Gary Whitaker: A Master Storyteller

One of the performers I met this weekend at the Bedford Celtic Heritage Festival is a fellow storyteller I greatly admire, Gary Whitaker. If you ever get the chance to hear him, you will be treated to an enthralling performance. He is a man who loves words, a true bard, who not only knows the words of the great tales, but one who feels them.

I purchased one of his CD’s, Tales of Ancient Warriors. He says these are the stories that inspi8red J.R.R. Tolkien and The Lord of the Rings. The stories featured on the CD are Beowulf, Le Morte de Arthur, and Sigurd the Dragon Slayer.  If you are a storyteller or if you just like good stories, Gary will thrill and inspire you.

Gary’s website is well designed, and there you can see him in costume and read the many endorsements of his programs. He is multi-talented and able to make history come alive. I am proud to now say that he is a friend. You can find his site here:

Notes on Glencoe, Scotland and Scottish Song Lyrics

Yesterday, I worked in the children’s area at the Bedford Celtic Heritage Festival. Rebecca and Warren Sheffield have done a great job the past two years with this important part of the festival.  I did manage to sign a few books as well as help. My good friends, Linda King & Michael Harrison (singers) were there as well as John Burleson (storyteller, but also an excellent guitarist). Today is the first post resulting from attending this festival and the inspiration came from the Campbell clan!

Below are the lyrics to the “Ballad of Glencoe.” This is a song I use in my Scots-Irish school program. You can read all about the background of the song, i.e., the slaughter of the MacDonald clan, here:

They came in a blizzard, we offered them heat
A roof for their heads, dry shoes for their feet
We wined them and dined them, they ate of our meat
And they slept in the house of MacDonald.
O, cruel was the snow that sweeps Glencoe
And covers the grave o’ Donald
O, cruel was the foe that raped Glencoe
And murdered the house of MacDonald

2. They came from Fort William with murder in mind
The Campbell had orders King William had signed
“Put all to the sword” these words underlined
“And leave none alive called MacDonald”

3. They came in the night when the men were asleep
This band of Argyles, through snow soft and deep
Like murdering foxes amongst helpless sheep
They slaughtered the house of MacDonald

4. Some died in their beds at the hand of the foe
Some fled in the night and were lost in the snow
Some lived to accuse him who struck the first blow
But gone was the house of MacDonald

And here is the memorial of the tragic event I found at the Campbell booth. This is true Scots humor!

And here are the lyrics to the stirring song, “The Campbells Are Coming!” I’ve mostly heard the song in the instrumental version, but it is a song I’d like to add to my Scots-Irish program somehow. According to this site, it is traditional pipe tune which may be centuries old and to which the Clan marched to many a battle. It was later the March Past of the 1st Battalion The Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders (formerly the 91st Highlanders) and has also formed the theme of songs. The best known song is “The Campbells are Coming” and the tune is now called by no other name.


The Campbells are coming Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!
The Campbells are coming Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!
The Campbells are coming to bonnie LochLeven
The Campbells are coming Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!

Upon the Lomonds I lay, I lay,
Upon the Lomonds I lay, I lay,
I lookit down to bonnie Lochleven
And saw three perches play-hay-hay!
The Great Argyll he goes before,
He makes the cannons and guns to roar,
With sound o’trumpet, pipe and drum,
The Campbells are coming, Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!
The Campbells they are a’ in arms,
Their loyal faith and truth to show,
With banners rattling in the wind,
The Campbells are coming Ho-Ro, Ho-Ro!

Confederate Song Lyrics

Certain songs have an ability to take you into memories that are still vivid, though you may not have thought of them at all. The song’s lyrics I’m posting tonight, reminded me of my boyhood interest in the Civil War and the Civil War trading cards called the Civil War News that we used to buy at the 7-11. We would stop and buy a package or two as we walked home from school. We would trade and talk about them. (I don’t think kids talk about the Civil War like they used to) Several of us walked around school with our hands or pockets full of them. I never was able to get the whole set, though I think a reissue is available now. I wish I had kept them for I think they would be valuable. Here is a good article about those cards. I’ve decided I’m going to obtain a set of those if I can, even if I can only get reproductions. You can find a site with two pages showing these cards here:

This is the card I most remember from the set:

civil war news

Here are the song lyrics to “Mr. Confederate Man” by the group, Rebel Son. I hope to learn this song for my Civil War show. You can hear the song here. The Rebel Son website is here:


