Prides Hollow Story Series by Award-Winning Storyteller Kelly Swanson

Episode 1: The Buick

December 02, 2020 Kelly Swanson Season 1 Episode 1
Prides Hollow Story Series by Award-Winning Storyteller Kelly Swanson
Episode 1: The Buick
Show Notes Transcript

Stories that warm your heart like walking into a Cracker Barrel, or enjoying a good Hallmark movie. To stay in touch, become a patron of the show, or get your own key to the city!

Prides Hollow is full of southern stories that will amuse, entertain, and leave you with an inspirational message. In this first episode, Harriet, a color-between-the-lines kind of lady, does something that most people would have thought was crazy.

You see, Harriet lives in the house down the road, with the grey shutters. She's worn her hair in the same tight bun for what seems like forever, and both her and her husband, Harold, always lived on the safe side of life. 

That all changed when Harold died. You would expect that the challenge from Old Man Withers would bypass Harriet completely. But these southern stories are full of people who take a chance. That’s part of what this inspirational message is about.

When Harriet heard the mailman recite the challenge, her heart jumped up right away. She knew exactly what she would do if she was brave. She wanted to drive the Buick her and Harold owned. Only problem was, she had never learned to drive. 

That didn’t stop her. With her neighbor Noreen as her impromptu coach, the pair took Harold’s ashes and drove off in search of a place to scatter them.

This is one of those southern stories that’s full of seemingly ordinary folks, whose actions end up surprising everyone. The story finishes with an inspirational message from Kelly, about the importance of doing something brave, even if it doesn't seem to make any sense.

If you enjoyed this first episode, be sure to catch the next one, which will air in two weeks, on Wednesday 9pm EST. Kelly will be there to chat in the community thread!

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The story starts in Prides Hollow, a simple town, like some that you've driven through or around. Too small, to be known. Too big, to be quaint. Where the current decor is peeling paint. A place quite out of reach that time almost forgot doing the best they can with what they've got. 

It's quite safe to say that the story began with the death of a despised old man. Whose wealth so vast, it was only surpassed by the number of people happy to see him pass. So you can imagine they're shocked when they found he left most of his riches to every person in town. On one condition, it was clearly expressed that each person fulfilled his dying request. A strange demand, an awkward test. The words of a man delirious at best. But there it was as plain as day, the game that he required you to play. The instructions were clear yet, incredibly vague. 

It simply said, what would you do if you were brave? If you could do that one thing more than you have ever done before, what would you create if the slate were wiped clean, and your rules allowed you the right to dream? What would you do? What would it be? This is the chance for you to see. So the town set out to fulfill this awkward request, just to get the money most would confess. And yet what happened, changed them all. One at a time in ways both big and small. And these are their stories. Started by a man from his grave of what people will do when given the chance to be brave. 

Sometimes being brave isn't so much about doing something big, but actually doing something small. Harriet Bumgarner will give you an amen to that. Let me tell you what happened when she accepted old man Withers challenge. Harriet lives in that cute little white house about three streets over. The one with the gray shutters and the daisies on the mailbox. She's probably in her 60s and has been living alone since her husband died, not too long ago of a heart attack. And bless his heart if he could see his garden right now, he'd be having a fit. Just saying. Harriet's the type who still wears pantyhose and a dress floral of course, to go to the grocery store. And I swear that woman has worn her hair in the same tight bun as long as we've known her. Once I kidded her and said, when she died, I was going to come chop off her bun and give her a purple Mohawk for the memorial viewing. 

She didn't speak to me for weeks. Anyway, Harriet and Harold were the type of couple who always lived on the safe side of life. As parents, they'd always colored inside the lines, lived in structured shades of beige. And found no reason to get overly excited about religion or politics. They were the type of couple always invited to the parties, but you could never really remember actually seeing them there. Now, it was a Wednesday when Harold died. I remember because that night was prayer meeting, which turned out to be about five minutes of actual prayer and 90 minutes of planning who was going to bring what casserole and when. In Prides Hollow, every birth, death, and sickness in between is commemorated with some version of a condensed soup and Ritz Cracker topping. Or a brightly colored congealed salad that keeps moving a good 10 minutes after you sat it down. You could measure how much somebody was loved by how long you could live off of the delivered food. 

