Buck Ramsey (cowboy poet) testifying in favor of funding National Endowment for the Humanities
“I think our nation, and our species has common memory that keep us, through tradition, connected; reminded of the precious things our minds and hearts and souls have sifted and sanctified from our long and common experience. But, as regards to songs, stories, and poems, which are much of the tradition of my tribe, I learned early a curious fact: The older the cowboy, the more likely he was to be plugged into that common memory of the tribe. That is he knew more songs, stories and poems than the younger ones and seemed to be in some way purer in his tribal etiquette. When it came to my generation, we knew only snatches of what the old ones knew. Clearly radio, movies, television began drowning out the resonance of the tradition, acted as something of an Alzheimer’s disease on the common memory.”
Personally, I’m a fan of radio, television and movies. They’re all based on telling a good story in one way or another. But stories that tell us who we are serve a deeper purpose. It seems to me that we remember a good “tribal story” as Ramsey calls them, differently than we remember a good movie. Anyone agree or disagree?
Stories come in various versions. That’s one of their charms. And sometimes, as proof that stories are living entities, they can come around and startle you.
I’m painting the interior of a house that I recently moved into. It’s such a big project, I probably talk about it too much. Didn’t realize my mother was also talking.
Evidently she’s telling everyone that she taught me how to paint. I remember the summer when my dad build a new barn and mom and I painted it. Huge project. I also remember having a screaming fit and finally demanding that if I was to continue painting with my mother, it had to be above her or on an opposite wall from her. When my mother paints, the paint drips off her elbows, gets in her hair, and onto anyone within arm or roller reach. I think of that summer as the time when my mother showed me how NOT to paint.
Learning how not to do something can be as important and learning how to do something. So it’s actually the same story with an amusing twist.
My mother also likes to tell the story of when I was a toddler, barely walking, and decided to sat on an open bucket of paint. She claims that created such a mess she didn’t know where to start. She didn’t want the paint that splashed onto the floor to dry there, but if she didn’t clean me first, I’d be spreading paint all over the house. No doubt, a dilemma.
In this case, I don’t remember the incident, so the story is all hers.