The Tales of My Past Have Become A Poutpourri for My Stories – Faulkner Said That The Past Is Never Past

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner

This week, I have participated in a Picture Book Writing Challenge which dictates that I write a picture book every day for 7 days. I think that some of the participants are dismayed at what seems to be my ease to meet that task. I have tried to explain to the others that I have been writing my stories for at least 40 years. In truth, I believe that I was born writing picture books.

My dad was an entertainer and showman, and he was probably one of the best storytellers who ever lived. Because his platform was restricted to that of a little, cotton-patch town long ago, his stories never reached all the people that they need to reach, but I believe that it is my destiny to change that.

My dad was also an extraordinary adventurer, and he included his family in his escapades. When I was a child, we routinely went foraging in the wilderness for natural foods. That was after the pioneer days and before the granola people brought that trend back again. We would gather wild milkweed and cook it like broccoli, and we’d gather acorns and grind them into flour. The list of the foods we made from the forests goes on and on. And when I was a kid, my dad brought home a wild crow and taught it to talk. My mother was not the showman that my dad was, but she wrote in her spare time. Because my childhood was percolated into a rich brew of family tales and extraordinary, everyday adventures with my dad, my parents’ stories became my own lore.

Laura Mae Baker – Mother of Jacki Kellum – During the 1940s

About 20 years ago, I had the foresight to give my mother a list of questions about her life, growing up in the depression, and I have her written answers to those questions. My mother never realized that the stories would be made public, and she jotted them down as though she was simply talking to a friend–or a daughter. Although my mom was virtually an orphan during the Great Depression, her stories never whine. I marvel at the wondrous storehouse of history told first-hand that my mother has given me.

In addition,  I have my great aunt’s writings about her childhood during the Gay ’90s. I was not around my great aunt very many times, and her writing is nowhere near firsthand to me, but I have her stories for springboards, and her words have definitely imprinted upon my mind.

It had been years since I have re-read my great aunt’s journal, but today, I wrote a picture book manuscript about my own remembrance of having gone to a goat roast when I was a child. It also alludes to the days that I owned a farm in Mississippi, and when the sheep there kept escaping. The picture book manuscript that I wrote was a potpourri of many things that I associate with goats and sheep.

A few moments ago, I re-read my great aunt’s words about the goat and the goat cart that she had as a child in the Gay 90s:

“At times Kenley and the boys took cattle to market in another city, and sometimes when they returned home family members received a surprise. One time when they returned from St. Louis, Kenley had purchased an angora goat which was in a large crate. Kenley and Mayme believed that the goat would be fun for the children by hitching it to a two- or four-wheel cart. This fun was not to be. When the crate was opened, the beautiful white angora goat came out running and jumping every fence for miles around. The family had no idea where the goat would go, but they knew quickly that it did not want to be a pet or to have anything to do with the Dunscombs or their barn. Kenley soon had to sell the goat, and it is believed that the person who bought it probably had a party serving barbeque to friends. Many of the children were saddened at the sale of the goat; however, the incident reveals the type of parents Kenley and Mayme were in trying to provide fun activities for their children.”
Curry, Mildred. Window to the Past, p. 47.

This morning, when I wrote my story about goats, it had been years since I had read the journal entry above, but some of my great aunt’s exact words seeped out upon the picture book that I wrote today.

We are all a part of all that we have met, and when I write, I have no choice but to synthesize those parts of my past and also some of the parts of my relatives’ pasts.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner



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