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Storyteller comes home to roost after 59 years

Sunday, 04 February 2018. Posted in Shootin' the Breeze

Storyteller comes home to roost after 59 years

Jim Green enacts a story from his upcoming album, Party Line.   Photo by Bill Braden

Storyteller comes home to roost after 59 years

By Georgia Dale

Stories about dog teams, traplines, a nose-picking hoarder and a lonesome, love-hungry moose named Brian Mulroney paint a rich picture of what life is like in a small northern community, on Jim Green’s CD Dog River Stories.

He may be the only person alive who could get away with telling them the way he does, with a hearty pinch of of tenderness and a more-than-fair measure of mischief.

Jim and his family lived in and around Yellowknife and Fort Smith for 45 years but now they have come home to roost near his old stomping ground of Pincher Creek. And we’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of more of his homespun stories on his new album, Party Line, so we can see what kind of waft he can weave about life in the southwest.

A master storyteller, Jim wove together a compelling narrative for me in the short time that we spoke. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise — but then, it’s my job to listen and his to tell, right Jim? Besides, after only a few minutes I knew he would tell me everything I needed to know.

He left Pincher Creek in ’59 on a wing and prayer, with nothing more than a backpack and a buddy, and set off travelling the world. He started with Australia and New Zealand and then traversed over to Europe. By the late ’60s he was back in Alberta, studying journalism at Mount Royal College.

Later on he found himself working in Banff for a spell, then heading up to Norman Wells with a seismic team.

Jim swears he was never planning to stay in Yellowknife for more than a day or two; but working so close and never getting to visit had piqued his interest. So the next charter flight he was on, he made sure he got on last so his pack was easy to grab.

He’s not sure if it was because he had drunk an entire six pack and “really had to go” or if he was just curious to get the lay of the land, but nevertheless he got off that plane and wound up staying in Yellowknife for the next three years.  

He spent the following 43 years living in various locations around the Northwest Territories and Yukon, all the while gathering information to begin honing his craft as a storyteller.

In 1986, near the approach of his 45th birthday, Jim decided it was time to get serious about his calling.

Dog River was a natural setting for Jim’s latest stories. It’s an isolated and interesting community on the very northern edge of Alberta. It sounds like a place trapped in time with no electricity, old-time trappers who feed their sled dogs on fish, and cozy Christmas bake sales replete with delicious-sounding “low-bush cranberry muffins.”

Jim even has stories that are set in his humble hometown. In fact, it was a story about playing baseball in Pincher Creek as a young teenager that he used in his debut as a bona fide storyteller at a festival in Yellowknife.

Little did he know that storytelling differed from writing in that he would have to pry the safety net of paper out of his hands if he was going to be invited back.

Letting go of the paper, however, had some unexpected benefits. Jim says he was practically “levitating 10 feet in the air” as he told his first story up onstage, and that parts of the story had been waiting in the wings for decades.

After that first performance, Jim started letting his stories take flight and surprise him with “lives of their own.”

Ever since, he has built quite the name for himself with his stories and released several albums and is often played on CBC Radio.   

Now that he has come home, and settled down on his property near Twin Butte, some might ask whether he has retired. No, Jim says, “how can I be retired when I’m working so dang hard?”

He says he has so many ideas that some “may never get written.” But since he has dozens of stories already in the works, we look forward to joining the journey along with him as he keeps following the colourful trails his stories blaze.