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United States Folklore

Death Waltz

Death Waltz

    Within an hour of my arrival at Fort Union, my new post, my best friend Johnny came to the barracks with a broad grin and a friendly clout on the shoulder. He’d hurried over as soon as he heard I had come, and we talked ’til sunset and beyond.

    The Fox's Tail: A Fable

    The Fox’s Tail

      A Man caught a Fox, and asked her: “Who has taught you Foxes how to cheat the dogs?”

      Madrone Monkeys

      Madrone Monkeys

        Something people often ask about, and you might be curious also, are the trees you see along the river with the kind of yellowish orange trunk, skin-like bark. They look like someone has been peeling the bark off of them. Those are called Madrone trees, and what gives them that appearance is that’s actually what happens to those trees. The brittle outer bark of the Madrone tree is deftly peeled away, on a regular basis, by the Madrone monkeys that live along the river.

        The Canary and the Wasp: A Fable

        The Canary and the Wasp

          “Why do people not treat me as they treat you?” said a Wasp to a Canary on bright summer morning. “What do you mean?” asked the Canary as he preened his bright feathers.

          The Peaches: A Fable

          The Peaches

            A Farmer went to town, on a market day, and bought five peaches. He gave one to his wife, and one to each of his four sons. The next day he said to his sons, “Well, what have you done with your peaches?”

            Don't you Fish on Sunday

            Don’t You Fish on Sunday

              Jonah was a big strong man who worked as a carpenter. Most everyone in town liked him, but they all knew that his weakness was fishing. Jonah would go fishing every chance he got; even on Sundays when everyone else was in church. And that got folks in town riled up. There was a rumor – started so long ago no one could remember the details – that bad luck would come to anyone who fished that part of the river on a Sunday. For decades, pious folks had avoided the river on the Lord’s Day, just to be safe.

              Scraping the Clouds: An Inuit Legend

              Scraping the Clouds

                Long ago, on the shores of the Arctic Ocean, two Inuit boys were walking from their own home to a far-away village. While they were going along, a terrible storm overtook them, and they had to hold each other by the hand to keep from falling.

                Ghost of Sunrise Rock

                The Ghost of Sunrise Rock

                  Some years before the outbreak of the Civil War, a man with his wife and daughter took up their residence in a log cabin at the foot of Sunrise Rock, near Chattanooga, Tennessee. It seemed probable that they had known better days, for the head of the household was believed to get his living through “writin’ or book-larnin’,” but was fairly useless at hunting and farming.

                  Strangers

                  Strangers

                    Wallen’s Ridge, a rough eminence about a dozen miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee, was once an abiding place of Cherokee Indians, among whom lived Arinook, their medicine-man, and his daughter. The girl was pure and fair, and when a passing hunter from another tribe saw her one day at the door of her father’s home he was so struck with her charm of person and her engaging manner that he resolved not to return to his people until he had won her for his wife.

                    Storm Man Brings the Summer

                    Storm Man Brings the Summer

                      Long, long ago, on St. Lawrence Island in Alaska, there lived an old woman with her little grandson. They were very poor, so poor that the old woman had a hard time to feed and care for the boy. It was always cold and stormy, and sometimes they had almost nothing to eat for days at a time, because the wind blew so hard that the little boy could not stay out to catch tom-cods.

                      The drummer--Nunivak. Nunivak native playing a very large drum.

                      The Giant’s Drum

                        Long ago, in a village in Alaska, there lived a man with his wife and five sons, of whom they were very proud.
                        One day the oldest son came to his father and said, “Father we have always been in the same place, and seen the same kind of people. I think it is time for me to go in search of another village and see something of the world.”

                        Why Sis Pig Can See the Wind

                        Why Sis Pig Can See the Wind

                          Did you hear how come that old Sis Pig can see the wind? You never heard that? Well, maybe you have noticed, many and many a time, how unrestful, and distracted-like the pigs are, when the wind blows, and how they squeal, and run this way and that way? Well, sir, all that is going on because pigs can see the wind.

                          A Cave of Skulls

                          A Cave of Skulls

                            Near the upper Hiawassee is a cave where a pile of human skulls was found by a man who had put up his cabin near the entrance. For some reason, which he says he never understood, this farmer gathered up the old, bleached bones and dumped them into his shed.

                            Brer Rabbit Falls Down the Well

                            Brer Rabbit Falls Down the Well

                              One day, Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox and Brer Coon and Brer Bear and a lot of other animals decided to work together to plant a garden full of corn for roasting. They started early in the morning and raked and dug and raked some more, breaking up the hard ground so it would be ready for planting. It was a hot day, and Brer Rabbit got tired mighty quick. But he kept toting off the brush and clearing away the debris ’cause he didn’t want no one to call him lazy.

                              How Brother Terrapin Rode in the Clouds

                              How Brother Terrapin Rode in the Clouds

                                One day, old Brother Terrapin was a-grumbling and a-fussing, because he had to creep on the ground. When he met Brother Rabbit, he grumbled because he can’t run like Brother Rabbit, and when he met Brother Buzzard, he grumbled because he can’t fly in the clouds like Brother Buzzard, and so on. Grumble, grumble, grumble. That was Brother Terrapin.

