Hunker Down: No wonder I flounder at times…
The first bit of “story telling” I can remember was about a dog and a bone. This wayward hound was crossing over a small stream on an equally small bridge (the Childcraft book had pictures) carrying a bone in his mouth. Mother read how the dog saw his own reflection and, greedy for the “other dog’s possessions,” opened his mouth to bark, thereby dropping his bone.
Mom judiciously explained how greed and envy are not good for the soul and will always cost you in the end. I’m four years old. I wasn’t worried about the end. I was wondering if the writer of this tale actually saw the dog drop the bone. Was he reporting on secondhand information? Or did he just make the whole story up?
Aesop awakened my inquisitive “bone.”
How deep was the stream? That unfortunate, or maybe stupid, dog might could still recover his loss. And then I got to wondering how long a dog could hold his breath under water…
That was just the beginning of these Fables. I met a goose that laid golden eggs; a turtle that outran a rabbit; and a country mouse that found out city living wasn’t for him.
I hoped one day to meet this Aesop guy.
And I dreamed of writing stories simple enough for a child to understand… with a life lesson so obvious even grownups could “get it!”
It was the same for Mother Goose. She is, to this day, one of the wisest authors I’ve ever read!
By elementary school my reading tastes graduated to the Hardy Boys books. Frank and Joe Hardy were the coolest kids ever! They had great friends, a convertible, a no-nonsense Aunt Gertrude… and they solved the most involved and dangerous mysteries with relative ease.
And oh yeah, they could fly an airplane when the investigation called for one.
I longed to meet Franklin W. Dixon, the author, and ask him how two high school kids could live through half the things he got them into!
Ned Buntline wrote a series of “dime novels” about the old West and William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody. Buntline’s mostly pulp fiction propelled Cody’s name before a thirsty audience… and made Buntline famous along the way.
I read them in collaboration with the ever popular western movies of my youth. There wasn’t a mountain man, frontier scout or singing cowboy with whom I didn’t want to ride.
As a high school sophomore, Miss Barbara Clark introduced us to Edgar Allen Poe. You talk about a “Tell-Tale Heart!” This guy wrote like he lived somewhere between the “House where the Ushers fell” and the “Pit with the swinging Pendulum.”
Poe loved Lenore and pined so over her in “The Raven” that at the end of the second stanza he declared her to be “nameless here forever more.” And then mentions her by name six more times before he winds down to the final “nevermore.”
Some writers can be tricky like that.
These authors early on impacted my understanding of what story telling is all about. And I’m sure some of them are entwined consciously or otherwise into my feeble attempts to pass a blurb along to you from time to time.
Aesop supposedly lived in 600 BC. Mom did not mention that to a four-year-old. None of his original works have been found. He has been described as a slave of undistinguished looks. But then, no one has claimed direct knowledge of him. Nor can we trace one of “his” bits of wisdom directly back to him.
There’s a better than good chance my first literary giant never was! And Mother Goose is just as “cloudy.” There are all kinds of postulations. Maybe she was a French fairy tale. Or a compilation of English nursery rhymes. Any early American lady with a houseful of young-ins “could have been” her. There are no determinable facts that point to a real live Mother Goose.
Franklin W. Dickson was a figment of the publisher’s imagination. They had a team of in-house writers all contributing to the Hardy Boys books. The more they turned out – the more the money poured in.
The first three major influences on my writing career didn’t even exist!
You can see why I was in trouble from the beginning in this business.
Ned Buntline was born in New York for goodness sakes, not the Wild West. And his real name was Edward Zane Carroll Judson. He did actually meet Bill Cody but he made up most all his stories out of thin air. Can this get any worse?
Edgar Allen Poe’s life was more of a mystery than any of his writings. And that is saying a lot! He was erratic, impulsive, neurotic and a little “out there” by all accounts. His death is still being investigated.
I sure can pick’em!
And we haven’t even gotten to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Shel Silverstein…