Tall Tales

   From 1950 until 1956 Eaton wrote a column for The Perkins Journal titled "Pistol Pete Says" and "Truthful Pete Says."  These are some of his writings.

Fred VanZandt

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

Studying Bed Bugs

     While reading the paper the other day I came across an item that said there was a man who had made enough money just studying bugs that he could afford a clean shirt every day and four pairs of socks and could drink most any brand of liquor that he wanted.  I took this paper down to Fred and asked him about it and he said sure was a fact, many men like that made money without working just like fellers working on government jobs and the Triple-A fellers, so he guessed playing with bugs was as useful as many things.  He said it was called Entomology.  I tried to say entomology, but nearly lost my chaw of tobacco and since I was low on money and couldn’t afford another chew I didn’t try and say it again.  But then and there I made up my mind to study bugs.  I took off my shirt and didn’t find nothing new so after thinking a while I started up for Stillwater.  I got me a room at a high class joint and decided to take a bath before retiring.  The porter brought in a big tub of hot water, so I jumped in, jumped back out, dried off on my handkerchief, combed my hair, cleaned out the comb and throwd the hair in the wash tub, blew out the candle and put some matches beside it.  I hardly laid down when I felt something crawling around.  I jumped up, lit a match real quick and caught a mess of bed bugs, red handed.  I threw them in the tub and in went the burnt match sticks.  After many bed bug expeditions, I finally dropped off to sleep, but awoke to the sound of beautiful music and song, much like a choir.  Upon investigating, I found the sound came up from the tub, and there all those bed bugs, had formed rafts from the used match sticks, they made hair-strung harps and were sitting floating in the middle of the tub, singing, My Bonnie, and Pull for the Shore Sailor.  Taking my bottle I spilled a few drops in the tub and shortly arose the harmony of Sweet Adeline.  With no further ado I swore off studying bugs for I find they are much like a politician, suckling from the people.

Originally published August 10, 1950

Terbacker and Catfish

     From Edmond comes a letter from “Barbwire Bill”, who writes, “Truthful Pete”, I got in a jam when I showed your column to an old-timer here in Edmond.  He sure ripped and snorted when he read it and he says that now he knows where his pet wolves went that he lost.  He swares up and down that he trained those wolves especially for a circus and since you fellers stole them he has suffered mentally and financially ever since.  He is hopping mad and maybe you had better go to Korea for a safer place.  He claims also that he was in a Liar’s contest at Oologah with you one time and has another grudge agin you for winning the contest when he thought he won.  He said you told them you didn’t know how to tell them a lie, but you’d tell them a true fish story that all would probably believe was untrue.  And he said you told this about it.  You went fishing and after about two hours of no bites, you were pretty well disgusted.  You had a big chaw of horseshoe terbacker and every time you spit in the creek a big cat fish would jump up, look you square in the eye and dive back, but wouldn’t get on your hook.  Finally in disgust you threw your terbacker at the fish, told him to chew on that and pulled in your line to leave.  Then to your surprise big whiskered cats started coming to the top of the water to spit so you grabbed your gun and shot 75 that weighed around 100 lbs a piece before you ran out of bullets and powder.  He said that won the Liars contest and he sure was mad, but after going home and knowing your ability for the truth, he decided he would try it.  Going down to the creek he threw in a whole pound of star terbacker, then waited, no fish, recalling you had used horseshoe, he went and got a pound of it, threw it in, waited, and no fish.  He sure was mad and still is, and he swears you’re the most truthful liar he ever met.

Originally published August 17, 1950

Pete Meet The Devil

     Fred and I once took a job to break some wild ponies and as we mounted the first two they started pitching.  In no time we realized we were certainly in for a busy time.  In fact, these ponies were masters at their skill.  We both left the ponies at the same time and as we were clearing the saddles Fred hollered, “Bet you five dollars I go higher than you do.”  “You’re on”  I says, but he was off, and I kept close watch on him until I started down.  I lit hard and sank into the soft earth a long ways.  I was wondering how I was going to get out, and gave a big kick and just then I broke through a roof and lit on my feet.  There was a distinct odor of brimstone and then a tall feller wearing horns approached me.  He welcomed me, “Hello Pete, how come you are here so soon, did ya quit your job?”  I told him how it happened.  He said he was rather shorthanded but for me to look around a bit before he sent me back.  I started looking and came to a real nice warm bunk.  He said it was mine.  I told him I’d like one nearer the center but he said those were reserved for mayors, senators and such.  We saw a big tub with weights on it and started to raise it up when Old Horns stopped me.  We got a banker under there, he said and if you let him out, in an hour he will have a mortgage on every kettle in hell.  Come on now, he said, get out, you are too nosey.  With that he planted a big foot application to the seat of my overalls and I landed back in the corral in time to see Fred coming into the yard with a 5 pound bass in each hand.  Well, he says, never expected to see you any more but I won the prize.  I handed him the fiver and as we were cleaning the fish, I asked him where they came from.  He said that when he landed, he lit right in Lake Carl Blackwell an splashed all the water out and took the only two fish in there and came home.

