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New Hampshire's 'Moose of Humor' pays a visit to Belmont



RULE
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Yankee humorist Rebecca Rule (left) entertained a full house in Belmont last Friday evening with her tales (“mostly true”) of life in rural New Hampshire. Following her program, Rule spoke with Carmen Fisher of Sanbornton, and after autographing her book, added one of Fisher’s own stories to her ongoing collection. (Donna Rhodes) (click for larger version)
September 21, 2011
BELMONT — New Hampshire writer, storyteller and humorist Rebecca Rule had audience members rolling in the aisles with her classic tales of rural life in the Granite State when she brought her a program, "That Reminds Me of a Story," to Belmont last Friday evening.

Her appearance was made possible through a grant from the New Hampshire Humanities Council, and hosted by the Belmont Historical Society.

Rule was "armed for bear," as a Yankee might say, when she began her presentation to a packed Corner Meeting House, telling tales she has collected and preserved through the years.

"Wherever I go in the state of New Hampshire, I hear the old stories. Stories about the laughter, the pleasure, the sunshine and the rain," she said. "Those stories are important to hold onto because they help define who we are."

She began by telling of a recent visit she made to Starr Island with locally renowned fiddler Dudley Laufman. While on the scenic island off Portsmouth, the two spent some time "swapping yarns," she said. A favorite from the day was about the fiddler who inadvertently cut off the end of one of his fingers. Looking down, his only reaction was to drawl, "Well, there goes B Flat."

It took a few beats before the crowd roared with laughter, and Rule admitted Yankee humor was a bit dry and unique at times.

"Sometimes, it takes a few minutes…sometimes, it takes a day before you get it, but it will come to you," Rule assured the audience with a chuckle of her own.

Weaving a little of her own life experiences into her storytelling, Rule said she's come to notice a big difference between Durham and Gorham. While speaking to school children in Durham one day, she told a story about a hornpout, which left them confused.

"They'd never heard of hornpout before. I was stunned," Rule said. "Of course, this happened before No Child Left Behind."

She then went to visit another classroom in Gorham, where they were going to create a story together. The boys and girls decided to make their story about a moose, and, stressing the creative thought process in writing a story, Rule asked them to consider what a moose would be like. One boy in the room blurted out, "Delicious."

"And that, my friends, is the difference between Durham and Gorham," she said to laughter and a round of applause.

Throughout the night, Rule would pause and ask the audience to share a story, as well. One by one, a few people added their own humorous tales, whether passed down in their families or experiences they themselves had had over the years. Each time they did, Rule would grab her notebook and jot the tales down for future reference.

Her later stories of "Priorities" in Acworth and one about a man who bought a toaster without a plug at a northern auction ("That's fine. I don't have electricity at my cabin anyway") had gales of laughter echoing throughout the room. Each were told with a Yankee drawl, and expressions which added even more humor to the tales.

An especially popular story out of Pittsburg was about two ice fishermen, new to the area, on what appeared to be a fine pickerel pond. After chiseling for some time, they finally broke through, only to discover there was no water beneath the ice. Loggers had cut off trees at the four-foot snow level, and the stumps supported the ice, even after the beaver dam forming the pond had burst and drained the water away. Others spotting the two men on the ice had begun chiseling further across the former pond and, feeling mischievous after their initial embarrassment, the two decided to play a joke on the newcomers.

Crawling down through their hole and along the vacant space between ice and the dirt below, the man she called "Razor" waited until their chisel broke through and grabbed it.

"Thank God," he gasped as the startled people looked down through the ice. "I drowned here last fall, and this is the first chance I've had to get out."

The audience enjoyed story after story, "mostly true," she would say with a devilish grin, and lined up to purchase one of her many books and CD's as the presentation drew to a close. Some folks pulled Rule aside to regale her with tales they didn't want to relay before a crowd and she eagerly added them into her notebook.

Rule, also known as the Moose of Humor, truly enjoys entertaining crowds through her talks and her books, the latest of which is titled, "Headin' for the Rhubarb: A N.H. Dictionary (Kinda)." In it, she reveals words common to New Hampshire with a humorous tale to define each.

"I write to preserve the rural culture and language of our state," she said.

Other works include "Live Free and Eat Pie: A Storyteller's Guide to New Hampshire," "Could Have Been Worse: True Stories, Embellishments and Outright Lies" and her CD's "Perkey Gets a Dump Sticker" and "Better Than a Poke in the Eye, N.H. Stories (and One from Maine)." Rule also hosts the NH Authors Series on NHPTV, and is a regular contributor to the New Hampshire Troubadour and UNH Magazine.

Information on her appearances and samples of her humor can be found at www.livefreeandeatpie.com. There are also links to purchase her publications and submit any stories people would like to share on an upcoming book, which will focus on New Hampshire town meetings.

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Varney Smith
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