Path2Story Ch. 48 “Challenge Accepted”

Once upon a time, I sat at our dinner table before mealtime and looked for an adventure. Things had become rather dull in our house as days sometimes are. I looked, and I saw two floss picks, two ceramic yellow pig shaped salt and pepper shakers, and an empty mug from which I had just drank my morning coffee.

As I grabbed them, the floss picks instantly became shepherd’s staves and the pig salt and pepper shakers became members of their flock. I had already begun walking the staves around herding their pigs when I looked at my mug. It was a gift to my wife from her sister, and it had an owl’s face on it. Just for kicks, I flicked it on its beak, and the sound it made completed the adventure.

As it was empty, the mug reverberated the clear sound of a locomotive. Because it had an owl face, the train called out a “Hoo! Hoo!” and I pushed it aimlessly around the table. As the owl train drew dangerously close to the swine, the shepherds would do their best to guide their droves to safer parts of the table.

Since there were no apparent railroad tracks, the train ended up following the pigs’ tracks. Seeing this, the shepherds became frantic and started calling out for their pigs to run. It was at this point that my kids had become interested in the plight of the shepherds and their pigs and the run away owl train.

Just then, the train hit one of the shepherds and knocked him down. It was only a glance but as the shepherd tried to rise to his feet, the mug turned and struck him with its handle. The unfortunate shepherd was tossed from the table as the owl train steamed by.

The “Hoo! Hoo!” had then taken on a maniacal call as the owl train turned and hungrily raced after the pigs. The lone shepherd had witnessed what had happened to his friend and fearlessly faced off against his locomotive foe. With a final call to his pigs to flee, that sounded oddly like Gandalf, he charged.

My kids, at that point, were all sitting around the table. I explained to them what the challenge was and without waiting they started grabbing the pigs and made their own adventures. What had only taken me a few moments to create entertained my kids for many minutes afterwards.

Wait, what happened to the brave shepherd? Don’t be like Fred Savage’s character in Princess Bride. If there’s one thing I’ve learned being a storyteller Dad, it’s that sometimes stories don’t have endings. If there is to this one, owl never tell.

Path2Story Ch. 47 “What do you think happened?”

The other day, my son told me about what he saw in the dirt and trees. He said, “It was really strange Dad. Two ants from opposite directions ran right into each other. They continued until the first half of their bodies were both upright and their front arms knocked against each other.” Now, what we didn’t do was talk about scientific terms and conduct a review of events with an encyclopedia search etc. No, that was for school. I asked him what he thought had happened and why, and that’s when the adventures began!

First, as was typical for him, he went for warfare and described the ants as warriors locked in an epic duel. They met, as they always did at that hour, to fight over a bit of land they both claimed was theirs. With quotes of Gandalf’s, “YOU shall not pass!” mixed with Monty Python’s Black Knight, “NONE shall pass!”, the combatants entered into mortal combat! However, as my son watched, he said the ants paused and then moved around each other and went on their way. As cries of “Fly you fools!” and “I’ll bite your legs off!” faded in the background, the interaction of the ants brought a different scenario to mind.

Next, he saw them as brothers who had embraced after being lost in the vast jungle of our backyard. Last night’s storm had separated them and they didn’t know if they’d ever see each other again. It was a teary eyed moment for my son, then it was over. The ants didn’t even wave goodbye!

It was at this point that my daughter added her take of events. With all of the stories that filled her mind, she imagined them as a man and woman’s forbidden love for each other. Like Romeo and Juliet, the two said goodbye before they were forced to depart.

These stories were a great example to me of time well spent. Video games, tv shows, books, movies, and the like, take their places as parts of entertainment, but they shouldn’t be our only source. Using story as a means of explaining the world around us can bring us closer together like the long lost brother ants. It helps us see different perspectives, and have fun imagining their tales. In case of competing imaginations, like the Gandalf and the Black Knight ants, we can save the real battle for Mount Doom and the holy hand grenade… Don’t forget, being ridiculous can also be a lot of fun, like trying to see parallels between Tolkien and Monty Python. Not taking ourselves too seriously can help before anyone loses an eye, or a finger, or an arm and a leg. “And as Shakespeare’s romantic tales still play a part in our imaginations, it’s nice to picture them in real life, even with small critters like ants,” concluded my daughter.

The next time you find yourself outdoors and you witness a curious thing, take a moment and have some fun answering: “What do you think happened?”