A love that could just as quickly turn into a lifelong grudge, if you forgot to return the dish. And heaven help you if you bring the same casserole as somebody else, you might as well have slept with her husband. Oh yeah. Dish cheating, it's a thing. Anyway, Harold slipped out of this life as quietly as he lived it, in his recliner feet up watching Wheel of Fortune. Never woke up. Hey, I'll take that way out if I get a say in it. He left without a fuss. Everything in order. Slippers and reading glasses exactly where they should be. Just looked like he was peacefully napping and dreaming of buying a vowel. Harriet kissed his cheek. Breathed in the smell of old spice that had clung to him their whole marriage. Thanked him for staying by her side all these years. And then set out to make the necessary phone calls. 

Nobody expected her to fall apart, so she didn't. She wasn't one to step out of character. Why start now? And who are we to judge? So Harriet knitted through the expected stages of grief and tried not to wonder what she was supposed to do now. So when the word got out about old man Wither's challenge, well you would expect it would bypass Harriet completely as she wasn't much for gossip. Or challenges for that matter. But Harriet caught wind of it anyway, because she happened to be outside when the mailman mentioned it. She was standing there trapped in another lecture by her next door neighbor Noreen, who was 15 minutes in on how the grass should be cut in angles, not straight lines. This was Noreen's alternative to bringing a sympathy casserole. Lectures were the love language she had inherited from her father, the Colonel. The more she cared, the longer she advised. Noreen means well, but that sentiment often gets buried under this overly zealous concerned for your welfare. 

Noreen's, about four feet tall. And if she had a body type, it would be rope. You don't want to arm wrestle her trust me. Now Noreen lives alone. Never married. Her only companion is that ever present oxygen machine whose hisses punctuate her lectures. It's rumored she still smokes. Well, not really a rumor unless Marlboro's come out with a new perfume. I know ironic. But Noreen like her father is determined to live life on her own terms, even if it kills her, which it probably will. 

So that day when Harriet heard the mailman repeat the whispered words of old man Withers, what would you do if you were brave? Her head frowned and disregarded it as foolish nonsense. But her heart, had jumped up and answered right away. I read in a book somewhere that when the head and the heart disagree, the heart always wins. 

That day, Harriet stood there on the lawn pretending to listen to Noreen, but really staring at Harold's old car, sitting in the driveway, waiting for one of the kids to come pick up and go sell. And she knew exactly what she would do if she were brave. It was the one thing she'd always wanted just once before she died, to drive that Buick. Except she'd never learned to drive. 

I know it doesn't really sound like much to most of us. I mean how had she never learned to drive? But you got to understand that Harriet had gone straight from her parents house as a young woman to Harold's. And between living up North in the city, most of their lives and not needing the car. And then moving down here and only needing one car in their retired years. Well, she just never learned. The one time she asked Harold to teach her, He had told her, it just didn't make sense. And that was that. I guess you could say it became her one regret. She could hear her family now, mom, that's crazy you're too old to drive. You don't have anywhere you have to be. What's the point? What would the neighbors think? Where would I even go? What if I hit something? What would Harold say? 

But that day Harriet felt a spark buried so deep she wasn't sure if it was just indigestion. Something set a firmness to her mouth and a commitment to her soul that she would drive that car if it was the very last thing she did. Before her head could talk her out of it, Harriet stopped Noreen mid lecture and said, "I want you to teach me to drive today I need to sprinkle Harold's ashes". A sensible use of gas. Just in case Harold was watching. Well, this lit up Noreen like winning the lottery as her concern for the welfare of others far outweigh those who actually came to her for help. 