I was just a little boy
in elementary school
English and Math and Science class
learning the golden rules
I learned how to add and how to subtract
and how to multiply and divide
I learned about bugs and I learned about plants
and I learned how to read and write
but my most favorite class of all
was the last class of the day
when my history teacher would tell us tales
of old times long gone away
I was amazed at the way she knew all the people
and their names and the places and the dates
that’s when I first learned about General Lee
and his 13 rebel States

One day she came to school
with a big brown grocery bag
she opened up, we all helped her hold up
this great big “X” shaped flag
she said class
now only a fool will tell you
this flag is a symbol of hate
It represents the men who fought and died
with pride for our Confederate States
Your assignment tonight
I want you to write
I want you to pretend
that one of these brave men came back to life
now what would you say to him

Well the school bell rang
and I thought and I thought
as the bus carried me across town
I got out my pencil and my notebook pad
and this is what I wrote down

I wrote
Mr Confederate man
I’d like to shake your hand
for giving your life for Dixieland
Mr Confederate man

The next day in History class
I put my paper on the teachers desk
then she called me up in front of everyone
because she said she liked mine the best
as i walked up to the head of the class
my teacher smiled and she nodded at me
then I saw a tear roll down her cheek as I began to read

I read
Mr. Confederate man
I’d like to shake your hand
for giving your life for Dixieland
Mr Confederate man

Well I was at home reading through the news
just the other day
when I ran across my old teachers name
and I saw where she had passed away
with a bitter-sweet smile
I looked up at my wall
a wrinkled paper in a old wood frame
where underneath penciled words almost faded away
she had marked a grade big red “A”…

Mr Confederate man
I’d like to shake your hand
for giving your life for Dixieland
Mr Confederate man
I wrote
Mr Confederate man
I’d like to shake your hand
for giving your life for Dixieland
Mr Confederate man

Gone to Texas (Again)

Today, I’m off to work with the Celtic Festival in Bedford, TX. I’ll be back Sunday, but I’ll try to make a post or two during my travels. I’ll be working the children’s area there. If you go this page, you can see the kinds of activities they have planned for the kids. I especially liked this slogan in the language of Brittany: Kentoc’h mervet eget am zoatran – Rather Dead Than Soiled. I intend to study more on Brittany in the future. Here’s a good site if you want to look into this Celtic nation.

Sunday, October is my mother’s birthday (She, appropriately considering the type of explorer in life she is. was born on Columbus day!) I had intended to write her a poem for her birthday, but I’m behind on poems I owe people. I hope to see her briefly this weekend. Like was true with my father, I couldn’t remember the last time I spent any of her birthday with her. Her name is Jessie Fae. Isn’t that a good Southern name? Oh, the stories she has.

This self-employment as an author, storyteller, and musician requires much more time and work than people realize. I remember my naive thought when I began: Oh, I’ll have soooo much more time! I wish that were true.  However, at least one thing is true: I’m finally doing what I truly want to do.  I’ll try to post something with more content soon.

Yom Kippur and the Celtic Heritage Festival in Bedford, Texas

Thursday, October 9, I’ll be in Bradley, Arkansas. As I have so much online work to do, I’ll come home, and then Friday afternoon,  I’ll leave for the Fort Worth area as I’ll be performing (storytelling and music as well as helping with crafts and such) in the children’s area at the  Celtic Heritage Festival in Bedford, Texas. This is my first time to attend this festival, and I feel so fortunate to be able to work with it. Each year the festival honors and features one of the seven Celtic nations. This year, it is Brittany. You can read all about the festival and its performers (except for me who was signed on too late) here:

Tomorrow is also Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and probably the most solemn and important day of the Jewish calendar. It is meant to be a day of fasting, prayer, and introspection. You can learn much more about the holiday here:

This site says this of the day: “It is a day set aside to “afflict the soul,” to atone for the sins of the past year . . . This day is, essentially, your last appeal, your last chance to change the judgment, to demonstrate your repentance and make amends.”

Well, early day tomorrow. Up by 3:00 a.m. and on the road by no later than 5:00 a.m.

