Blue Saw the Rabbit: Make a Point, Tell a Story

Young Jessup and Grandpa sat on the front porch one lazy Sunday afternoon, drinking sweet tea.  Grandpa’s hound, Blue, lay snoozing by Jessup’s feet. Grandpa had just asked Jessup about his fishing the day before, when a rabbit dashed across the road. Blue, who had been by all accounts asleep a moment before, exploded from the porch and disappeared into the scrub on the other side of the road, barking like mad. A couple moments later the terrified rodent skittered across the yard and behind the house. Blue burst from the bushes, hot on its fluffy tail.

Jessup laughed and slapped his hand on his knee. Grandpa only smiled and leaned his head back. Blue could be heard yipping and howling behind the house, and soon the ruckus doubled. Blue shot around the house with the neighbour’s collie right behind them.

“Where’d the rabbit go?” Jessup asked.  If it had passed by, he hadn’t seen it.

Grandpa shrugged.

But the dogs were undeterred. They could be heard baying and barking up and down the road, around the house, and down in the gully by the river.  Soon every dog in the near vicinity was chasing after Blue and the rabbit.  The hullabaloo was tremendous, but they didn’t seem to be getting any closer to catching a meal.  And next time they came into view, it was just the collie and Blue.  Blue didn’t seem at all discouraged that the rabbit was yards and yards ahead.  He was still charging ahead, tongue hanging out, eyes bright.

A few minutes later, only Blue’s barking could be heard. Every other dog had deserted him. But Blue came back, panting and spraying saliva past the limp rabbit in his jaws. He set it down in front of Grandpa’s feet.

“Go on, Blue.” Grandpa kicked the rabbit off the porch, and Blue bounded after it. Moments later, all Jessup and Grandpa heard was his smacking and chewing.

“Grandpa,” said Jessup. “Why did the other dogs give up?”

“Well…” Grandpa rubbed his chin and gazed at the floorboards. “The other dogs were just chasin’. Blue?  He’d seen the rabbit.”

I didn’t make up, or look up this story.  The pastor told it in church a solid year ago. I fleshed it out a bit here, but the gist of it is still locked in my memory. I don’t even remember what the point of the sermon was, but the story is almost self explanatory: a clear vision, an eye on the prize, is the key to not giving up.

That Sunday, the kiddies I teach couldn’t tell me what the sermon was about either, but they could tell the story back. Six year olds paying attention to the sermon?  Well, they heard the story.

Don Norman said:

Stories have the felicitous capacity of capturing exactly those elements that formal decision methods leave out. Logic tries to generalize, to strip the decision making from the specific context, to remove it from subjective emotions. Stories capture the context, capture the emotions…. Stories are important cognitive events, for they encapsulate, into one compact package, information, knowledge, context, and emotion.

A story connects the facts together and makes them real.  A story gives both the solution and the application.  A story can illustrate, entertain, convict, clarify, and sell.  A fact and a date might disappear but the flow and colour of a story sticks in the mind like hair on a biscuit.

Have something to say?  Tell a story

For further reading, check out A Whole New MInd by Daniel Pink, particularly his chapter on ‘story’.  A fascinating read.

Chris and Terri Brady are fantastic at teaching by telling stories.  Check out their blogs:

Sir Snodbottom and the Throne

I hope you’ll indulge me a little silliness.  The following was the result of a writing exercise my writing group did the last time we met, entitled “The Christmas I’ll Never Forget”.  This is entirely fictional–after all, they said I didn’t have to write the truth.  I don’t, as a rule, write short stories, but here it goes: 

“What in heaven’s name?” Mom pointed the spatula at the lumpy, bumpy package that was about the size of my little brother.  It was not my little brother, but that would have been cool.

I was busy hip-checking it into the corner behind the tree, but I paused in my exertions. “Huh?”

“What is that?” She poked a finger in IT’s direction and waved the spatula. A piece of cookie dough flew off. It hit the floor and Buster the pug ate it.

“Mom,” I said. “It’s Christmas. I can’t tell you.” The package, wrapped in brown paper, not colourful Christmas paper, could not be hidden.  I had used this line on my little brother already.

“Well don’t…” She sighed. “Don’t knock over the tree, Avery. The angel’s about to fall off.” She reached up and pushed at it with one floury hand. Then she turned and marched back into the kitchen, Buster waddling behind her, smacking his lips.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

The present wouldn’t go any farther in the corner. There it would sit, like an overgrown turd. Maybe if I put a bow on it…?

It had cost me my entire piggybank, and selling my Sidney Crosby card, and cleaning Grandma’s driveway four times, and vacuuming all the sunflower seed hulls from Grandpa’s big Lincoln. It had taken me an hour to walk it, in a wheelbarrow, from Field’s Hardware Store to home. I had to pause several times to rest my arms and I had slipped once and nearly tipped it out. It couldn’t break. It was Mom’s gift.

You see, one fateful evening when she’d been out with my Aunt (Christmas shopping, I think), my brother and I had been playing knights and dragons. I was Sir Snodbottom the Valiant and he was the evil dragon, breathing fire and seeking whom he may devour. I chased him into his lair, the glass-walled shower, and stood outside, waving my mace and taunting him.

“Come out, you big baby!” Lord Snodbottom said, shaking his mace. “Come out and fight.”

“No!” came the muffled voice of the dragon. “Leave me alone. I don’t want to play anymore.”

“Come out, you big baby! You can’t hide forever.”

“Yes I can.”

Thus it continued.  Lord Snodbottom began to grow weary and decided to take a few practice swings with his mace, which was actually Mom’s metal kitchen hammer. His swings became a little too vigorous and the mace collided with the throne—the toilet.

What was that?” the dragon squeaked, deep in his lair.

Lord Snodbottom took one look at the great gash in the porcelain throne and fled.

Thus the package. Mr. Fields sure had given me a funny look as I’d laid my money on the counter, and another as we lifted it into the wheelbarrow. I didn’t care. I was Sir Snodbottom, and I would redeem myself.

Christmas morning arrived, and while my little brother and Buster capered around the Christmas tree, I tugged the package into the center of the living room. Mom and Dad came out of their bedroom in their bathrobes, rubbing their eyes. I pointed. “Open this one first.”

Mom glanced at Dad, and Dad grinned. By her expression, I could tell she thought it was some odd prank, or a clay sculpture I had made in school, like last year.

She pulled away the brown paper, and there was a shining new toilet.