Archive for the ‘Tall tales’ Category


Sprinkles Gold Dust on Floor

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: Dec. 1, 1903

Sprinkles Gold Dust on Floor

Joaquin Miller, the Poet, Tells of a Dance Given in the Klondike

The Floor Becomes Slippery

Miners Sprinkle Gold Dust on it to Keep the Women From Falling.

At one of his lectures just after his return from the Klondike Joaquin Miller told the following story: “One night I was invited to a dance in a miner’s cabin and while Bill Dalton scraped away on his fiddle we just hoed it down. But eh miners tramped in and out so much between dances that before midnight the ladies declared the floor was so slippery they couldn’t dance another step unless something was done. Then something was done that never was possible in mining days in California. Each miner gallantly opened his buckskin powder pouch and sprinkled gold dust on the floor! And this was repeated throughout the night. And in the morning, ladies and gentlemen, those miners never troubles themselves about sweeping up that gold dust. They just hitched up their dog sleds and rode away.

At this point of Miller’s narrative there was a slight agitation in the audience, an ominous sign of incredulity, but Miller was equal to it. With a wave of his hand toward one of the boxes, he said, “And my old friend up there in the box, Captain John Healy, will substantiate what I say.”

It was a master stroke of the poet, for the house burst into applause and greatly embarrassed the modest millionaire mining and railroad promoter of Alaska, who unsuspectingly had accepted Miller’s invitation to attend the lecture in the afternoon.

(Editor’s note: There is nothing in the article that indicates origin. I doubt that this lecture occurred in Fort Dodge. But it is an interesting story, nonetheless.)


Eight Pound Pike Captured by Hand

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The Fort Dodge Daily Chronicle: May 3, 1915

Eight Pound Pike Captured by Hand

Brakeman Captures Fish Which Attempts Foolish Stunt in View of Passing Train.

A Fort Dodge traveling man, who returned yesterday from Minnesota, tells a true fish story which would have given Isaac Walton pointers on entirely (word missing here – new?) methods of fishing.

The train had just pulled out of Welch, Minnesota, and was traveling along the banks of the Cannon river, when the conductor, who was watching the stream, signaled the engineer to make a quick stop. Passengers looked out of the window expecting to see a Ford car on the cow catcher. Instead they saw the brakeman make a dash for the river and pick up a big fish which had fallen on the sand in an effort to work its way upstream by jumping the dam. With his prize wiggling and gasping in his hand he rushed back to the train. The fish was a pike, weighing eight pounds.

L. Williams, the brakeman, and the conductor, J. Peterson, took the pike back to the baggage room and the man from Fort Dodge overhearing them express a wish to keep the fish alive until they reached Northfield, secured a Turkish towel which he wrapped around it. Buckets of water were poured over it from time to time and the pike reached Northfield, the home of the brakeman, alive and in fine condition.

Anyone doubting the veracity of this story can write to L. Williams, Northfield, Minnesota, and have it verified.


Fish in the Farm Fields

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: Nov. 3, 1903

Fish in the Farm Fields

An Interesting “Fish Story” From Hamilton County

After Past Wet Seasons Fish Have Been Deposited on Drying Farm Meadows

Webster City, Ia., Nov. 3 – Catfish and bullheads are so plentiful in the ponds, marshes and low places in the southern part of Hamilton county that women go out in the fields to the nearest ponds and gather them up on their aprons as they would chips. This extraordinary condition of affairs has just been discovered by the farmers of the section and “fish gathering” within the past few days has become quite the order of the day.

The fearfully wet seasons of 1902 and 1903 has brought about this strange phenomenon. All the streams during these two years have been so high that the fish, in seeking the headwaters have followed up the creeks, drain ditches and even the drain tile, although it is averred in some parts that the natural evaporation and precipitation of water has been carried on so quickly that small fish and spawn have been lifted from the rivers and have fallen with the rain. Those which fell in the lower places have lived and begot their kind. Of  course this story is more or less discredited, yet the fact remains that the farms in the southern part of the county are well supplied with fish. When the waters receded the fish were unable to get out of the ponds and marshes and can now be easily caught. Many of these ponds have receded to such an extent that the fish can be picked out of them with their hands.