Ten Dictators in History: A Short List

There have been several dictators throughout history, who though they have not achieved the media status of Hitler, nevertheless managed to ruthlessly rule their nation and population.  (Stalin, the ally of the U.S. in WWII, was more of a dictator than Hitler! Oh, the ironies of history and the things left out of the history books!) Of course, all dictators have many things in common, such as secret police, a closed society, censorship, total control of the media, demands for cult/hero worship (his picture in every house, his books on every shelf, etc.) using people and the country for his own interest, dirty wars, vanished or tortured citizens. No dystopian society can exist without a proper dictator. Here is a list of dictators in history, each worthy of more study, who have caught my attention in my readings:

1. Santa Domingo – Trujillo. I first heard about him from my reading of The Brief and Wondrous LIfe of Oscar Wao.  A great read by the way.

2. Haiti – Doc Duvalier.  Currently, I’m reading The Comedians by Graham Greene, which is set in Haiti. Doc and his Touton Macoutes are infamous. This is a “dark” read, and different from other books I’ve ready by Greene, but I am intrigued by it.

3. Iraq – Saddam. Stating the obvious here, but I didn’t want to forget him.

4. North Korea – Kim Jong-il.

5. Libya – Qaddafi.

6. Pinochet – Chile. (Aside: Have you noticed how the Chilean flag is so similar to the Texas flag?)

7. Cuba – Castro

8. Argentina – Galtieri

9. Yugoslavia – Tito

10. Soviet Union – Lenin, Stalin, Krushev (Seems to be a utopia for dictators!)  I learned about these tyrants from reading all of Solzhenitsyn’s books. (Yes, I have read ALL of them)

There are many other dictators, of course, and often these same countries had more than one. You can take a “Which Dictator Are You?” quiz here:

Bradley, Arkansas School Programs Thursday

Tomorrow, I’ll be in Bradley, Arkansas, presenting my programs at the ISD there. Ginny Boyd is the wonderful librarian who is in charge of my programs. The rest of the weekend is up in the air, as I am overburdened with tasks that must be done this weekend and have several options (and all conflicting interests).  Fall and spring are the BUSY season for storytellers and authors who are promoting their books. Thank God, I’m an author in a country where I can publish and promote my writing, even if some it is what some would consider politically incorrect, or at least on the edge of being politically incorrect.

Chords and Lyrics for “Devils and Dust” by Bruce Springsteen

Katie, a student of mine this summer, shared some of her favorite songs with me. “Devils and Dust” (also the name of Springteen’s album) was one of them. It’s a song I now do in my Americana show, and a song that has haunted and unsettled me since I first heard it. If you’ve wondered what the song’s about, I think I found out. According to this great blog site, “Springsteen wrote the haunting title track for “Devils and Dust” on the eve of the war in Iraq. There is no bombast in this piece. This is no call to arms. Instead, Bruce captures the inner conflict of all soldiers on all battlefields.” You can find the chords for “Devils and Dust” here:

Devils and Dust by Bruce Springsteen

I got my finger on the trigger
But I don’t know who to trust
When I look into your eyes
There’s just devils and dust
We’re a long, long way from home, Bobbie
Home’s a long, long way from us
I feel a dirty wind blowing
Devils and dust

I got God on my side
And I’m just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love
Fear’s a powerful thing, baby
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
And fill it with devils and dust

Well I dreamed of you last night
In a field of blood and stone
The blood began to dry
The smell began to rise
Well I dreamed of you last night, Bobbie
In a field of mud and bone
Your blood began to dry
And the smell began to rise

We’ve got God on our side
We’re just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love
Fear’s a powerful thing
It’ll turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust
It’ll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust

Now every woman and every man
They wanna take a righteous stand
Find the love that God wills
And the faith that He commands
I’ve got my finger on the trigger
And tonight faith just ain’t enough
When I look inside my heart
There’s just devils and dust

Well I’ve got God on my side
And I’m just trying to survive
What if what you do to survive
Kills the things you love
Fear’s a dangerous thing
It can turn your heart black you can trust
It’ll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust
Yeah it’ll take your God filled soul
Fill it with devils and dust

New Writing Contests & Song Lyrics

There are two new writing contests I found that you may want to enter. Both are with reputable organizations, and unfortunately, I can enter neither of them. The first, because of my age, and the second because I do have a published book of fiction. However, I know several new writers consult this site for information, so I wanted to pass them on to you.


