With the heat and humidity bordering on torture, after the chores were done and all the animals well watered, my hubby and I decided a ride in an air-conditioned truck sounded like a great idea. We both agreed the longer the ride, the better.
If that truck decided to stop at an ice cream shop somewhere along the way, the whole day just got better.
Winding through quiet, off-the-beaten-track roads, we came upon an old farm which sat back a very long lane. Though I hadn’t traveled that road since I was a kid, I knew immediately where I was. Amazing how memories can be drawn out of the remote recesses of a human mind, isn’t it?
I knew, without a doubt, that I was looking back on the farm that had once been the home of the storyteller, Miss Stover.
Miss Stover, as my parents always referred to her, was somewhat legendary in my childhood. She had remained on the farm where she was born, refusing to change much of anything along the course of her life.
When we went to visit, though it went without saying, I remember my parents advising each of us to never request a glass of water or even to use the restroom. Why? She had no indoor plumbing, so providing each of us with a glass of water would have been a chore for her, and we likely wouldn’t be impressed with her outhouse.
The night I remember so well came rushing back, though I hadn’t thought of Miss Stover in such a very long time.
She had been canning all day and her little kitchen and sitting room was hotter than blue blazes. Her ancient cook stove was blazing hot, and her supply of kindling sat nearby. Not a breath of air was blowing because Miss Stover chose not to have electricity in her home.
She finished her work, wiped her hands on her well-worn apron, and thanked my mother for the baked goods she had brought. She urged us all to gather round, each of the adults sitting on antique chairs, children on the floor at their feet.
As Miss Stover polished her little round spectacles, she said with a smile, “Let me see, what story shall we enjoy this evening?”
We all settled in, and the storyteller began. It was a story of adventure on the high seas, a wonderful rhyming tale of a man far from home. Miss Stover delivered this to us as a gift on a golden platter, her voice as smooth as highly-polished silver.
Her eyes sparkled as the story unfolded, her voice sometimes pausing for great effect, and I remember at one quiet point, she clapped her hands together with great force to make a point, and we all jumped and then laughed at ourselves. She never once missed a line, and never glanced at a single note.
After we said our good-byes, Dad told us on the way home that Miss Stover’s stories had been passed down through the generations, and she knew them all by heart. It reminded him of community club gatherings when another legendary woman, Edna McNaull, shared her storytelling gifts.
Miss Stover was incredibly self-sufficient, growing nearly everything she needed. Neighbors assisted with essentials, with her paying them in a bartering process she insisted upon.
She had no desire to leave her farm, and told us that night she hadn’t been anywhere for about three years, and that was only because she had to see a dentist one day for a toothache.
Though she is long gone, leaving no kin, driving past her farm that night brought the impressive memory of a life well-lived rushing back. Miss Stover was an independent farm woman who truly lived off the land in a way few have accomplished in our modern-day world.