Tim Tingle is a Choctaw storyteller and author of books for all ages.
One day, he was performing at the Barnes & Noble Bookstore in North Austin. The coffee shop was packed and he had his drum with him. People were waiting.
He began to drum and sing “Amazing Grace” in Choctaw.
“I usually close my eyes as I sing it,” Tingle says. “I was playing my drum softly and then I heard around me a voice almost as if someone else was singing it in Choctaw. At first, I actually thought this was some kind of ghostly appearance.”
Tingle finished singing and opened his eyes. Sitting in the chair where he had sat before his performance was an old Choctaw man with long hair down his shoulders.
“I did the strangest thing,” Tingle says. “In Choctaw tradition, if you see a ghost and you tap with your fingers on a wooden table or something between you – a stump – it has to go away and leave you alone.”
Tingle tapped. But the man laughed and tapped back, pointing at Tingle. That’s how he struck up a friendship with Tony Byars.
“He didn’t tell me the whole time I knew him, which was a little less than a year, that he was dying of cancer,” Tingle says. “That was one reason he invited me to come and tape record his stories, because he didn’t want them to be lost.”