“When me and my husband got married, we had a horse and buggy. We went to a place called Indian Springs. You go down to the spring. They had a dipper. You pay a dime for the dipper. They said the water was good for you. Every time you dip your dipper you’d drink the dipper dry.”


Iola Buckner


    Each of the nine elders, aged sixty-seven to eighty-six at the time of book’s writing, speaks in a chapter. Drinking the dipper dry: this richly suggestive expression comes to stand for wisdom. In the traditions and cultures in which these elders grew up and lived, the role of storyteller is to set the listener on the road to wisdom. Wisdom is an attitude toward life. Wisdom proposes a life lived in harmony with change, movement, and the unpredictable as being the truest and deepest way. “(The water) smelled just like rotten eggs. They said it was good for you.” Iola Buckner. To drink the dipper dry is to accept all of life’s experiences, happy as well as sad, and to take in all the benefit the moment offers up. This is the recurrent message these storytellers convey.


    The nine elders’ late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century origins–St. Louis, Georgia, Tennessee, Lithuania, Rumania, the Ukraine–become emblematic of a “long ago and far away” and of the ever-present. With story, everyday conversation, vignette, antique slang and aphorism, folk wisdom, parable, sermon, and monologue these masters of the spoken word enchant and enthrall.


Download excerpts from Drinking the Dipper Dry: Nine Plain-Spoken Lives by Jerred Metz.



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