Walking Rocks?

Query: When I was in Death Valley earlier this year, I saw some enormous 750-pound rocks that appear to travel across the desert on their own. I remembered your article about rock tortoises, and wondered if that’s what these rocks could be?

Corn of Plenty (Part 4 of 4): A Field Guide by Dr. Midas Welby

Corns of the Air: Air-corns utilize their horns for jousting, playing tic-tac-toe, and spearing food in mid-flight. Air-corns often lurk undetected in trees, wood piles, and rain gutters. When bored, they use their horns to ring the doorbells of unsuspecting humans. When the door begins to open, the air-corn flies away.


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Going On Hiatus

December 6, 2014: I am loving college, but I have to admit, I’m overwhelmed.

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Pine Cone Feeders

A Present For Imaginaries: When winter comes, I get concerned about providing extra shelter from the elements for Imaginaries. Recently, I read about people who build wildlife brush shelters out of branches and plants in their yards, and thought this was a great idea.

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Folklore and Fact

Paul Bunyan and Pecos Bill: The tall tales of the American West are a mix of fact and fiction. These stories have been told so often, it’s no longer possible to tell one from the other.

Take the story of Paul Bunyan, the giant logger who could fell two dozen trees with a single blow of his mighty axe, and his mighty blue ox, Babe.

The part of this that is true is that there once lived a Canadian lumberman named Paul Bourgyonne, who was exceptionally tall – well over six feet – although not a giant. His “ox” was actually a hodag, whom he trained up to help him in his logging work. This particular hodag had a bluish tinge to its hide, contributing to the notion that Paul Bunyan had a blue ox.

Another legendary character is Pecos Bill, who, among other things, was credited with breeding cows with legs shorter on one side of the body than the other. Pecos Bill had a girlfriend, Slewfoot Sue, who could ride a bronc as well as Bill.

Pecos Bill is entirely fictional, and represents a compilation of a number of different fibs that the cowboys of the time told about themselves in exchange for a free drink at the local saloon. These fibs were known as Pay the Bill stories. As the stories spread from cowboys to non-cowboys, they eventually morphed into the character of Pecos Bill.

Cows with legs shorter on one side existed, but were the result of westward-migrating gyascutus interbreeding naturally with the range cattle they came across (see Archives/Have You Seen/Gyascutus). At first, any calf born with uneven legs was destroyed, but an enterprising widow named Susan Slaugh saw their potential. She bought up some “worthless” mountainous ranch land, purchased all the calves with uneven legs that she could find, and started her own herd. She made a small fortune from her herd of mountain cows, too, as they were easier to care for, fence in, and round up than the average range cow.

Although Susan Slaugh was a respectable, educated, well-mannered lady, less prosperous ranchers resented Susan Slaugh’s success and began to spread less-than complementary stories about her. That ill-humored gossip was the source of the big-bustled, rough-and-tumble Slewfoot Sue character of the Pecos Bill legends.

As for attributing those uneven-legged cows to the invention of Pecos Bill rather than Susan Slaugh – or Slewfoot Sue – that was jealousy, pure and simple. There was not a rancher to be found in Texas who didn’t envy Susan Slaugh’s cleverness in making a good profit off of “worthless” land and “worthless” calves. - GWYNEACH, Iranigami Annalist (U.K.)


Copyright © 2012, 2013, 2014 by Penelope Stowell. All rights reserved. This website is a work of fiction and does not depict any actual persons, creatures, places or events.