At about age eight, I went to my first sleep away camp at Lake Arrowhead, California. I could say many things about the camp; just like anyone else who has ever gone to camp, it is impossible to escape without more than a few One time at camp stories.
Every night of the week, there was a huge bonfire down by the lake right at sunset. It seemed like there were thousands of us gathered there, but in reality, it was probably only 2-300 boys gathered around in a semi-circle being led in cheers, songs and watching skits. All of this was new to me, and camp was a big bag full of new stuff of which to be a part. At the end of the evening came an act that changed my life.
The character’s name escapes me now, but he walked out slowly from the darkness, using a cane, and wearing a jungle explorer jacket with a pith helmet. A long beard and wire-rimmed glasses finished his look. Everyone fell silent as he walked to the center of the fire ring and slowly sat down on a small stool a few feet in front of the fire. The intensity of the moment increased as he took off his glasses and cleaned them using a handkerchief he had taken out of one of his many pockets. The only sound to be heard was the crackling of the fire that roared behind him.
Even among us first timers, there was a sense of expectation as he cleared his throat and began to speak. He told us a story. The story was a combination of local legend, tall tale, and humor; all told using various voices and sound effects he provided. As he spoke, he used facial expressions and hand gestures to emphasize points. The assembled crowd was no longer silent as we laughed, cheered, and shouted comments while he kept us enthralled. The teller of tales would eventually stand and walk from side to side as the story came to the climax; his gestures becoming more wild and inspiring excitement.
When he finished the story, he would slowly drop his hands to his side and lower his head – as the absolute silence returned. As if on cue, we all exploded in loud cheering and applause. Over the course of my life, I have come to realize that what I witnessed was a master storyteller sharing his craft. I went back to my cabin every night of camp inspired and knowing the career path I wanted for my life. I wanted to be a storyteller too.
As an avid reader, I found myself drawn into writing. My first public display of my talents was in 2009 when I climbed back on a motorcycle after a thirty-year hiatus. While riding, I found myself flooded with thoughts, words, and visions of tales I should tell. So, I did. I started a blog to record those events. I found myself writing about people, adventures, and observations. It was not long before I expanded into fictional tales written. The blog evolved into a weekly, when I was assigned to Kuwait, then writing about my experiences living in the Middle East… humorous and poignant.
It was there, during a meeting, I expressed a small bit of regret that I had yet to become the storyteller I envisioned only to have LtCol Dan Ellis, point out that I had become the storyteller – using the written word. Sometimes it takes someone outside of you to point out a truth you are too close to see. I am grateful Dan did, as it caused me to write and publish my first novella and to begin writing tales in earnest.
Someday, I may get a chance to be a purest, experiencing that feeling of walking out before a crowd in front of a roaring fire, wearing an appropriate costume with the right props ready to tell tall tales. However, for now, I find great joy in telling stories through the written word and sharing them with readers. I hope you enjoy them.
You can always find an up-to-date list of my Evan Davis tales, as well as my other books on my website. Also…
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