Tehachapi's Online Community News & Entertainment Guide

Tall Tales

The TALE: Tehachapi Art, Literature and Entertainment

Have you ever been in a bragging contest? Trying to one up the other guy with something like, "my fish was so big the boat started to sink." Swearing that a series of incredible events really happened in relation to subjects like ghosts, aliens or time travel? A tall tale is an account that is fanciful and difficult to believe. Perhaps exaggerating in order to make a story more enticing while creating an incredible visual for the entertainment of an audience of one or a roomful.

The difference between a tall tale and a lie is simple. A tall tale is spoken for fun to grant the reader or listener an adventure. A lie is told to obscure truths and leaves no fun behind. Overplaying a situation with a considerable amount of clever distortion can be used to weave a good story and hopefully get a few laughs while hurting no one.

In our early days, the tall tale became a fundamental element of American Folk Literature. Johnny Appleseed traveled across the country guided by an angel, planting apple seeds that grew into incredible orchards spreading across vast lands. John Henry, a steel driving man, helped build our railroads from one ocean to the other with his mighty hammer. Pecos Bill single-handedly tamed the wild west, or so they say.

In the Little Golden Book "The Tale of Paul Bunyan" by Lori Haskins Houran, the story of Paul and his blue ox Babe tells of them digging out the Grand Canyon with just an ax, and how their footprints left behind during travels were filled with rain water and became the more than 10,000 lakes found in the state of Minnesota!

All the old tales are fun, but new tall tales abound, too. "They Say He Flies at Night" by Abby Matayo has the kids in town thinking an old man is Santa enjoying some downtime. Some say he has only one hand. Others swear that he never speaks and has wings. Tall tales swirl around elderly Mr. Lorry and when you start reading about his real past, filled with movie stars, foreign dignitaries and presidents, questions do bloom. Did Mr. Lorry really live such a life and rub such elbows? Is this a tall tale?

The story continues with recently engaged Piper. She is in the midst of planning a wedding and is sent to see if Lorry will address her invitations with his special calligraphy. Eight-year-old J.D. is inquisitive and hangs around spying on the old man. Both find themselves cleaning and organizing Mr. Lorry's rather haphazard antique store where nothing ever seems to sell but mysteries abound.

As Matayo weaves the reader in and out of victories to tragedies and beyond, one's heart swells and squeezes with emotion and can't help but care for an old man, his lost family and a girl who needs to find her way. Honestly, this is a must read story to the very end. Read it for love. The surprising ending reveals lasting devotion found in unexpected places. Let the words wash over you, making you want to love this deeply in your own lives.

Which brings me to my third book in this review titled, "Ralph Tells a Story." Abby Hanlon offers the readers simple and clear instructions on how to approach the challenge of writing a story, inspired by your surroundings. I see this picture book as a tool for both children and adults to, in simple terms, experiment in creative writing. Stories lurk in every corner of our day to day lives. With a desire to do so, anyone can write down and shape an idea into the form of oral tradition. It just takes a bit of bravery to leap! Stretching Hanlon's challenge, I say try exaggerating a bit and create a tall tale of your own. Surprise people into laughter and delight.

"To my dismay, I once had a family of baby mice born within the deep recesses of my car. I couldn't get them out. Then my kids asked to borrow my car to drive to Disneyland. I never saw those mice again. Did they go on an adventure within the park to find Cinderella and join her mice in merry making?" Imaginations can soar from things you see happening all the time. Just a little nudge is needed to grow it tall.

Good Books.

Good reading.

*Midge Lyn'dee is a fictional character used for the purpose of entertainment though the reviews are real and sincere.