Museum storytelling series kicks off

Master storyteller Terri Ingalls, left, gestures while delivering a tall tale Saturday during a summer series being hosted by Mount Airy Museum of Regional History.

Rabbits with long tails — people taking food straight from the sky — oceans without salt. These are strange phenomena that were all part of a weekend event here.

The Mount Airy Museum of Regional History kicked off an annual summer storytelling series Saturday afternoon with a program by Terri Ingalls, a master practitioner of an art form increasingly gaining momentum as an entertainment medium. The series is being held on the second Saturday of each month, from June through August.

Ingalls is a member of the Surry County Storytelling Guild, which promotes that activity for adults and children throughout the area.

On Saturday, with kids in the audience, her emphasis was on tall tales featuring animals and unusual events — some with an O. Henry flavor — to explain certain occurrences in nature.

Among the stories told was a fable about how people once were able to lift their arms to the sky and pull out food.

However, the sky — assigned a female gender for the purposes of Ingalls’ story — grew to believe that the humans were not treating her with the respect she deserved, often taking more than needed, and so she stopped that privilege.

“People have had to work to put food on the table since,” the storyteller explained, “because people were so greedy.”

She also related a tale about a tail, more specifically an account involving a magic island and how rabbits stopped having long tails due to being bitten off by a dog.

“From that day on, rabbits and dogs have not gotten along,” Ingalls said during her story.

She also spun a yarn about two Japanese brothers and a magic box, a special jade container that would grant all one’s wishes — and keep on doing so until the recipient said “thank you.”

One of the brothers who was evil stole the box and while escaping in a boat asked it for some salt for rice cakes he was eating. But not knowing he needed to express thanks to the box to end that request, the salt continued flowing out and eventually filled the boat — causing it to sink.

The magic box kept producing salt and explains why the oceans are full of it today, according to the story rendered by Ingalls.

She further described how a man crossed a border to another country for years with a donkey. He did so under the nose of a border patrol agent continually suspicious that some kind of contraband was being smuggled in — although he never found anything despite feverish searches every time.

After both grew old, retired and were having a conversation, the border agent’s suspicions were confirmed by the other man, who told him that during the whole time he was indeed bringing in something: “I was smuggling donkeys.”

The free storytelling series at the museum will resume on July 11, when Mark Brown is to be featured, with Linda Hodges slated as the speaker for the final program on Aug. 8.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

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