Tell Me a Story – Sing Me a Song

RushRevereby Anniel  11/21/14
The question before each person who loves our country is: What can we do to save the beauties of our country and our culture when so much seems stacked against us and ugliness and lies have become coin of the realm? We live in a time when the laws and Constitution are trampled by the very people who have sworn to protect them. Oath breaking is only a minor blip on someone’s resume, if it means anything at all.

Whittaker Chambers pessimistically wrote to William F. Buckley, Jr., that,

“It is idle, . . . to talk about preventing the wreck of western civilization. It is already a wreck from within. That is why we can hope to do little more now than snatch a fingernail of a saint from the rack or a handful of ashes from the faggots, and bury it secretly in some flowerpot against the day, ages hence, when a few men begin again to dare to believe that there was once something else, that something else is thinkable, and need some evidence of what it was, and the fortifying knowledge that there were those who, at the great nightfall, took loving thought to preserve the tokens of love and truth.”

Mr. Chambers, along with other brave souls, put his life on the line to keep that night from coming. He was one who bought us time in the battle. What loving thoughts should our generation preserve even as we strive to prevent the great nightfall?


There are several sources for history books to be read aloud and discussed in families. Right now the Rush Revere: Time Travel Adventures With Exceptional Americans series of books are the most popular. The books are written for children ages 10 to 13, but even younger ones and adults are finding them enlightening. Add them to your library.

While the Rush Limbaugh books deal with American History, a prolific and wonderful writer going by the single name Avi has been telling historical tales from many time periods. His most famous books are in the Crispin series, which take place in the Middle Ages. He has also written Sophia’s War: A Tale of the Revolution, The Barn, and The Secret School, all covering different periods in U.S. History. Sophia’s War is very graphic about the horrors and suffering the Colonists faced in the Revolutionary War with England.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is also writing American History books, a few for adults, but mostly now for very young children. All of Glenn Beck’s books are well-researched and very readable, as are William Bennett’s books and almanacs.

There are patriots out there doing their best to make the history available. But what about your own stories? Funny and illuminating stories about yourself and your history, your remembrances. Do you remind your children of the funny things they’ve said or done? Do you keep a journal, write a Blog? Do you tell classic Fairy Tales and nursery rhymes to your children or grandchildren? Have you or they ever memorized a poem or the Gettysburg Address?

Do you and your family read our founding documents together or discuss what they mean? Take one of Hillsdale Colleges on-line courses on the Constitution. Watch the lessons as a family, subscribe to Imprimus, and read it aloud.

Read the Bible together. Tell the stories of heroes, like Daniel in the Lion’s Den, of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, of the birth of Christ and His miracles. Pray together.

While considering what we want to preserve I thought about family legends. You know, the stories that a child, or sometimes a parent, wishes would go away, but they never will. With 5 children and 16 grandchildren we have many. I woke up laughing about one such legend the other morning because it had to do with my thoughts on reading. I share it here just for fun.

When our youngest son, David, was in Third Grade he could read anything. One day he came with a book in hand and said, “Mom, can I read Lonesome Dove?”

I had never stopped my kids from reading anything on our shelves, so I said, “Yes, but there might be things you don’t understand, so come and ask if you have a problem.”

He went happily off and read. A few days later he came to me frowning and asked, “Mom, what’s a war?”

Perplexed, I said, “Honey, you know what a war is. It’s where men fight and . . . ”

“No, no,” he interrupted, “this one is spelled W – H – O – R – E.”

Of course it is. “First of all, the W is silent, so it’s pronounced Hore.”

“Oh, so what’s a whore?”

I tried mightily to try and explain so as not to harm his tender ears, “Well, it’s a woman, you know, who men pay to . . .”

Sudden huge smile on my innocent little boy’s face as he exclaimed, “Oh, you mean a hooker.”

I swear I kept a straight face as I calmly said, “Yes, I do.” I didn’t even laugh until I told his father about it that night, when I laughed so hard I cried. When David grew up enough we teased him and we’ve never let him live it down.

Some of the family legends can even be serious ones. Savor them and tell them around the dinner table.

Watch good movies together.

Discuss everything, including politics, with your family.


Do we sing songs, even lullabies, to our children anymore? The songs don’t have to be great, nor do our voices, but they can convey so much about love, fun and knowledge to a child.

On November 16, 2014, Mark Steyn’s Song of the Week on Steynonline was about This Ole House, written by a gentleman named Stuart Hamblen. It was a fascinating story I highly recommend. I’ll just say that Hamblen was a reformed man who had written songs on both sides of the divide.

In his old days he had written I Won’t Go Huntin’ With You, Jake, But I’ll Go Chasin’ Women. When that song was mentioned I started laughing because I remembered it so well. Jack, our 18 year old grandson, looked up to see what was funny, and Bear quickly found the song and brought it up to play. We all wound up singing the chorus and Bear kept finding more of Hamblen’s songs we recognized, such as It Is No Secret (What God Can Do), (John Wayne helped with that one), and finally got to This Ole House. We found several performers, played them all and sang along again and again. We marveled at how the song was written.

We then spread the net and began listening to all kinds of oldies but goodies. Then it happened, a song came up that made me gasp and sent a frisson of fear up my spine. I was transported back to 1948. I was a young child standing in front of my grandfather’s cathedral-shaped radio listening to Burl Ives singing a new song by a man named Stan Jones. It began slowly,

An old cowpoke went riding out one dark and windy day
Upon a ridge he rested as he went along his way
When all at once a mighty herd of red eyed cows he saw
A-plowing through the ragged sky and up the cloudy draw.
Yippie yi yaaaay
Yippie yi ohhhhh
Ghost herd in the sky.

