Retired teacher pens book as a story-telling tool

Heather Latter

Jack Hedman remembers years ago when Fort High athletes crowded around the front of the bus to hear the stories told by driver Sid Asselin.
Now a retired teacher, Hedman had coached several sports and while travelling hundreds of kilometers to compete against rival teams, Asselin would entertain the students with his tales.
“Sid was a master story-teller,” Hedman recalled about the man who passed away back in 2002. “He could a stretch out a story for hours.
“This audience probably averaged 16 years in age,” he added. “They would get quite caught up in it all.”
It’s three of these tall tales Hedman used for his recently-published book entitled “The Gift of Gab: A Collection of Recollections.”
Hedman would tell these tall tales to his nieces and nephew who grew up in southern Ontario.
“When they were young, every visit I made led to the same requests—tell us the story about how the beaver saved your life,” he remembers the children asking.
He said he had no idea at the time what kind of impact the stories would deliver.
As young adults, Andrew, Robin, and Jessica asked Hedman to write down the stories they loved so much from their childhood. Now, about 10 years later, he’s finally fulfilled that request.
And what initially was meant to be simply a gift for his nieces and nephew is now a book Hedman believes all people will enjoy.
“I am hoping that in a small way, I will be able to reach out to people in order to convince them that there is significant merit in being able to connect in a personal manner,” he explained.
He believes the art of story-telling is disappearing, especially given this new age of communication and technology.
“The use of cellphones, iPads, tablets, [and] computers has become second nature to our youth,” Hedman remarked.
“It has reached a point where writing and spelling have lost considerable value.
“We are encouraging a new generation that will develop muscular thumbs and a language that will be foreign to us,” he warned.
But Hedman is not knocking this new way of communicating. He has a computer himself—and a Facebook account.
“I do not pretend to have answers, nor do I believe that this change is necessarily a bad thing,” he said. “However, I do believe that we have the power to enhance the connection with children at a very early age.
“We have the opportunity to preserve special moments by taking some time to read or tell stories that hold meaning for children when they are still young enough to believe,” he stressed.
Hedman explained the book, which includes the story of the blind moose and the legend of Fallen Rock, is not a children’s book but rather a tool for parents and grandparents to use to get some ideas of the tales they can share with the youngsters in their lives.
“I hope it encourages them to ask questions and offers a chance for social interaction; to sit down face-to-face and share stories,” he reasoned.
“It can be a lot of fun for both sides.”
Besides providing parents with ideas for story-telling, Hedman noted by writing down the tales, it preserves them for future generations.
“I just kept thinking what a shame it would be if Sid’s stories went to the grave with him,” he said. “They meant so much to the children back then and hold relevance to kids today.
“Story-tellers are a part of many cultures and they are important because without them, how many stories are falling by the wayside?” he wondered.
“They are part of our legacy and should be passed along.”
Hedman will be having a book signing at Northwoods Gallery & Gifts here within the next few weeks, where “The Gift of Gab” will be available for $16.
The book, which is self-published through Trafford Publishing, also is available at www.trafford.com for $21.88 (U.S.)
It incorporates photos taken by Hedman, as well as original artwork by his step-daughter, Jamie Nelson.
He’s hoping that if people enjoy the book, others will be encouraged to write down their own stories or that they will feel compelled to share their stories with him, so that he can write another collection.
The stories don’t necessarily have to be tall tales, but just ones from their lives that they don’t want forgotten.
And he hopes some of Asselin’s friends or other former coaches perhaps will recall other tales he told.
“I believe that a lot of our character and persona gets lost in time because we do not take the time to record or document the little things in life,” he remarked.
Those interested in one of Hedman’s books can contact him via e-mail at jackhedman@yahoo.ca