Some folks like a nice fruit plate, some prefer a fruit salad.
Give me the salad.
I like things stirred together.
Especially when it comes to people.
It’s one reason I got such a kick out of the Old Capitol Storytelling Festival in Fillmore recently. The festival was a mix-and-match scrambler of tunes, tastes and tales from all kinds of people.
Clive Romney of Utah Pioneer Heritage Arts was the ramrod for the thing, like Rowdy Yates in the old “Rawhide” program. He kept things moving and held things together.
And there were a lot of moving parts.
Native Americans shared their songs and dances, transplanted Hispanics spoke of their heritage and local roots. Sam Payne even spun a story about his famous father (Marvin) spying on him at a junior high dance.
The upshot to the event was this: Every life is a story and every person is an author. Stories are how we make heads and tails of our lives. It’s in our nature to share sagas and also in our nature to be mesmerized by them.
I asked Clive about all that, when I finally caught up with him at a vendor booth.
“One question,” I said.
“Great,” he said.
I first met Clive 50 years ago at the mission home of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was on his way to Peru and I was headed to Bolivia. I didn’t know he’d one day become a prominent musician and I’d become a guy who wrote about prominent musicians. In recent years he’s thrown himself heart and soul into helping people preserve their family memories.
“Family stories,” I said. “We think of them as family history, but we all know how they change with each telling. When does family history turn into family mythology?”
He didn’t miss a beat. He never did.
“Right away,” he said, “with the first re-telling.”
Clive’s moustache smiled. When he wears his wire-rimmed specs above it, he looks a little like a frontier Ned Flanders, but wiser and more with it.
“And what about scripture stories, like Jonah and Job,” I said. “Did they go from history to mythology?”
He answered right on the beat.Comment on this story
“Who cares,” he said, “as long as the stories lead us closer to God.”
It was classic Clive. He never gave answers you expected.
Driving back to Salt Lake City, I thought of my own family’s stories. That business about great-grandad on the Montana prairie taking on a herd of wild bulls and winning — how much of it was history, how much was myth?
I didn’t know.
Probably no one ever would.
But then, who cared, Clive might say. As long as the story brought our family closer to each other, and closer to God.