                                How Mr. Coon's Daughter Came to Marry Brother Terrapin

                                How Mr. Coon’s Daughter Came to Marry Brother Terrapin

                                  Well now, Brother Deer and Brother Terrapin were both courting of Mr. Coon’s daughter. Brother Deer was right sure enough a gentleman, that he was, while old Brother Terrapin was a poor, slow, old man. All the creatures wondered how the girl could smile on Brother Terrapin with Brother Deer around, but I tell you old man Terrapin had a real taking way with the girls when he put his mind to it.

                                  Brer Rabbit Earns a Dollar-a-Minute

                                  Brer Rabbit Earns a Dollar-A-Minute

                                    One fine morning, Brer Fox decided to plant him a patch of goober peas. He set to with a will and before you know it, he had raked and hoed out a beautiful patch of ground and he put in a fine planting of peas. It didn’t take too long before those goober vines grew tall and long and the peas ripened up good and smart.

                                    Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby

                                      Well now, that rascal Brer Fox hated Brer Rabbit on account of he was always cutting capers and bossing everyone around. So, Brer Fox decided to capture and kill Brer Rabbit if it was the last thing he ever did! He thought and he thought until he came up with a plan. He would make a tar baby!

                                      Why Dogs Chase Cats

                                      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…

                                        Never Mind About them Watermelons

                                        Never Mind Them Watermelons

                                          Well now, old Sam Gibb, he didn’t believe in ghosts. Not one bit. Everyone in town knew the old log cabin back in the woods was haunted, but Sam Gibb just laughed whenever folks talked about it. Finally, the blacksmith dared Sam Gibb to spend the night in the haunted log cabin…

                                          The Black Cat’s Message

                                            I came home late one night after work and found my wife Ethel puttering about the kitchen with a big yellow cat at her heels.
                                            “And who is this?” I asked jovially.
                                            “This is our new cat,” said Ethel, giving me a hug and a kiss to welcome me home. “She just appeared at the kitchen door and wanted to come in. None of the neighbors know where she came from, so I guess she’s ours. It will be nice to have some company around the house.”

                                            Why Lizard's Can't Sit

                                            Why Lizards Can’t Sit

                                              Back in the old days, Brother Lizard was an awful lot like Brother Frog, meaning he could sit upright like a dog.  Things were like this for quite a spell.  Then one day when they were walking down the road by their swamp, Brother Lizard and Brother Frog spotted some real nice pastureland with a great big pond that was on the far side of a great big fence.

                                              Jack O'Lantern

                                              Jack O’Lantern

                                                After a long day of unlucky hunting, I found myself stuck in the middle of the marshlands for the night, without a flashlight or a lantern to guide my stumbling steps. So I settled beside a fallen log to rest until daylight. As I tossed and turned, I recalled the story my great-uncle told me about a ghost that haunted the marshlands.

                                                Hold Him, Tabb

                                                Hold Him, Tabb

                                                  Yep, I remember what it was like before the railroad came through these parts. I used to earn my living by carting supplies from town to town on horse-drawn wagons. Not easy work, no sir. Especially in winter. One cold December day, I was traveling with my buddy Tabb, when it began to snow. Gee wilikers, it was cold! We needed to find shelter quick, and I was delighted when I spotted an abandoned house.

                                                  Sifty Sifty San

                                                    There was once a beautiful old house right on the edge of a lake, surrounded by woods. But no one would live there because a spirit calling itself Sifty-Sifty-San drove everyone away.

                                                    Brother Bear’s House

                                                      Well now, out of all the animals that live in the woods, Brother Bear had the biggest house. The house was warm and cozy on the inside, but it was also very crowded on account of Brother Bear having him a plump wife and two plump young ‘uns named Simon and Susannah.

                                                      The Shrouded Horseman

                                                      The Shrouded Horseman

                                                        When the Civil War ended, Jeremiah Jones, found himself a free man. Eager to make a new life for himself, he made his way north to Milwaukee. For several years, he worked odd jobs until he earned enough money to buy himself a big white horse and a dray—a low, flatbed wagon without sides. Shortly thereafter, he was hired on as a drayman with the Phillip Best Brewing Company.

                                                        Boo Hag

                                                        Boo Hag

                                                          You know how they say some folks are lucky at cards and some are lucky at love? Well, that fit Bobby Hansen to a ‘T’. He was the best poker player in the county, but somehow he couldn’t find himself a bride. Oh, he proposed to several girls, and even got accepted by a few. But they always got cold feet a day or two before the wedding, and it was bye-bye Bobby.

                                                          I'm coming down now

                                                          I’m Coming Down Now!

                                                            There was an abandoned house sitting in the middle of a fancy neighborhood in Calgary that nobody would go near. And I mean nobody! Now , my pal Albert was the agent in charge of selling that haunted house and he tried everything in his power to close a deal. But folks were too plumb scared to make an offer, even at rock-bottom prices.

                                                            Brother Fox catches Old Man Tarrypin

                                                            Brother Fox Catches Old Man Tarrypin

                                                              Well now, Brother Rabbit had made friends with Old Man Tarrypin, a big turtle that lived in the pond near his house. Brother Rabbit and Old Man Tarrypin liked to pull tricks on Brother Fox, and that rascally fellow got pretty mad about it.