It has been a labor of love, but the fourth and final volume of Weathersfield Tales has been compiled and printed.
It, and the earlier volumes, will be available from December 16 at the following locations: in Weathersfield at the Town Office or Proctor Library, in Chester at Misty Valley Books, and in Springfield at Black River Used Books or the Springfield Food Coop. In Weathersfield the cost is $3, and it is not much more at the other locations.
We've watched Steve Aikenhead organize this effort, and decided to ask him how the project came about and was completed.
"The first Weathersfield Tales stories were collected at a taped story-telling session with local seniors four years ago," Aikenhead said. "Making a little booklet of those stories seemed like a good idea, but first it seemed only fair to contact some people who hadn't been at the senior luncheon. Some of those people thought of some other people, and some of those thought of a few more, and within a year we had a book."
There are stories about charging cows and bulls, sheep used to pull carriages, and a hen who prefers the company of her owner to the barnyard chickens. along with tales about Old Hoppy the jailbird, a ragman living a life of leisure, and a generous kleptomaniac.
There was a good deal of work in pulling the project together, and Aikenhead said that he had some good help.
"Lorraine Zigman was an inexhaustible source of stories and of people to contact," he said. "Some folks wrote up their own stories, but generally I got on the phone and wrote frantically - 'Hold that thought!' - or visited and taped, or more often visited and wrote frantically. Some people talk fast.
"The trouble with taping is that later you have to hit the play-stop-rewind-play buttons a few hundred times, and then you have to get back to the storyteller to see if he or she approves of what's been written, and the storyteller is apt to make some changes and think of more stories, and a lot of back-and-forth ensues. Everyone except Edith Hunter needs some editing, in my opinion, and not everyone thinks my editing is wonderful. Back-and-forth by phone or email beats back-and-forth by car."
How did he get all the stories, we asked?
"The easiest way to get good stories has been to pilfer them from Weathersfield's marvelous historical resources," Aikenhead responded, "including publications of the Weathersfield Historical Society, which is a gem and now has two Tales tapes, a drop in the WHS bucket.
We asked Aikenhead if he had any other projects in mind.
"Weathersfield Tales End is the fourth and final collection of the series," he said. "I could find a home for more material, but not in a book I would compile. But if you live in Weathersfield's neighboring village of Baltimore, you can find people over there who are just beginning their collection process.
"I've been reading Weathersfield Tales to a visually impaired friend, and am happy to find out that we don't tire of the stories. Others say they read the stories over again with pleasure. This discovery is much better than finding out that the Tales series is a flop."
Aikenhead also wanted to thank other folks who helped move the project along.
"Thanks to hundreds of people who helped move this project along, and above all to Sally Harris, computer and design expert, who gave an immense number of hours to the cause."