It is one of the rites of our sport that we spin yarns. The fish that got away, the deer you missed, the unknown creature that walked off with one of your traps, again. What makes storytelling about the outdoors so great is that there is never anyone around when this stuff happens so nobody can prove you wrong. In most cases your are telling the truth unless you screw up your story.
If you’re a good enough storyteller, you can stretch the truth far enough that any good listener can’t quiet dispute your version. They will go away still scratching their heads. If you stink at it, listeners will soon become board because either your story is too far fetched or you are just boring.
Joe Perham, noted Maine humorist, gives storytellers a bit of advice in one of his fishing tales he tells. He says when you are telling a story about fish you caught and someone asks, “How big was it?”, there is a technique a good storyteller will use in describing your fish. You are to say, “Well, I wouldn’t say it was any longer than 14 and a half inches!” If the fish was only 8 inches, you see, you have not lied but you do have their attention.
A good round of storytelling gets fuel from one story to the next. Have you ever heard the expression, “The first story doesn’t stand a chance”? This is what happens when you have a gathering of like minded hunters, fishermen and trappers. Someone begins the story and it grows and grows with one storyteller doing their darndest to out tell the previous one.
While on assignment (I always thought it would be cool to be able to say that) in Allagash, Maine this past spring, Milt Inman, my good friend and photographer, and I became exposed to some pretty serious spinning of tales.
One morning, we were all sitting outside the main lodge exchanging experiences when one of the volunteers of the school we were attending came outside and began one of his presentations on safety. The group of hunters began listening intently.
Bob McMaster is a volunteer safety instructor that works for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. He mostly teaches safety classes to trappers as he is an avid trapper himself.
It didn’t take long before it became clear to both Milt and I that Bob could tell a good story. As he was winding down his presentation, there became less safety instruction and more storytelling. I was fortunate to have my video camera beside me and so I turned it on and let it run for some time.
After getting back home, I viewed the video and I edited out a piece that I think anyone who enjoys a good tale will enjoy listening to.
This is the link if you want to view the video with your own player on your computer. If you have dial-up and a lot of time on your hands, right click the link and choose “save target as”. You can download it to your hard drive.
Below is a YouTube presentation. The quality of the video isn’t great by the audio comes through fine. I hope you enjoy the presentation.