My father had coon dogs. When I was a kid I listened to coon hunters tell stories, whittling and keeping my mouth shut. I noticed that the good stories were repeated—often changed in small ways. No one seemed to mind if the story was different. We wanted to be entertained, we wanted inflection and gestures, we wanted to know the phase of the moon and if the breeze was moist or dry.
It never hurt the story if the old tree dog was dead or if Sadie was the best cold-trailing bitch that ever lived, but never had a pup that wasn’t rattle-headed. What mattered was if the story flowed as only a truth can. Radio and TV was young in the 1950’s. Hunting stories are ancient.
So I learned that I could distinguish myself at school by using a hunting template to recount a PTA meeting where someone’s mom had toilet paper sticking out of her pants. I made the story better than it was, and my friends liked it. Of course, I liked the attention. But more important, I found purpose for my OCD motor. Everything could be retold.
By the time the drug culture brought marijuana to our living rooms, my story-telling was welcomed. Viet Nam and Civil Rights needed words and phrases to articulate our frustration and my opinions were tangible. Language brought young women to my bed, and language settled us in the awkward moments after.
Stories—or narratives—create and sustain our cultures. I work the supply side.