The first contest is The First Annual Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival Fiction Writing Contest. A must enter! Big prizes. You can read all about it here:

The second contest is the Narrative Magazine’s 30 Below Story Contest. (For writers under the age of 30. Yes, I’m a little beyond that.) You can find the guidelines here:


I was listening to a CD by Scottish performer Alex Beaton and immediately fell in love with the song. I’ve developed an interest lately in the Maritime provinces of Canada, its music and culture. The first paragraph are notes I’ve taken on words in the song. I found the notes here:

[The town of Wiarton is situated at the mouth of one of the deepest Great Lake ports. For years, over 30% of the Captains and First Mates employed in shipping on the Lakes came from this quiet fishing town in the Bruce Peninsula. There are very few families in the town, even now, who have not lost a close relative to the fury of the lakes. The Soo is Sault Ste. Marie Wireton is in Ontario ]


Now it’s just my luck to have the watch, with nothing left to do
But watch the deadly waters glide as we roll north to the ‘Soo’,
And wonder when they’ll turn again and pitch us to the rail
And whirl off one more youngster in the gale.
The kid was so damned eager. It was all so big and new.
You never had to tell him twice, or find him work to do.
And evenings on the mess deck he was always first to sing,
And show us pictures of the girl he’d wed in spring.
But I told that kid a hundred times “Don’t take the Lakes for granted.
They go from calm to a hundred knots so fast they seem enchanted.”
But tonight some red-eyed Wiarton girl lies staring at the wall,
And her lover’s gone into a white squall.
Now it’s a thing that us oldtimers know. In a sultry summer calm
There comes a blow from nowhere, and it goes off like a bomb.
And a fifteen thousand tonner can be thrown upon her beam
While the gale takes all before it with a scream.
The kid was on the hatches, lying staring at the sky.
>From where I stood I swear I could see tears fall from his eyes.
So I hadn’t the heart to tell him that he should be on a line,
Even on a night so warm and fine.
When it struck, he sat up with a start; I roared to him, “Get down!”
But for all that he could hear, I could as well not made a sound.
So, I clung there to the stanchions, and I felt my face go pale,
As he crawled hand over hand along the rail.
I could feel her keeling over with the fury of the blow.
I watched the rail go under then, so terrible and slow.
Then, like some great dog she shook herself and roared upright again.
Far overside. I heard him call my name.
So it’s just my luck to have the watch, with nothing left to do
But watch the deadly waters glide as we roll north to the ‘Soo’,
And wonder when they’ll turn again and pitch us to the rail
And whirl off one more youngster in the gale.

But I tell these kids a hundred times “Don’t take the Lakes for granted.
They go from calm to a hundred knots so fast they seem enchanted.”
But tonight some red-eyed Wiarton girl lies staring at the wall,
And her lover’s gone into a white squall.

CHORDS: The chords follow this progression. I capo on the third fret.

G, Em,C, Bm, Am7, D,

G, Em,C, Bm, Am7, D, G


G, Em,C, Bm, Am7, D, G

Children’s Illustrator Wanted: Pelican Publishing


My new children’s picture book, with the working title of Sunday School with Professor Jackson, is in need of an good illustrator and if you’re an artist, Pelican Publishing, which has tentatively accepted my manuscript, invites you to apply. The book is the true story of the very famous Stonewall Jackson and the black Sunday school he helped build and that he taught at before the Civil War called him from Lexington, Virginia. You should apply:

1. If you have an interest in the Antebellum South and America’s Civil War.

2. If you have strong research skills. There is a great need for the book to be historically accurate in the visual images.

3. If you have a desire to help tell one of the great, extremely positive, but forgotten stories of history.

4. If you would like your artwork to be represented by an extremely aggressive author (that would be me, Rickey E. Pittman) who knows how to effectively promote books and gain sales (thus, royalties for you) and publicity.

5. If you have a desire to make a difference in children’s (and adults) lives by enriching them culturally and helping them to love history and the books that teach us about history

Pelican’s page (here) for illustrators says this of the application process:

Pelican Publishing Company, the largest book publisher in the South, is always interested in talented, hard-working illustrators. All materials that are submitted to us are kept on file and reviewed as new projects arise. We would be very happy to have you send some of your best work for our perusal. Below are our basic guidelines for submissions.

Please Note: Pelican does not accept illustrations submitted via e-mail or the Internet!

Appointments: Pelican prefers submission by mail only. If an appointment is necessary, contact will be made with the artist.

Via Mail: Please send all materials securely packed and insured if necessary. Any materials to be returned must be accompanied by return postage and return packing materials.

Artwork Markings: Be sure all materials have your complete name, address and phone number in case the materials are separated or some are to be returned.

Artwork Format: Try to keep the size of all materials under 8 1/2 x 11 unless they may be folded. Materials are stored in a standard letter file cabinet, so oversize material is returned. Published works are preferable, but color and B/W copies are acceptable. Please do not send faxed materials unless requested.