"Let me grab my sweater", she said. "I'll have you driving within the hour". And no, it didn't seem to bother either of them that Harriet didn't have a license. Noreen's nephew was a state trooper. And if something happened, he owed her one. Noreen dashed inside the house. And within minutes, she comes back out with a clipboard, and a whistle, an emergency field kit that included a water, a machete, and a tourniquet. And an extra disposable cell phone she taped to the inside of the trunk, just in case they got abducted. Like she saw on the law and order, with her nephew's number already programmed in it. Her oxygen machine was just hissing in anticipation. Harriet buckled Harold's urn in the backseat and said a quick prayer. Noreen had a sink or swim teaching style. There's the gas. There's the break. Don't forget your blinker. 

And any time Harriet made a mistake Noreen would blow the whistle and Harriet would start to cry. So it was a rocky start. But after several trips around the block, Harriet got used to it. Personally, she thought learning to work that new fangled dishwasher, her kids gave them was harder than this. After a few more hours of practice in the church parking lot and a rosebush hit and run that they will take two the grave, Noreen announced your ready, let's hit the highway. We can sprinkle Harold somewhere along Route 29. Harriet froze. I mean, driving around the parking lots one thing, but the highway, the idea of it thrilled her and scared her to death at the same time. Her knuckles gripped the steering wheel as she thought of all the things that could go wrong. But this could be her only chance, just this once to see if maybe it could go right. 

She took a deep breath and she closed her eyes. And then she remembered she needed to open them to drive. And in just a few short turns, they were on the highway. And Harriet finally let out her breath as she began to push that peddle a little harder and then a little harder. And then after a while, Harriet forgot to be scared. They flew down that highway four miles above the speed limit as Noreen had instructed. Windows roll down. Radio set to Harriet's favorite praise and worship channel, two notches higher than Harold ever let her turn it. Singing at the top of her lungs. The country was just rolling out to greet them. It was everything she thought it would be. She felt like she was flying. The wind blowing through the car windows loosened Harriet's bun and the pieces flapped around her head with a freedom Harriet hadn't felt since she was 17. Till the breeze blew the hair in her eyes. And they almost skidded off the road. Noreen let out a string of colorful curse words and they had to roll the window back up. 

And then when they had to stop for gas and she forgot, she was still in reverse and hit that pole. "It's all right", said Noreen. "We're fine. That's what bumpers are for". They found a pretty field to stop and scatter Harold. But when they went to the back seat to get him, they stopped in horror. Harold's urn had tipped over somewhere along the way. And the top had come off and he was spilled all over the backseat, like a flour sifter gone wrong. Yep. The ashes of her dearly departed had been prematurely scattered. Neither of them knew quite what to do in this situation. 

And wouldn't that make a good topic for Irma's etiquette column in the newspaper. Dear Irma, what is the proper etiquette when you spill your dead husband's ashes all over the back seat of a Buick? Got no choice, Noreen announced. We'll just vacuum them up. There's a soapy suds carwash, couple of miles ahead. Not enough of him left to sprinkle. No use crying over spilled ashes. They got pretty tickled over that. And they had to stop for a minute to get themselves back together again. And don't you judge them for it. Harold had a great sense of humor. He would've laughed harder than both of them. 

So that day, instead of being sprinkled over a pretty park or a Lake, the last of Harold's earthly essence was sucked up through a vacuum hose at the Soapy Suds over on Route 29. If you'd driven by at the right moment, you would not have been able to guess why two old women in the parking lot of a carwash were crying, and laughing, and saying a small prayer as they push quarters through the vacuum dispenser. That night Harriet was still smiling while she watched Wheel of Fortune and began knitting Noreen a thank you sweater. "If it's okay with you", she whispered to Harold, "I think I'll keep the car just in case". And she was pretty sure he nodded. 

