Telling tall tales in the great Texan pastime

Through the years, I’ve read, heard, and lived firsthand that great American, mostly Texan, pastime of relating tall tales. Sometimes they are called yarns, legends, mythology, fairytales, and folklore, but mostly they are called “windys.” 

It just depends on what company you are keeping. These tales can be based on partial truths, or they can be just a figment of your imagination. 

They are told to bring attention to a person, time, or place. Sometimes they are used to hurrah someone that has pulled a bonehead stunt, or someone that is a newcomer to the group, or in the case of “Ghost stories,” just to instigate an eerie spooky atmosphere to enhance the situation. 

Some tales have lived through the eons of time, some may be in regard to recent history, and some are spur of the moment whimsical windys. There are occasions where they may be used in a contest as folks seek to find their claim to fame. One of the best is my ol’ Pard, J.C.Penny. 

Now his are mostly tales about his fishing prowess and they all come under the heading of windys! 

Another one that comes to mind is an old friend from yesteryear, Bob Kennedy, God rest his soul. You never knew whether to believe him or be skeptical. He could lead you on and you are believing every word was true and then he would yank the rug right out from under you. 

My brother Bill, known as Willy by those that know him, is certainly no slouch at this innate ability to enthrall and educate anyone that will listen to him. 

Of course, my Granddad, Papa Hop was a master of this trade and as a storyteller, I like to think maybe I inherited some of his skill. Without a doubt this method of artistic story telling is always entertaining!


The Gatherin’


 Morning chores had been done and them boys had been fed,

The weather was shore ‘nuff cold,

That ol’ potbelly stove was hot an’ glowin’ red,

Givin’ heat to young and old.


Them boys grabbed a cup of coffee an’ sorta gathered ‘round,

Then, Ol’ Willy took his place,

Give them boys a wise look that turned into a frown,

An’ then stared off into space.


You see, these gatherin’s took on a certain protocol,

An’ Willy pondered what to say,

Knowin’ the first liar don’t stand a chance at all,

So he’d best up an’ make his play.


Now he knew they’d be lotsa talk ‘bout bits an’ spurs,

An’ prob’bly saddles an’ ropes,

An’ good, smart hosses an’ dogs, blooded an’ curs.   

Them rifles with an’ without scopes.     


Ropin’s they’d made an’ salty critters they’d rode,

Cold winter days an’ summer heat,

Instant decisions made an’ bad loops they’d thowed,

An’ bankers that give’em some heat!


Aww, they’d been a purty girl or two along the way,

An’ more’n one scrape with the law,

Well sir, it’s time to jingle his spurs an’ have his say,

Why, he would not hem nor haw.


So he took a deep breathe an’ jumped right in with his tale,

The fellers grinned an’ settled back,

Listenin’ to this story that he was gonna unveil,

Plannin’ to cut him no slack.


Willy stood an’ said “Ya’ll just aint gonna believe this!”

An’ we all must have our say,

You see, life will bring moments you just can’t dismiss,

But it happened just this way,


With a twinkle in his eye, an’ a chaw in his cheek,

Launched right into his story.

I once knowed a feller down on Deadman’s Creek,

Had his moment of glory,


He rode for that T Bar  outfit back in the sticks,

An’ he warn’t overly smart,

They was lots of things that bunch needed to fix,

But ol’ C.W. done his part.


He was ridin’ fence an’ camped near Cardigan Bluff,

Coffee on an’ bacon fryin’,

When this curly wolf rode in on a bear! He did, shore ‘nuff!

A sight that would make you grin.


Stepped off that bear an’ drank straight out of that coffee pot,

Wiped his mouth by the back o’ his hand,

Drank that hot bacon grease, said it shore ‘nuff hit the spot,

Said he warn’t long for this land.


Jumped back on the bear an’ said, “you best head for the hills,

Fer a bad one is chasin’ me,

In a cloud of dust he was gone, give ol’ C.W. chills,

Knowin’ that he had best flee!


Well, that was the way it was told to me straight out,

I knowed C.W. to be true,

An’ I’m purty shore that’s the way it happened, no doubt,

Now I’ve told that story to you!


Well, the young’un stood an said, “Willy, you made that up,

No man could have saddled a bear!”

Now ol’ Willy’s face looked like an egg suckin’ pup,

But he grinned an’ stood his ground there.


That consarned feller was ridin’ that bear bareback,

Just spurrin’ an’ slappin his quirt,

An’ I reckon he warn’t cuttin’ him no slack,

‘Cuz that bear was shore slingin’ dirt!


‘Course a feller’s mem’ry dims a bit through the years,

It might have been something he dreamed

Sometimes things just aint always like they appears,

An’ with that, ol’ Willy just beamed.

©  Ol’ Jim Cathey


 Tip o’ the week – If it starts with, “you are not going to believe this” be alert!     

God Bless a good storyteller and God Bless America!



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