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BFTP: Tall tales

A weekend Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past. Original post January 19, 2008. It's a toasty -1 F  (-19C) this morning. After a couple of unseasonably warm winters, it feels like cruel and unusual punishment...

The Weather Bug says it is -17F here in southern Minnesota. That's -27C for those of you living in civilized places. Wind chill factor is predicted to be -35F (I don't think the Celsius scale goes this low.) I asked the LWW to remind me again just why we live here. She didn't have a convincing answer.

The temps did put me in mind of this old Paul Bunyan tall tale:

Well now, one winter it was so cold that all the geese flew backward and all the fish moved south and even the snow turned blue. Late at night, it got so frigid that all spoken words froze solid afore they could be heard. People had to wait until sunup to find out what folks were talking about the night before. ... from Babe the Blue Ox retold by S. E. Schlosser

Actually that year Schlosser describes was fairly mild. When I was a little boy growing up on the prairie, we had a winter so cold that our words didn't thaw until springtime. It was so noisy that June, a person needed ear plugs.

I absolutely loved tall tales as a kid. How many of these do you remember?

  • Paul Bunyan the Lumberjack
  • Pecos Bill the Cowboy
  • Febold Feboldson the Farmer
  • Stormalong the Sailor
  • Casey Jones and John Henry the Railroad Men
  • Mike Fink the Riverboat Man
  • Joe Magarac a Steel Worker

And whose tales did I forget?

Who should our tall tales be written about today? What occupations characterize heroic deeds and challenges?

  • Chip Motherboard the IT Manager
  • Susie Subprime the Realtor
  • J.P. Speculator the Futures Trader
  • Jean Genome the Genetic Engineer
  • Twelve Squarefeet the Cubicle Worker

With the right imagination, I suspect pretty great deeds of derring-do could be constructed for most of today's workers. Stuff to amaze and inspire.

Do today's kids read tall tales or have Babe the Ox and Slue-Foot Sue been thrown over for super heroes and urban myth? I'm feeling old.

Talk to you again - in the spring?



Not the Paul I remember, but... 


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Reader Comments (4)

I love tall tales, and my students in sixth grade, no less, love it when I read these aloud with alot of voice characterization...they are alive and well. This reminds me that I need to do this more often :). And yes, I agree, it would be great to have some new ones that reflect our current culture. Get post!

January 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTina Hudak

Hi Tina,

You've restored my faith in education!

Thanks for the comment,


January 27, 2013 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

"Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel"

January 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKenn Gorman

Hi Kenn,

I remember Mike Mulligan very well. Not sure he is a tall tale or just a fictional character but fun to think back on him.


January 28, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterTest

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