If you ever happened to be in Prides Hollow and you need your car washed, we recommend you go to the Soapy Suds on Route 29. Some people swear that when they leave, the car smells just like old spice. Sometimes being brave is not that one big thing that the world writes about, but the one tiny thing that might not make sense, but encourages you to live just a little bit outside the lines. 

And so the sun sets on this episode's guest of what one more did with that old man's request. But soon I'll be back with a new tale to unfold. For there are many more stories still left to be told. For this challenge has started with no end in sight. As each person closes their eyes and takes flight. But until next time, maybe you'll find the chance to close your eyes and join in the dance. Maybe this story whispered from that old man's grave, will push you to find out what happens when you choose to be brave. 

Hey everybody, Kelly Swanson here. I hope you liked that story. And that if you think there's someone else who needs to hear it, that you'll share it on Facebook or wherever, the people in Prides Hollow would love that. 

This story means a lot to me because like Harriet, I'm a color inside the lines type of person. I like order. I like a plan. I like structured spontaneity. But lately I've been realizing that I don't want to get to the end of my life with a regret or a wish to have done that one thing. That's why I'm doing this show. And I'm so excited that you came to watch it. And I hope that you'll continue to come back and support it and become part of the community. There's a community tab actually on this YouTube page where we can start talking and chatting. But yeah, that's why I'm doing this Prides Hollow show, it truly is my one thing. It's me coloring way outside the lines. And scary to be doing something like this at such an unpredictable time. Why now? I guess, because I'm realizing how fleeting life is. And how important joy is. 

So this is my green Buick sitting in the driveway that like Harriet, I just have to drive. But this is a big dream. And I learned from Harriet that sometimes finding a smaller one is just as good. That one tiny little thing that you can do. So I ask as I'm going to ask you after every episode, because the show isn't just about me and the people in this town, it's about you. So I'm going to ask, what about you? I want every episode to have a challenge that we can take into our own lives. A tiny act of bravery, a small thing, or maybe for you, it's a big thing or both. 

Let's not get tripped up and trying to define it. Let's just play. So the theme of today is driving, or walking, or riding your bike if you prefer. But today's challenge is this. I want you to pretend that you get one last drive in your green Buick. Here's your key. The drive is your chance to roll down the window and sing at the top of your lungs. The key is not to have to go far. In fact, isn't that kind of the point. That sometimes just a tiny step is all you need. What would you do if you were brave? Write it down in the chat thread. Where you'll go, what you'll do, what moment you'll give to yourself to find and create joy, then head over to the community page on this channel. And then post a picture of that moment. Don't forget it's yours. 

Even if you have to be in line at the carpool. Well, assuming we have carpools. Or socially distance, dancing down the aisle of a grocery store, that's okay. Just make that moment yours. All we need is one moment, one tiny act of courage. Please subscribe to this channel. Hit the subscribe button. I'd love it if you'd hit the like on the video itself, that helps me. If you could leave a comment on the video, even better. And if you want to become a part of the community in a bigger way to support my work as an artist and get your key to the city, please check out The link will be below. And that's how you can become a patron for the work that I get to bring to the world. And for all of our people who are already patrons. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Without you this would not exist. And I can't tell you how grateful I am that you've already chosen to support me, and my work, and this town, and this community that we're building. 

So please subscribe to the channel. You'll be notified that way when the next episode is launching. We plan to launch these the first and third, Wednesday of the month. And super excited that on the other Wednesdays, we'll be posting other fun things. In addition to sharing Prides Hollow stories, I'm going to be sharing yours. Not what would you do would if you were brave, but what did you do when you were brave? So I'm very excited about those courage interviews that are going to be happening in between the episodes. And I hope that one day, it's your story that we will be sharing. So a lot of stuff going on and there are other surprises coming and fun things on behalf of Prides Hollow. So I hope you keep coming back. Please share these stories with others because even though we can't learn bravery or we can't buy it, I certainly do know that it is contagious. All right. See you soon. Bye.