A Good Story
It would be both logical and entirely correct for the reader of this collection of stories to assume that I thought that my father and grandfather were wonderful story tellers. One of the earliest recollections I have of that specific thought occurred when I was about four or five years old. One hot summer day I was stung by a bee and based on the fuss I made, one would have thought I was being disemboweled by a Bengal tiger. My mother and siblings gathered around and tried to consol me by telling me that the bad old bee had died after she stung me and that the pain would soon be gone. While the pain probably was gone within a dozen or so seconds after the sting, I was locked into one of those self-perpetuating cycles of crying and screaming that the slightest of injuries will often provoke in young boys. Pretty soon my grandfather, R. L. Cox, Sr., came over to see who was making all the fuss. My mother explained that I had been stung by a bee.
Through long years of experience, my grandfather knew just what to do. He told me a story. The story was about when he was a little boy about my age back on his parent’s farm outside Tabor City, NC. One day while he was walking in the cotton field, he noticed a wasp inside an open cotton boll. To his young mind, this seemed to be a perfect opportunity to capture with impunity a dangerous beast like a wasp. So he placed his hands on the outside of the boll, closed the boll around the wasp, and plucked the boll from the plant. For a moment he stood there congratulating himself on his cleverness when the wasp decided that she had enough and proceeded to sting his hand right through the side of the cotton boll. My grandfather then explained that he dropped the cotton boll as if it had been a red hot coal and went running, crying, and screaming back to his mother. He said his mother gathered him up, sat him in her lap, smoothed his hair, and told him a story. He said that by the time the story was finished, the sting from the wasp didn’t hurt any more.
And so it was with me. I had become so caught up in listening to his story, that I forgot all about my “hurt” and the cycle of crying and screaming was broken. By the time he was finished, we were both laughing at how silly he had been to think that the thin wall of a cotton boll would protect him from an angry wasp.
While I was grateful that my tears had been replaced by laughter, I was also astonished at the power of my grandfather’s words. The ability of my father and grandfather to transport me with words alone to faraway places, distance from the cares and toils of everyday life, is still a source of amazement and wonder to me.