Books and magazines were as common as potatoes in the house I grew up in. But not all stories were limited to the printed word.
Come back in time with me. Imagine you are about four, supper is over, and your father has been helping a friend on his farm that day.
“Tell me a story. About the bear.”
Dad takes you on his lap, sets his cigarette in the glass ashtray and begins.
I was fencing, up on Hughie’s farm, way back in the woods. It’s the fence that marks the line at the end of his property. Well, I was working, attaching the wire to a new post I’d just set when I heard something crashing around in the brush.
I stood up and looked. It was a bear. The biggest bear I’d ever seen. He stood up and towered over me. His paws were as large as a dinner plate. His eyes were as big as saucers.
I opened my eyes wide and held my breath as my father described the bear.
The bear reached out for me, scooped me up and pushed me into his mouth whole. Swallowed me down in one piece, just like the whale did to Jonah.
Well, there I was. It was dark, very dark. I was all pushed together inside of him, his stomach juices moistened my clothes and started to tickle my skin. I knew I had to do something. And I had to do it quick.
My hand found the pliers in my pocket. I pulled it out and reached deep into the dark inside of the bear. In a little bit I found what I was searching for, the inside of his tail. I fastened the pliers unto it, counted to three, and jerked with all my might.
Suddenly I was flying through the air and landed on the ground with a thud.
The bear, well, he was laying a little ways away, turned inside out.
Years later, long after I moved away from home, I found similar stories in print as folk tales. They brought a smile and a short laugh. But they lacked the power and emotion of a story told to a child on a parent’s lap.