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The Legend of "Woodchuck"

May 7, 2009 - Jennifer Brookens
Great legends are created out of regular men and women in small-town cafes, by the watercooler, or anyplace else people gather to shoot the breeze.

This was the case Wednesday morning when I had a few interviews scheduled in one of my western Martin County towns. I had about half-hour of time to kill, so I went into the local cafe, took a seat and ordered the special. There were a group of older men at a table, some farmers who got rained out that morning. And one of them was telling tales about a guy named "Woodchuck."

"I was the one that named him Woodchuck," the storyteller proclaimed. I didn't get to hear why he was named Woodchuck, but just that the nickname stuck. Several antidotes were spun about how Woodchuck had some sort of aversion to bathing or showering. The storyteller told about how his apartment just stunk, and he learned the reason why was because he kept fish in the bathtub. Didn't say if they were alive or dead, trout or goldfish, but either way fish in the tub is an interesting quirk.

Other antidotes include a time when the storyteller wanted Woodchuck to get cleaned up to go into Fairmont, and after grumbling and pouting, an hour later, he came back with patent leather shoes and dress pants. He made a remark about, "If I'm gonna work for a preacher, I might as well dress like one." This sent the group of men into hysterics. There was also a tale about how Woodchuck used to like to dance with the ladies at the Holiday Inn in Fairmont "... when they played that country-western music ... I told him, 'Woodchuck, you can't keep going after the ladies like that, you're gonna get yourself clocked,'" the storyteller said. Woodchuck's response indicated this particular woman didn't seem to mind, which got another laugh from the group.

After the group of men paid the bill and went their separate ways, I asked the storyteller about Woodchuck. As it turned out, Woodchuck actually had a pretty hard life. "But he had a heart of gold," the storyteller told me. "He would've done anything for you, anything you needed."

Woodchuck died several years ago, but the storyteller indicated as he walked away from me, "I got a million stories about Woodchuck. That's just the beginning."

Maybe the storytellers are onto something... Looking back at this blog, my writing doesn't do justice to the storyteller's legend of Woodchuck. Perhaps it's the bonding, the shared life and love that breathes a person's essence into our lives long after this person is gone just by sharing a tale.

Long live the storytellers...


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