There is something very peculiar about the way the bullheads act as the waters begin to dry up. The other day Sam Varland, a prosperous farmer living near Radcliffe, was crossing one of his fields when he came upon a small pond almost dry. Thinking, perhaps, there were fish in it, he removed his shoes and stockings and waded in. He found it literally crowded with bullheads and cat. While engaged in throwing them out with his hand he felt something hard and slimy deep down in the mud. He ran his hand down and what was his surprise to pull out a big bullhead weighing about four pounds. He kept on digging about, and before he left the pond he had succeeded in pulling twenty-five big fish out of the mud.

Fishermen explain this by saying that the bullhead, as soon as the waters begin to recede and freeze, will dig deep down into the mud, where it will live all winter and come forth again in the spring. Fishing in the larger ponds of the country has been common all summer but no one dreamed until recently that they were so full of fish as they now seem to be. All the farmers are now making a specialty of cleaning out their ponds and all the low places upon th efarm.

Much interest is manifest all over the county in the matter of fishing. It is likely that the farmers will get such a fill of fish that they will have no liking for the finny tribe after the present season is over.


Fort Dodge Sports Anxious

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: April 17, 1905

Fort Dodge Sports Anxious

Are Getting Uneasy for the Opening of the Fishing Season.

Fish Stories Going Already

Big Fish Are Caught in Vicinity of McQuire’s (sic) Bend – One Eighteen Pound Cat Pulled out by a Native of That Part of the Country.

With the many reports that the fishing is excellent, the hands of the Fort Dodge sports are itching to take out the rod and reel and pull in a few fine specimens. It is a month yet however till they can toss the line without an eye as to the whereabouts of the fish commissioner, so they will have to content themselves for another thirty days, unless they care to go down and get a few suckers on worm bait.

Before the catfish was put into the catalogue with the gamers, along with the trout, the pickerel, the pike the bass, the carp and many others, there was some sport to be had even before the expiration of the time limit set by the game law. Then the Isaac Walton who got particularly hungry for fish shortly after the ice went out, could go down and sit on the bank with a crawdad on his hook and pretty generally come home with a nice mess of cat fish on his string.

While the catfish is not a fighter when hooked, there is a considerable amount of fun in pulling out a big fellow, and the fishermen miss him very much from the ranks of the tribe the law fails to protect.

There is nothing now outside the protecting pale of the game law except these two bundles of bones, the sucker and the redhorse, or salmon. These are free plunder at all times, and there are many who fish for suckers and make a mistake of catching other brands. A number of people are even unable to tell the difference after they are pulled out of the water, and take them home with them. But in fear they have made some horrible mistake generally use a grain sack to carry them in.

There are reports that the fishing for catfish is excellent this season, and a large number of them have been taken from the river in the south part of the county, where some very large ones have been caught. It is reported that one monster landed in the vicinity of McGuire’s Bend weighed in the neighborhood of eighteen pounds.

There are always a few of these big fellows who make their way up from the Mississippi river and get hooked by some Webster county fabricator. There is something strange in the fact that liars are always the most successful fishers. They are generally able to land a fish considerably bigger than the one that got away from the ordinary sport.

In spite of the fact that it is early yet, the local fishermen are getting out their tackle and will be in readiness to do business on the first day of the open season, which falls on May 15.


Take Out Fish by Barrel

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The Fort Dodge Messenger: March 27, 1906

Take Out Fish By Barrel

High Water Which Later Recedes – Leaves Finny Creatures Stranded on Land.

Parties living along the banks of the river have had the unique experience during the last couple of days of being able to take all the fish that they will need for family use for days to come with the naked hands.

The high water of yesterday and the day before sent the river above the banks and onto low lands in places. When the ice gorge which dammed the stream gave way last night it receded much more suddenly than it came, leaving dozens of fish stranded in a few inches of muddy water, almost in the back yards of residents living near the stream. One man states that he took out nearly two barrels of catfish, pickerel, buffalo, etc., this morning.

(Editor’s note: For obvious reasons, I will file this one under “Fish Stories.” I have come across some other fantastic stories in old news articles and will use that category for the unusual and spectacular stories like this one.)