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Famous Folktales

Cowboys in Heaven

    After cow punching for nigh on fifty years, a Texas cowboy went on to his reward. There was considerable excitement in heaven when he reached the pearly gates…

    Casey Jones

      Casey Jones, that heroic railroad engineer of the Cannonball, was known as the man who always brought the train in on time. He would blow the whistle so it started off soft but would increase to a wail louder than a banshee before dying off. Got so as people would recognize that whistle and know when Casey was driving past.

      Daniel Boone’s Dear

        Late one night, Daniel Boone and a friend went out fire hunting. Fire hunting involves the shining of the light from a fire pan (a pan full of blazing pine knots) into the woods. The light reflects in the eyes of the deer, which is too dazzled to run and the hunters can shoot it.

        Death Coach

          It is midnight. The streets of Cohoes grow silent as the citizens turn off their lights one by one and go to their well-earned rest. The night is dark, and the wind whispers softly, touching the trees and houses, rattling a window pane here and there…

          Ghost Pilots of Times Square

            He had just graduated from Harvard University and was living in Manhattan. He loved the city and was beginning to feel at home on its streets. World War II was raging in Europe, and like all other good citizens, he followed the headlines daily and did his part for the boys overseas…

            Lincoln Death Train

              I’d been transferred to the Hudson Division of the New York Central system, and was working the rails on the main line between New York and Albany. I was on the late shift to start with, since I was a bit of a night owl. After six weeks of stomping the tracks and mending the rails, I was feeling right at home in my new job…

              Express Train to Hell

                For days, a ragged old man had hung around the Newark Central Station. The stationmaster kept running him off, but night after night he would return. He kept accosting people, shouting: “It’s coming for me! It’s coming!”…

                Three Billy Goats Gruff

                Three Billy Goats Gruff

                  Snippity-snip, snap and swill,
                  The tale begins upon a hill…
                  The air was crisp and cool. The sky was an endless blue. The green meadow grass swayed in a gentle breeze. And Big Billy Goat Gruff was bored.

                  Jesse James and the Widow

                    One day, as Jesse James and his gang were riding through Missouri, they saw a farmhouse and stopped to ask for something to eat. A widow lived there with three small children. She didn’t have much in the house, but shared with them what she had.

                    Paul Bunyan and the Frozen Flames

                      One winter, shortly after Paul Bunyan dug Lake Michigan as a drinking hole for his blue ox, Babe, he decided to camp out in the Upper Peninsula. It was so cold in that there logging camp, that…

                      Old Stormalong

                        Now everyone knows that Alfred Bulltop Stormalong was the ultimate sailor. He was the captain of a mighty ship known as the Courser, which was so wide that she couldn’t sail into Boston Harbor and so tall that the mast was hinged into the middle so it could be taken down to avoid the sun and the moon whenever they passed by.

                        The Hitchhiker

                          Our friends Josh and Sandy were firm believers in ghosts and claimed to have seen the mysterious red-haired phantom that haunted Route 44. My wife and I were sitting with them at dinner one night, and we started kidding them about it.

                          Big Liz

                            The Master of the plantation was a firm supporter of the Confederate President and had committed to send as much food as he could to the Southern army. Things were going well at first, until the Yankees began attacking the Master’s supply lines. The Master suspected a traitor among his slaves, and soon discovered that the Yankee spy was a slave-woman named Big Liz.

                            Jean Sot Guards the Door

                              One day, Jean Sot’s mother wanted to go to town.
                              “Now Jean,” she said, “I want you to guard the door.
                              “Yes, Mama,” Jean Sot agreed.

                              Kate Shelley Saves the Train

                                One night, in 1881, a fierce storm broke over the Des Moines river valley. The storm raged through the night, flooding the river and the nearby creeks. Along about 11 p.m., a “pusher” train was sent to search for any wash-outs along the track. After it passed the home of the Shelley family, a railroad widow raising five children, the family heard a terrible crashing sound. The bridge over Honey Creek had collapsed, taking the pusher train with it.

                                Coyote and the Columbia River

                                Coyote and the Columbia

                                  One day, Coyote was walking along. The sun was shining brightly, and Coyote felt very hot.
                                  “I would like a cloud,” Coyote said.
                                  So a cloud came and made some shade for Coyote. Coyote was not satisfied.

                                  Connecticut Yankee

                                    Now, here in the South, we all do not approve of your so-called Connecticut Yankee peddlers. So when one appeared in the yard of my tavern, I was not of a mind to give him room for the night. He was a scrawny fellow with a mop of white hair and a withered face. He did not seem like a crafty Yankee peddler.

                                    Arkansas Traveler

                                      One rainy autumn, a traveler got lost in the mountains of Arkansas. He was tired and hungry, and so was his horse. Night was approaching. All at once, he saw a cabin. A squatter sat on the porch fiddling the same tune over and over…

                                      Why Dogs Chase Cats

                                        Once long ago, Dog was married to Cat. They were happy together, but every night when Dog came home from work, Cat said she was too sick to make him dinner…

                                        Ethan Allen

                                          Ethan Allen, the leader of the Green Mountain Boys, who defeated the British at Fort Ticonderoga, was known as a gruff-mannered, hard-drinking man. But Ethan Allen had a gallant streak which would exhibit itself in unexpected ways.

                                          Johnny Appleseed

                                            Johnny Appleseed was a hermit and a wanderer who was welcomed wherever he went in the Ohio territory. Everyone loved him, in spite of his unkempt appearance. He always carried a sack full of apple seeds to plant, and walked barefoot all year round. He knew the frontier woods better than anyone. Even the Indians respected Johnny Appleseed for his courage.