Suggested Subject Matter: Since the majority of our illustrated books are for (1) children, (2) young adults and (3) technical, work submitted should be in these categories. Our children’s books are generally full color with both whimsical and realistic, human and animal characters. Our young adult books require black/white line work in a mostly realistic style. Technical work would include maps, diagrams, charts etc.

A current resume showing work in the design area (especially books) is helpful.

Pelican address:
All items being sent
UPS, USPS or Federal Express
materials should be sent to:

1000 Burmaster St.
Gretna, LA 70053
Attn: Production Manager

*Feel free to share this page or this page’s link with any artist you feel may be interested. I have other children’s books under consideration for publication with Pelican, (and about other topics other than the Civil War) so if you’re a good artist, please apply to Pelican Publishing. You can tell by the beautiful covers of my two children’s books already published that I’ve already worked with two wonderful artists (see Write me at if you have any questions.

Great Big Sea Lyrics: Music from Newfoundland

While at my booksigning last weekend at the Barnes and Noble in Frisco, Texas, I heard the music of Great Big Sea playing in the background. The CD is Fortune’s Favor. Band member Sean McCann says, “Our music is of Newfoundland . . . It would be impossible to do what we do if we were from anywhere else. Our songs come from the sea and the cliffs and the rocks and all the other natural beauties our country provides. Without her we simply couldn’t exist.”

I decided that some of the music could be used in my Scots-Irish show, so I purchased the CD. It is the band’s ninth studio recording. I was not disappointed.

For more information about them, go to the group’s website:

Here are the lyrics of three of the songs from the CD that I intend to incorporate into my show.

ENGLAND by Great Big Sea

We shipped on board the Maryanne
To find a better life
And we walked across the water
When she broke up on the ice
We came ashore in Carbonear
With nothing but our rights
And I wondered if I e’er again
Would see my London lights

We were far from the shores of England
Far from our children and wives
To play our hand in the Newfoundland
Where the wind cuts like a knife
We were far from the shores of England
Far from our native soil
To chase a wish and hunt the Fish
And on the rocks to toil
We were far from the shores of England

We spend our days amid the waves
Working water, hook and twine
We would go for weeks with blistered cheeks
Waiting for the sun to shine
But as long as the sky hold over us
We will not taste the brine
And we’ll curse the cod
With the fear of God
As we haul in every line

Should we find Fortune’s Favour
And be spared from the gale
We will live off honest labour
With our hearts as big as sails
But if I should die don’t bury me
Or leave me to the sea
Please send my bones back to my home
Where my spirit can be free


You bully boys of Liverpool
I’ll have you all beware
When you sail on them packet ships,
No dungaree jumpers wear
But have a big monkey jacket
All ready to your hand
For there blows some cold nor’westers
Off the banks of Newfoundland

We’ll scrape her and we’ll scrub her
With holy stone and sand
For there blows some cold nor’westers
On the banks of Newfoundland

Now the mate he stood on the fo’c’sle head
And loudly he did roar
Come rattle her in me lucky lads,
You’re bound for America’s shore
Come wipe the blood off that dead man’s face *)
And haul or you’ll be damned
For there blow some cold nor’westers
On the banks of Newfoundland


So now we’re off the hook me boys,
And the land is white with snow
And soon we’ll see the pay table
And we’ll spend the whole night below
And on the docks, come down in flocks,
Those pretty girls will say
Ah, It’s snugger with me than on the sea,
On the banks of Newfoundland



The fondest wish that ever I had
Since the day that I was weaned
Is to go back and walk again
On the rocks of Merasheen

I still recall that sad farewell
I gave her on that day
When all upon a whaling ship
I went to earn my pay
On the hard rocks, the rocky rocks,
The rocks of Merasheen

From out of Rose, a Rue we sailed,
To hunt the big fish down
We sailed upon the ocean till
We sailed the world around

With girls in every port of call
I did go oft astray
Forsaking her I left behind
Back in Placentia Bay
By the hard rocks, the rocky rocks
The rocks of Merasheen

Now in my old and aching age
I think of her once more
Of how she fared while waiting
For my knock upon her door.
What fate was hers I do not know
But in my sleep I see
Her walking on the cliffs above the rocks of Merasheen
On the hard rocks, the rocky rocks,
The rocks of Merasheen
On the hard rocks, the dirty rocks
The rocks of Merasheen