What? You've never heard of "The Horse in the Well" - one of the greatest stories from my child hood?
In my early years, "The Horse in the Well" was my favorite bed-time story at my Grandma's house. My Grandparents lives just across the street from me. When my parents decided to move to Enumclaw in 1974, my mom's parents discovered that the house across the street from our dream home was for sale, and they managed to buy it and finish moving in before we did.
Spending the night at Grandma and Grandpa's house became a regular, and delightful part of my childhood. I would ask if I could spend the night there, even if my parents weren't going out on a date night. Everything about bedtime at their house was just a bit different than ours. Instead of sleeping in my familiar second story room, I was in the second bedroom - the guest room in their tiny two bedroom home. A pink, fuzzy slip-cover adorned the wide guest bed, and my Grandmother had a collection of ladies gloves and scarves in the top drawer in the guest room. I liked to try them on before she came in to tell me bed-time stories.
At my house, my mom would read to me every night: one book, and the Bible. I loved hearing her voice, and the familiar stories. Books are meant to be read aloud. There is a certain rythm and beauty to a story well-read.
At my grandparent's house, my grandma would tell me stories without a book in hand. For a while I was fascinated with how many she knew and how she could tell them so well. She knew many standard stories like Goldilocks, The Three Little Pigs, and Sleeping Beauty. Her voice would strengthen and soften in all the right parts. However, her best stories were ones that couldn't be found in any book. They were stories from her life like: The Boy Who Fell in the Ice, The House that Caught on Fire, The Man who Played the Fiddle like a Violin, and my favorite, The Horse in the Well.
In nearly all of these stories, my grandmother's voice would become passionate and tender. Her voice and face portrayed a strength of memories and emotions. As a teen, when she lived in our home so we could care for her after a stroke, I asked her to write the stories down. They weren't the same on paper. I wish I had tape recorded her voice telling those stories.
Even after the stroke, when she spoke those stories aloud there was power in the words. I could picture her brother Clayton (always the hero in each of the stories), the mare and her foal, the old well cover, the fall, and the heroic climb from the bottom of the well with the foal on my great-uncle Clayton's shoulders. I could even picture my grandma as a little girl, with her sister Edna, both half-up the fence, with their feet on a lower rung, and their arms over the top, wishing they could help, and knowing they couldn't step in front of the mare who ran wildly around the well.
After hearing stories like that, I wanted to tell my own. I rarely ever write stories from my real life, but I consider it now and then when I think of my grandmother's voice rising and falling to a hush in the right moments. Storytelling is the heart of writing, and I long to capture the truth and passion of life in words.