[/caption] coffee + a story

I notice that small towns and rural places generate more storytellers and more stories than fast-paced cities. Storytellers flourish in the company of one or more listeners, and we who live rural often take time in our work and activities to listen to each other’s stories. It seems that everyone in my town is a storyteller, and we all have our own natural storytelling styles. Because I live in this small town, I seem to be entitled to a minimum of 6 stories/day. For me the usual places to gather stories are when I check-in at the YMCA, on the walk from my house to my office, in the elevator or on the steps in the office building, a business phone call that blossoms into a recapitulation of a recent experience, and certainly when I stop for a cup of coffee at the coffee bar.

Stories have purpose. We feel an emotional connection as tellers and listeners when we share a story. In a meaningful exchange as stories often are, we understand each other better. Stories teach us something truthful about ourselves as either storyteller or listener, and they connect us closer.
Story about a horse Story about a horse
I don’t know why life in small towns or farms seems to breed stories. Any of us who lived in a small town or grew up on a farm, or maybe spent a summer, a month or a week or less in a rural place, usually have a story to tell and retell about the experience. It may be about a pet dog, horses, encounters with snakes, skunks, deer, raccoons and other wild animals, adventures around lakes and streams while boating, hunting or fishing. Many of my lasting memories are my old relatives, the words of wisdom and the cautionary tales they told me, their odd habits, and most often their sweet smiles and kind ways.

Darlene Bernhardt who lives in Tecumseh, Kansas sent the following story to Nebraska Rural Living. Darlene’s brief bio highlights her love of stories and happy memories of her childhood on the farm. She impresses me with her many interests and her talent that she shares with neighbors, family music lovers in her region and beyond.

Darlene writes, “ I retired two years ago from working for the State of Kansas for 31 years — Kansas Legislative Research Department, Department of Revenue, Department of Administration and last, Kansas Department of Transportation. I played country music since I was 12 years old and had my own band. In the late 1980s, I went to Nashville and recorded my first two records at Fireside Studio then went to Loretta Lynn’s Ranch and played at the Campfire Show there for two days, sang live over WSM at the Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree with Justin Tubb and the Texas Troubadours. I traveled for two years through several different states and enjoyed meeting lots of people. Two years later I cut two more records and continued to play at various venues around the country. I had quite a bit of radio play as an independent artist at radio stations across the United States and England and Canada.

I continued with my band until about 10 years ago when my mom became very ill and then passed away. I retired two years ago to take care of my dad who will be 90 this September. I love traditional country music and also sing German songs (polkas & schottisches). I use to play at Falls City many years ago and my aunt and uncle would drive 7 hours to dance to my music at the Elks Club. Lots of good memories!

My mom and dad, brother and I all farmed when we were growing up, going to school and until we had to get jobs in town. My mother and dad continued to farm until they were 84 years old. Stock Auction Company out of St. Edwards, Nebraska auctioned off our machinery and trucks. Dad still kept 4 tractors (John Deere B, John Deere 520, John Deere 60 & John Deere 4010 Diesel) to play around with. It was a huge farm auction and our combines went to Belize, Central America. We had 13 tractors and other stuff too numerous to mention but it was a live auction as well as internet bidding. Wonderful auction folks who did a fantastic job for us. We were very pleased. It was a sad day to see the equipment leave the driveway. My mom who was very ill watched out the window as the machinery left. Two weeks later she passed away.

Darlene is sharing a memory of her childhood on the farm in Kansas. I imagine she laughed and laughed while writing it, and now I laugh also when I read the story and remembering it later. Thank you, Darlene.

Our Old Outhouse

When my brother and I were little kids, mom and dad had an old outhouse near the garden. I can remember my aunt staying with us, and she would help our mom hoe the garden in the summer. It was a hot day and my aunt had been on us kids constantly about something. We decided to wait until she went to the outhouse. We were quietly snickering to ourselves as we found a stick behind the outhouse and waited till we thought our aunt had sat down over the hole. We stuck that stick through the back side of the outhouse and touched her bottom. Of course we were always told to look for a snake before we sit down over the hole so naturally she thought it was a snake.
As we were running and laughing she flew out of that outhouse with her pants around her ankles swearing up a storm. We were called every name in the book! My mom was laughing so hard standing in the garden, but she told us kids she didn’t want our aunt to see her laughing!

My, the memories that old outhouse had! It still makes us laugh so hard even though the old outhouse is gone. A man came by one day and said he wanted to buy that old outhouse, and he did. He collected outhouses and had them lined up in a pasture near his home at Scranton, Ks. It was kinda sad when we saw that old outhouse leave on that pickup truck.

Darleen Bernhardt
Tecumseh, Ks.
Contact Darlene: bernhardt21@juno.com


  1. Joanna Flores January 28, 2014 at 3:16 pm -

    I agree with you, Betty, and think your blog is just wonderful. I think people who live in the country are more laidback (and IMHO just friendlier) so it makes sense they have more time to listen than city folks! Keep up this blog, you are a role model for me!

  2. Janie September 24, 2013 at 2:47 pm -

    Thanks for sharing all these wonderful stories. I’ve found that people who have grown up in rural communities tell the best ones.

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