The winter nights in our high Rocky Mountain valley were long and cold. I don't remember that I ever minded or complained about that. I was surrounded by warmth and the security of a family full of love.
We had no TV, thank goodness, leaving us to rely on togetherness and imagination for our entertainment after all the evening ranch chores were done, supper finished, and the kitchen cleaned. With hours left until bedtime, my brother and I often played on the living room floor where the coal-burning stove kept the room toasty. Sometimes we gathered around the radio to listen to an episode of Roy Rogers, The Lone Ranger, or one of my parents favorites like Amos and Andy or Red Skelton.
My favorite times were when my big sister, Joan, would say, "Let's tell stories." She would go first, weaving an exciting tale of beautiful horses, danger, and rescue. Young as I was at the time, I still remember bits and pieces of her stories. It was a dark night, with snow falling thick and fast. The man on the horse was injured, cold, and completely lost. Try as he did, he could not find a way out of the dark woods—until at last, he came to his senses, let the horse have his head, and the magnificent steed took him home. Of course the story was longer than that, told with much more suspense and excitement, claiming my rapt attention.
Then Joan would tell us to take a turn. Duane, three years younger than Joan, would go first. I don't remember his, but didn't think they were nearly as good as Joan's. Mine, the preschooler at the time, were no more than a faint echo of the one Joan had just told. As first the twins, then our baby brother Larry were old enough, they joined the story-telling circle. Somewhere along the line, Joan added another storytelling game. One person starts a story and then has to stop and let the next person take it up where the first person left off, and so on it goes around the circle, with each person adding to it, until someone finds a way to end it—or until our time was up.
Several years ago, Larry, remembering these good times, suggested we take up the game again, and he started "the story." Each of us had email, so we passed it from one person to the next, each adding to it. It is a convoluted, but exciting, suspenseful story, as others of our extended family joined in, but a story finally waned and died. With Joan gone, our time is probably up, and the epic story that began with the words, "It was cold. Bitter cold," will be the story that never ends.
What a lot we owe to our sister, Joan, for the good times, the love of stories, and the gift of imagination.
This picture was taken couple of Christmases before Larry was born, but the rest of us are there, from left to right, me (Janet) tugging at my stockings, Joan, with Shirley in front of her, our cousin Jean, with Sharon in front of her, and Duane.