‘Escanaba’ Just Like Old Family Yarns


September 8, 2005

I like a good yarn.  Although I knit, I am not referring to worsted verses that trendy new eyelash fun fur.  I like a good tall tale, and my Finnish uncles could tell some whoppers.  It seems whenever my father got together with his buddies and relatives stories were always swapped.

As a youngster I would sit in awe and admiration and listen to the woodland escapades of meeting a bear or an angry snorting buck, or the big walleye that got away.  Then there was the often told tale of walking to school through snow drifts up to their chins with their lunch pails held tight with a baked potato in it for warmth.

My aunts would even tell tales of sitting in the one-room school house and being tormented by the class bully who sat behind them and put the tips of their braids in the ink well.  Or the freak summer snow storm that left drifts so tall they had to climb out of the upstairs bedroom windows to get to the barn to do their chores.

Even though they would sometimes tell me these tales in Finn and I couldn’t understand a word I would listen very attentively, always waiting for the next exciting part – for the bear to growl, for the buck to snort steam, for the fish to jump violently and break the line.  The excitement was on their faces and in their voices.  They were overtly animated and made me feel I was living a Laura Ingalls Wilder novel.  They instilled my love of theater, my love of being told a story.

As I got older I noticed the story would change and become a bit more embellished.  The bear got bigger and taller, the walk to school became a colder trek, or the fish was longer, a more ferocious fighter.  Who was I to argue?  I wasn’t there and they were my elders – you don’t question your elders.  Yet these tales were told with a twinkle in their eyes and a crinkle of a smile, as if they were waiting to see if you would contradict them.  But we wouldn’t.  And that seemed to make them giddy – as if they had pulled one over on us.

All of these memories and tales of my aunts and uncles have come flooding back to me as I sit and watch our current play, “Escanaba in Da Moonlight.”  Jeff Daniels has brought to stage a family’s hunting tale that has been embellished with each and every telling.  A hunter seeking the redemption of his manhood by bagging his first buck, as told by his father – over, and over and over again.  And the version you listen to is the one told for the 101st time.

As one character in the play states, this tale isn’t for the brie and cheese eating crowd.  It is tall tale of men at deer camp.  I grew up around these guys.  They told me tales.  If you enjoy a good yarn stop on down and catch the show.  And if you are a knitter, perhaps we’ll find some time to chat about what you like to work with.

“Escanaba in Da Moonlight” will be on stage through September 18.  You can visit our website at www.peninsulaplayers.com or phone the box office at 920-868-3287.  Perhaps I’ll see you by the bay, where the sun sets, the curtain rises, the stars shine and tales are told around the camp fire!