When I was a little girl, my uncle Jimmy Yates told me that he was having a hard time growing anything in his back yard, so he cut up his garden hose and planted it just to see what would happen. Much to his surprise, a beautiful tree grew nice and strong and shaded the back yard, but even more surprising was that when it bloomed and harvest time came, he had the nicest crop of licorice whips he ever did see. He thought he’d try planting rocks next time and see if there wasn’t a good crop of rock candy to harvest this time next year.
Of course, I believe him until the very end of the story, he got rewarded with my grins, and he did his job by keeping a straight face through the entire escapade.
Uncle Jimmy was a life-time Okie and a story teller. My Uncle Dean was a story teller. My whole family, on both sides of the tree (as well as my husband’s) were full of real tales, tall tales, jokes and ghost stories. It’s a family theme for us, but it’s really a family theme for the state. Okies can tell tales like not too many others around the U.S.
Case in point? Frank “Pistol Pete” Eaton. There are books written about his life, a few videos that are pretty good summary statements covering portions of his life, and then tall tales about the Tale-maker himself. However, I thought you might like to read a few for yourself, written by his own hand. So, every once in a while I’ll put in a few of his “Truthful Pete Says” articles he origianlly wrote for the Perkins Journal newspaper in 1950.
The first is entitled, “The Toad and the Snake.”
There is a surprising amount of wisdom and gratitude in the lower forms of animal life, proof of which I will tell you a story of what happened to my friend Fred Van Zandt and myself recently. We were sitting in the garden dis-cussin the high cost of moonshine when we heard a commotion in th’ weeds near the fence row. On investigating we found a big bull snake swallowing an enormous toad. He had him down almost with the exception of the front forearm and as the snake slowly convulsed his meal I put an old safety razor that I just happened to have with me in the toads outstretched hand. The toad gripped it and he disappeared from sight. Immediately the snake curled and coiled in evident indigestion, and we looked in awe and wonder as a four inch gash appeared in the snake’s belly. As the toad appeared with head and shoulders free, the snake coiled and made another grab at the toad, but a flash of steel and the snakes head fell in the grass and the toad emerged, with a blink of his eyes and noticing us so closely watching, he rose on his hind legs, made a perfect courtesy bow, croaking his grateful thanks, he in turn shook hands with both of us, then careful wiped the razor on a bean leaf, he folded the blade and stuck it in his hip pocket as he hopped off to the nearest cucumber vine and as if all in a days work began again chasing the lady bugs. The verasity of this story can be checked by consulting my friend Fred.
Yours ‘til next week, Truthful Pete
Originally published July 20, 1950