Through the years, we’ve heard yarns that take the cake, but these tall tales took the prize—first, second, and third prizes—in our 1984 Essay Contest based on the theme “The Tallest Tale I Ever Heard.”
What Are Tale Tales?
“Tall tales” are stories that are told as if they were true but contain exaggerated or unbelievable parts. Some tall tales are exaggerations of actual events (such as a fishing outing), while others are completely make-believe.
Zeke Thompson was a God-fearing man, but when it came to cursing, he was as intemperate as he was forcible. He had a talent for it. Zeke’s oaths got to be infamous, so when folks got their danders up, they’d stop in and have him supply the high-quality abusive language that they were after.
One spring, Zeke planted blueberry bushes in his meadow. A week later, he went to check their progress and found that some beavers had built a dam that put a pond over the new planting. Well! He let out a whoop that turned three flocks of migrating birds back south again. The language wasn’t blue; it was positively purple. The beavers came out, took the dam apart, and moved it 2 miles upstream. Zeke kept railing. The maple trees started pouring out sap into buckets, and when that didn’t help, they pumped out preformed maple sugar candies in the shapes of heroes from Vermont history. The beavers took apart the second dam and cut and stacked two cords of firewood.
It seemed like nothing would stop Zeke, but eventually he left off, although he claimed that he still had plenty of new and interesting things to say. Even those berry bushes were mightily impressed. The next summer, all Zeke had to do was to hold a basket under a bush and sneer, and the blueberries would jump right in.
–Tom Hill, Francestown, New Hampshire
The tallest tale I ever heard is about a man who was fishing at a lake. His eye caught a gray squirrel in the trees near the shore. The tree limbs hung over the lake. In the lake was a stump with two nuts on it. The squirrel was desperately trying all of his acrobatic gyrations in an effort to reach the nuts. Just as he grabbed them, he lost his grip and fell into the water. Instantly the biggest fish the man had ever seen lunged up and swallowed the squirrel. The lake got calm again. Then the big fish jumped up out of the water and put the two nuts back on the stump.
–Mrs. H. R. Bublitz, Waterford, New Jersey
There once was a farmer who owned an old mule with a large, open sore on his back. Unable to heal the sore, the farmer turned the mule out to pasture for his final days. Winters came and went with no sign of the old mule, so the farmer assumed that he had died.
Then, one fall day, the farmer set out to hunt for squirrels. To his amazement, he saw something that looked like a tree moving. Upon closer inspection, he discovered the old mule walking along with a large oak and a smaller maple growing from his back. It seemed that an acorn and a maple seed had fallen into the sore on the mule’s back, taken root, and grown. So, being a resourceful man, the farmer cut down the oak tree and whittled a beautiful saddle from the stump. To this day, the farmer can often be seen riding through his fields on the old mule. He left the maple tree standing, because he liked to ride in the shade.
–Arthur E. Nolder Jr., Luthersburg, Pennsylvania
Enter the 2019 Essay Contest
The Essay Contest is an annual tradition at The Old Farmer’s Almanac. We name the topic, and you send in your best story—and for 2019, that would be 200 words or less on the subject “Kids Say the Funniest Things.” Entries must be yours, original, and unpublished. Enter at Almanac.com/EssayContest. Winners will receive cash prizes (first, $300; second, $200; third $100), and the essays will appear in The 2020 Old Farmer’s Almanac and on Almanac.com.