Maybe its the feeling of summer on its way, or maybe I just need to go camping, either way, I've been craving a good campfire complete with crisp mountain air, starry nights and yummy smores. But no campfire is complete without a good story, which made me think about some of the best campfire storytellers I know, Boy Scouts. Luckily a dear friend of mine, Phillip Joyce is an Eagle Scout from Troop 662 in Bellevue WA. So I asked him to tell us about his experience in Boy Scouts and most importantly, to share his storytelling know-how with all of us.
J: What comes to mind when you think about campfires and stories?
P: Campfires and stories go hand in hand, good fires always have good story telling. Some scary ghost stories, some classic campfire songs and some folklore type stories. Through boy scouts I became a member of the Order of the Arrow, an organization that works to teach scouts and their communities about Native American culture. I learned about their art and their song and dance that we then taught to other scouts to get them interested in the program. Campfires can bring people together but sharing stories, experiences and camaraderie keeps people around the fire as life-long friends.
J: What is your favorite campfire story?
P: My favorite campfire story is one that I learned in order of the arrow and shared with other scouts and campers. It was a folklore story told to my by elder scouts in the same program. The story was called the tale of the gossiping clams and described the phenomenon observed when walking along the beach and small spouts of water squirt up through the sand. Clams were always an annoyance to the animal kingdom; they gossiped, spread mean rumors and teased all of the other animals. One day the teased animals went to the Beaver, the elder and highest member of the animal society to ask for his assistance. He suggested that the other animals bury the clams in the sand when the tide was out so that when the tide came in, if the clams tried to gossip, their mouths would be filled with sand and water. To this day, when you walk along the beach and water squirts up through the sand this is clams trying to gossip.
J: What does storytelling mean for you?
P: To me, story telling is a right of passage and a great learning experience. There are campfire stories that many people know and can be found in books, online etc, but story telling allows the transfer of messages through direct communication. When sharing at the campfire, you may remember a story better because you are able to associate it with a place, feeling, smell, sight, or sound as opposed to just words on a page. The first time I heard the story of the gossiping clams I was in Mrs. Johnson's basement (Our advisor for our Order of the Arrow chapter), where one our of the leaders told me the story. I was sitting in a worn red reclining chair, a bowl of candy was on the coffee table and her basement smelled of freshly split wood. These are all memories that I think of when telling the story and help me remember all of the details (I was told this story once, about 10 years ago).
What a wonderful story! Thank you Philip for taking the time to share with us. And now that I have a great story to tell around the fire... it's time to go camping!
*Last time in Books and Stories: Le Petit Prince