Pike Piddlers peddle Southern tales

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Victoria Cirilli

Contributor

The Brundidge Historical Society hosted its annual Pike Piddler’s Storytelling Festival on Friday and Saturday to entertain guests with Southern tales of family, friends and funny occurrences. 

“The audience was mostly an older generation than college students,” said Alexis Gramling, a junior social work major from Erin, Wisconsin, who volunteered at one of the Saturday performances. “So even though I never lived in a time when there were only two channels on a black and white television, they were able to make it relatable and funny for any age in the audience.”

Starring in the lineup of professional storytellers were Donald Davis, a minister and a singer; Sheila Kay Adams, who accompanies her stories with banjo music; Michael Reno Harrell, whose appearance deceived the audience of his “daredevil” lifestyle; and Kevin Kling, who has shared his talent as a storyteller with NPR. 

“I was really surprised and pleased that (students) enjoyed it,” said Dr. Maryjo Cochran, a professor in Troy’s Hall School of Journalism and Communication who has been involved in the Brundidge Historical Society’s festival in previous years. Cochran encouraged students in her speech classes to attend the Friday performance for an assignment. 

“Michael Reno Harrell, I thought was truly delightful,” Cochran said. “I know when he walked out on stage with his walker, the students, their eyeballs rolled in the back of their heads and they were thinking, ‘Who is this old guy with long white hair with a walker?’ and my students were riveted when they heard him.

“They loved the story, and they couldn’t imagine how (Harrell was) going to end the story about a guy riding on a river in a bottle cap.”

“Donald Davis shared about when he was in middle school. He and his younger brother thought they didn’t need a babysitter, so the old lady that babysat them left to go home,” Gramling said.  

“She sent a cop friend to their house to scare them! And they begged (her) to come back.” 

Gramling said the storytellers were able to keep the audience laughing and engaged.

“I enjoyed how he kept his story entertaining and funny so that the audience wouldn’t get bored,” Gramling said. “At the same time, he did a good job of taking the audience back in time to what he had experienced. He was very descriptive.”  

 “They were completely enchanted with storytelling, and I’m really grateful for that,” Cochran said. “The lesson was if you don’t know what storytelling is, give it a chance, because that is a lost art practiced by their ancestors, and their grandparents have wonderful stories to tell them, they just need to listen.”

While some students were put off about going to a storytelling festival at first, Cochran said they ended up appreciating the opportunity to have seen it — and even began looking forward to the next.

“I had so many students that said, ‘Oh, I wasn’t looking forward to this, I didn’t want to go, but, oh, my gosh, am I glad I went,’” Cochran said.

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