overwhelming.

The simple fact of the matter for me is this…the stories never stop. You can’t get them to slow down long enough to put a handle on the memories. You can’t just put your hand up and command thoughts to wait their turn, or to back up and make room for the important facts to come forward. It is like putting your fingers in a dike to stop the flow of water when another hole beside you opens up. In the case of the drought we have been experiencing here, no doubt it is the panhandle dust that will bury me deep underneath.

My load would also be a great deal lighter if I had limited experiences and resources to choose from. But my choices include a full weekend of programs that intersect on every level with what I am compiling.

On Thursday night October 13, 2011 at 5:30pm WTAMU in conjunction with the PPHM will be hosting The Remnant Trust lecture by Dr. Wade Shaffer speaking on “The City in Early America, The City Upon the Hill”. All free and open to the public.

Friday October 14, 2011 the Friends of the WTAMU Cornette Library will be hosting Jodi Thomas, New York Times Bestselling author and Writer-In-Residence at the college for their fall luncheon at 12:00pm. Her talk will be on “Working in Harmony-Combining Art and Craft” and also for her reception for that evening from 4:00 to 6:00pm.

Then there is the Cowboy Poetry Gathering and Chuck wagon Supper on October 15, 2011 at 5:00pm at the Palo Duro Cowboy Church on Highway 60 West of Canyon with cowboy poetry, storytelling, music and authentic chuck wagon food.

How can I choose what is relevant to my journey? Who knows where an idea might fall into place at just the right moment?

And I can’t forget about the resources. Does anyone have any idea as a writer how many places I connect with to follow the story? The Archives at PPHM or the Cornette Library, or any library within the Harrington Consortium, or every library around the country can and will assist me at any time. If I want to find out about the schools I can research through the school districts. Churches have people just crying for an opportunity to help with their faith, their members and their church history. Reading someone’s Master’s Thesis is an outstanding source of information from architecture to theater. Scanning through area magazines with a local flair like “Accent West” and the “Amarillo Magazine” unwittingly connects me forward. The Internet offers links around the world, but directs me to treasures and information right here at home in city newspapers of the Amarillo Globe News and Canyon News with archives online for today as well as years ago.

And the people, so many people. Wherever I am I mention one name and invariably someone will step out and share with me a story attached to a name, a place, a kinfolk, a time, an adventure. How can I choose? How can I limit? How can I condense?

The simple answer is that I can’t, and that’s okay!

In his book from RUSH TO DESTINY, Larry Jay Martin writes about the appreciation for the characters out of America’s past. He remarks, “Without all of them there would be no story.”

In the eight minutes I appear before you at the Llano Cemetery I can’t share every memory I accumulated while researching the epitaph carved on a tombstone. I know I will never be able to list the accomplishments of the family buried there beneath the earth.

My message is simpler than that. In that moment where we congregate together honoring the movers and shakers of our area, we are simply sharing of all that is good that surrounds us. I am a “new teller” telling the same story so that those listening might be encouraged and inspired to research on their own at the museum, or a library, or to talk with someone to connect with their heritage and history, then to pass it on.

I know that my version of the story is not the only one out there. That evening there will be storytellers throughout that will share about the people they represent. Trudy Hanson, professor at WTAMU, usually brings her students along. Hanson is a passionate professor and gifted storyteller and she is also the one who requires the book, THE POWER OF THE STORY. She is a true storyteller.

Come visit Llano or attend any of the other events in our area. If you stop at the Wolflin burial plot I can’t promise you I will limit my talk to only one story,I can only follow where my heart leads. And that, my friend, is the ultimate power of a story because…

“If you listen closely you can hear the voice of everyone who has ever told a tale.”

Sharon Stevens

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