Monday, November 12, 2012

Southern Tall-Tales

Southerners love tall tales, the taller and crazier the better. If you hear somebody say, "Now, this is a true story ...," you might as well go ahead and sit down and get comfortable. Whether it's exaggeration or downright lies, it's fun to listen to storytellers. Southerners are the best, mostly due to the insane real life events all around here that are better than fiction. You can't make this stuff up.  There was a historian once who said that one of the reasons that southerners were so crazy was the heat and humidity.  He believed it drove us all insane.  There might be some validity to this argument.  Whatever the reason, we love to tell stories, and we often exaggerate a little in our stories.  If you ever hear a southerner tell the same story more than once, the exaggerations will always get bigger, especially if it is a funny story, because it just makes the punchline even better.

Two of the best storytellers I have ever heard were Kathryn Tucker Windham and Lewis Grizzard, both of whom have now passed away.  Each could tell a tale and have you rolling in the floor, especially Grizzard.  Windham just loved to collect tall-tales and ghost stories.  My granddaddy was another who loved to tell tall-tales.  I will tell two of the stories he used to love to tell.

The first one, the shortest one, involved a rattlesnake that once bit him.  He swore that the rattlesnake bit him and then rolled over and died.  My granddaddy claimed he was just that mean, and some would agree with him on that, but he was always very kind to me.  The truth of that story is that the bite nearly killed my grandfather, but whatever happened to the snake, we will never know.

The other story was about a swamp that was about a mile from his house.  He always told the story of the him and his brother going hunting in the swamp.  All of a sudden they heard this loud noise and thought it must be a helicopter, but then trees began to fall.  He said before they new it, whatever it was got closer.  When it got close enough for them to see, they realized that it was the biggest mosquito they had ever seen.  His point was always that the mosquitoes around that swamp were huge, but it was always fun hearing him tell his stories.

I think most southerners tend to exaggerate a bit, some more than others, when we tell stories, I know I do.  You know what, it makes life more interesting that way.

What's the biggest tall-tale you have ever heard?  Do other parts of the country tend to exaggerate as much as southerners do?


SEAN said...

If you haven't read My Trip Down the Pink Carpet by Leslie Jordan (Beverley Leslie on Will and Grace, Sordid Lives and more), you should. Its really funny, very southern and a quick read. It had my mom laughing when I read her parts while she was in the hospital.

Anonymous said...

Pretty cool, Joe! I love tall tales. I don't if I've heard taller ones in the north or the south, but they're always best with a Southern Drawl delivering them!

Peace <3

silvereagle said...

Tall Tales and True Stories --Often times the true tale is so unbelieveable strangers would consider it a tall tale. For instance -and this is a true story - back about 1948 when TVs were first, the very first, time becomming available, the young 2nd grader went to school and announced to the class that his family had not one but two tvs at home! (There may have been one or two other families in the school that had one.) The teacher contacted the mother and asked about that - why would the child say they had two tvs when she knew that would be impossible. The mother replied "Well, he is telling the truth!!! The store where my husband works sells tvs. They had two to be returned...One came back with no picture and one came back with no sound. So, he brought them both home and they are sitting side by side in the living room!"

Donald Davis, a contemporary of Kathryn Windham, now living in North Carolina is one of the best tellers I have heard. We miss Kathryn Windham for sure.