Cows, I had been around them. I had been to roundups, brandings and rodeos. I knew ridges and cloudy draws, too. Then:

Their brands were still on fire and their hooves were made of steel
Their horns were black and shiny and their hot breath he could feel
A bolt of fear went through him as they thundered through the sky
For he saw the Riders coming hard and he heard their mournful cry
Yippie yi yaaaay
Yippie yi ohhhhh
Ghost Riders in the sky

Cowboys, oh I knew them, and, yes, I knew a cloudy draw, but this was a new breed of cattle to me. And the riders, oh my!

Their faces gaunt, their eyes were blurred, their shirts all soaked with sweat
They’re riding hard to catch that herd, but they ain’t caught ’em yet
‘Cause they’ve got to ride forever on that range up in the sky
On horses snorting fire, As they ride on hear their cry
Yippie yi yaaaah
Yippie yi ohhhhh
Ghost Riders in the sky

Horses snorting fire! Holy cow! Then, clear as John the Baptist in the wilderness crying “Repent ye, repent ye, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” the riders sang right to me:

As the riders loped on by him he heard one call his name
If you want to save your soul from Hell a-riding on our range
Then cowboy change your ways today or with us you will ride
Trying to catch the Devil’s herd, across these endless skies
Yippie yi yaaaay
Yippie yi ohhhhh
Ghost Riders in the sky
Ghost Riders in the sky
Ghost Riders in the sky

That was the most real and frightening song I had ever heard. I had been scooped up and placed behind a rider before. That had been fun, but this time I knew they were coming for me if I didn’t change my ways. The stuff of nightmares.

By the time I explained how frightening that song had been to me, all three of us were laughing and crying together – and ready for more spine tingling adventures. We played song after song before we finally quit after Big, Bad, John and A Boy Named Sue.

What a fun night that was. What a teaching time for our grandson. Songs you could understand, that had stories and morals to tell. Maybe some day we can duplicate the fun for some of our other grandchildren. I hope so.

History, personal memories, family fun, songs and stories. The real things life is made of. Are they at least part of fortifying our families and culture against the dark night around us? • (2476 views)

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15 Responses to Tell Me a Story – Sing Me a Song

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Oh, “This Old House” is an effin riot to listen to. Great stuff, Annie.

  2. Timothy Lane says:

    I have a version of “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Johnny Cash, and I do enjoy the song very much. I also have a version of “Big Bad John”, which I had heard when I was young but never fully appreciated as a tale of one man’s courage and self-sacrifice.

    Of course, singing any of these with children would have 2 problems. One is that there are no children available to sing with, and another is that I wouldn’t want to inflict my singing on them anyway. But there are songs I can appreciate for one reason or another.

  3. Wonderful list, Annie! Love the song lyrics and they reminded me of a book I’m sure you’d love as much as I do, as much as my students always did. It’s full of cowboy poetry, delicious writing and miracles. Read “Peace Like a River” by Leif Enger. And thanks for a hopeful and useful list.

    • Anniel says:

      Funny thing Deanna, I pulled up “Peace Like a River” after telling my grandson about it, and then thought I ought to reread “So Young, Brave and Handsome,” too. Did you know Lief’s brother, Lin also writes? Right now I’m reading his novel ” Undiscovered Country.” Almost as good as his brother. Apparently they have collaborated on a few books using pen names. Were any of your students Zane Grey fans?

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        I didn’t know that anyone else had ever heard of Zane Grey. I’ve got a hard-cover copy of his “The Man of the Forest” on my bookshelf. It’s old and worn and presumably well-read. It was heaped in a box of books I had gathered from somewhere.

        And now that I know (while searching for that link above) that it’s available in Epub format, I may continue to read it. I just find electronic books much more convenient. I got about 30 pages into this book a few years ago and didn’t get any further. But it reads well. I may pick it up again. I’ve been looking for something good to read. It says this edition was published in 1920. That’s certainly when the story was published, but I don’t know if the book is that old. But it very well could be because all of the “Other books by Zane Grey” listed at the front are all older than 1920.

        According to this Wiki entry, I probably should have heard of him. He was fairly prolific and influential:

        earl Zane Grey (January 31, 1872 – October 23, 1939) was an American author best known for his popular adventure novels and stories that were a basis for the Western genre in literature and the arts; he idealized the American frontier. Riders of the Purple Sage (1912) was his best-selling book. In addition to the commercial success of his printed works, they had second lives and continuing influence when adapted as films and television productions. As of 2012, 112 films, two television episodes, and a television series, Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater, had been made that were based loosely on Grey’s novels and short stories.[1]

        • Jim Wooster says:

          Zane Grey is on my list. I learned about this author while visiting his cabin during a drift boat fishing trip on the Rogue River in Southwestern Oregon with my Dad. It is a time capsule: you can see in (but not enter) and see the pots, pans, kettles, beds, etc that he used while relaxing there.

          Awesome article. Will include all titles/songs on my reading/listening list.

  4. David Ray says:

    Anniel will enjoy this little anecdote.
    A friend of mine Joe Brown paid for his daughter Laura to go to college. She got tired of being besieged by zealous liberals and thought it’d be fun to “blend in” and play pranks on the gullible fools. (Her favorite was to stick “Warning: Liberal dumbass on board” bumper stickers on their cars. After all, hers was keyed several times until she removed the Bush sticker.)

  5. Anniel says:

    Brad, I really got into reading by going to Zane Grey. I think I read everything he ever wrote. Much more exciting than “Anne of Green Gables.” Deanna’s recommendation of Leif Enger is great, and I’ve read both of Lin Enger’s novels now, too. All available on Kindle.

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