Every time I chew cinnamon gum, I am transported back to a time of stories among tepees and piñon trees. I'm not talking about pre-colonial America but, rather, the 1990s and

Joe Hayes

' performances. My cherished childhood memory of his storytelling plays out as an ongoing event this summer, as Hayes and his fables celebrate 28 years at the

Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian

.---

Ever wonder how the cycle of night and day came to be? According to storyteller

, it had to do with a bear, a frog and a little persistence.

Hayes’ tall tales and voice can be found

each Saturday and Sunday evening during the summer

at the

,

where Hayes sets up a microphone and two speakers at the dance ground. Families of all shapes and sizes show up with lawn chairs and blankets to hunker down and listen to Hayes’ imaginative spin on folklore and fables from around the world.

Joe Hayes has a slow, drawn-out way of speaking. His subtle Spanish accent lends authenticity to the local setting of his stories. His timing is perfect and keeps the audience hanging on his every word. In addition, Hayes dresses up his moral teachings in funny facial expressions and talented acting.

Hayes’ hair may be white but he's a

child at heart

. With the young ones in mind, he involves his audience in the story. Toward the end of the tale, he asks the children if they can sound like a frog asking for rain. Indeed they can.

Boys and girls participate excitedly, not aware that they are being

taught life lessons

. After the hour-long performance, kids skip back to their parents' cars, their minds dancing with images of animals in a high-desert landscape. They leave entertained and, in the back of their head,  carry the idea that even a little frog can defeat a bear if it just keeps trying.

The morals of his stories have a way of sticking with kids into adulthood. A

certain Santa Fe Reporter intern

can speak from experience. As always, he will be in the open air, in front of he foothills and illuminated by the sunset. This is a fantastic evening for families interested in frogs, ethics or otherwise.

7 pm

every Saturday and Sunday

through Aug. 15

Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian

704 Camino Lejo

505-982-4636