Originally published August 30, 1950

The Bear Who Could Rope

   I just got home from the Cowboy’s reunion and had a fine time.  President Glen Slavins was there and he had just come in from Hot Springs, N. M. He told me that while out there a friend who ran a ranch and he went out to the big ranch with him for a visit.  The morning after his arrival he decided to look the big ranch over, so he got a pony and rode out a ways.  As he rode through a patch of mesquite and into a small clearing, there before him he saw a large bear.  As he had no rifle or gun with him, he took down his rope and threw it on the bear.  When the rope caught and tightened the bear stopped and just looked at Glen Slavins for a time.  Glen looked right back and said to himself, “Wonder whose pet bear I’ve roped.”  Then the old bear smelled of the rope a while and finally with his huge paws, grabbed it and started hand walking the rope towards the pony.  Slavins said he sure was scared, and tried to get away but the bear was stronger than the pony and when the bear was bout half way to the horse, Glen slipped off and started to run to the mesquite bush.  The bear with a final leap jumped to the pony’s back and coiled up the rope, building a fine loop and took after him.  Man oh man the bear, the pony and Glen were sure making time, and just as the bear swung the loop, Glen dived under a big bush and the rope missed and hung in the tree and Slavins got away.  The bear however recoiled his rope, rode on until he found a fat calf and after roping it, turned the pony loose and proceeded to make repast on the calf.  After some time laying hid, the pony was caught and Glen rode back to the ranch and immediately packed to return home.  In all his recollection Slavens relates that this was the closest call he ever had.

Originally published September 14, 1950

The First Vacation

   From Barbwire Bill at Edmond is another story sent to Pistol Pete.
Dear Truthful Pistol Pete:
   Yesterday I went into a barbershop here in Edmond and seems the hair trimmer fellers had adjourned work to take some chip music with the returned vacationers.  One old feller just sat there with his cap pulled down over his eyes to keep the light from hurting them sorta Bill Murray style and he was a listening to these tales.  Finally he squirted out a young flood of terbacker juice aimed at a medium spitoon and partly hit it squirting a little juice on a nearby vacationer’s shoes, which was shining like a moon in harvest time.  But he couldn’t see well enuf to see what he’d done.  He squinted one eye and aimed the other at the windiest vacationer and said, “Who in the devil invented the first vacation?  How did they get started.”  The feller wiped off his shoe with last months funny paper and answered, “Well now, uncle, you can search me, for I don’t know.”  Then they all chipped in a talking and trying to figure out the first vacation in history.  But no luck.  The old man pulled his hat down a bit further and they thought he was through but he cum at them agin like a Korean red, he raised his crackly voice and said “Fellers, the first vacation I ever heard of was in the Bible.  There was a feller by the name of Jonah got an idea he would take a vacation instead of doing what he was supposed to and what God Almighty asked him.  He got et up by a big whale of a fish and spent his vacation in the fish’s belly. When the big fish done spit him out, he hit the ground a running, about like you vacationers a running for something to stop the chiggers and the ticks.  That is the first vacation I ever heard of, and old Jonah came out a lot better than some of you who come back a-blowing about your good time and the swimming and fishing and drinking, and flirting with dames, and bragging about the big ones that got away for Jonah could brag about the big one he got away from.

Originally published September 21, 1950

Only Hunting License That Ever Paid Off

   Last winter Fred and I bought us a hunting and fishing license and we figured we’d take a crack at some ducks when they was making their southern trip.  We got our shooting irons all ready and watched for the first signs of their change of location.  We each had a Winchester and our belt guns and was sure we’d get some meat for our next meal as the democrats had rationed all the rabbits.  We went down to the mouth of old Dugout creek and while we was awaiting a bad storm came up and the ducks started coming in by the thousands and tens of hundreds.  We started getting out cartridges and we went down the creek and the water was just covered with mallards so we got up close and started shooting as fast as we could.  As the birds rose out of the water, we were astounded to see not a single duck remaining on the water but as they flew they scattered out and dead ducks began to fall like rain, we later discovered that the ducks were so thick on the creek that they carried the dead ones we shot up with them until they scattered.  Fred and I started piling up the game and when we finished it had taken us about five hours.  So I went into town and got old Noah Spillers and his truck and he loaded up nine big loads of ducks, not counting those farther up and down the creek.  Now to prove the verasity of this story, which I can prove by the three big feather beds I have as well as more than a dozen pillows made from their feathers and Fred and Noah also are well supplied with the feather ticks.  But honestly folks, that was the most ducks I ever killed and too it was the only hunting license I ever bought that paid off.

Originally published October 5, 1950

Rolla Goodnight and Frank Eaton at the State Capitol

Starlings At The State Capitol

   Not long ago while I was down town in Perkins, I heard some of the fellows on the bench on the street telling about killing black birds.  That reminded me of the time Fred, Noah and I killed the starlings at the state capitol building in O. C.  There were millions of them and they were defacing that fine building, messing things up outside almost as bad as the legislators were fouling them up inside. They decided I guess to clean up the outside first and they wanted the pesky starlings done away with.  Fred and I got Noah’s truck full of ammunition, and started for the city.  We got set up and looked things over and got all ready for the birds when they came in to roost just before dark.  While we was waiting inside the lobby several fellers came by and offered us drinks and one guy slipped me fifty dollars to vote again some bill.  He spoke kinda low and I never did know what bill he was talking about, but guess he thought we was in government some way.  Well finally the birds started coming in and we got ready.  Fred was to do the shooting and Noah and I was to load the guns.  We had five .22s and when Fred got started shooting the starlings looked like a huge gray and black cataract as they fell on the ground and started none could get to the building as they were piling up like the national debt.  They darkened the remaining sun and soon were piled up past the third story.  When the last of them fell we had only eight shots left.  It took over two days just to haul the birds away and Fred has often said that it was really the fastest shooting he ever did.

Originally published October 19, 1950

Sharp Shooting Carrie Cheatham

     While looking through the Perkins newspaper last week I cam across a letter much to my surprise from a lady that I used to know as Carrie Cheatham and in that letter telling of her duck shooting story, she switched from the usual habits of women and for once told the truth.  I was on the receiving end of that deal and so I think that I should have my say about it.  Well it happened this a way as I was out squirrel hunting one day down on the bluffs by Dugout creek, I looked up on Capitol hill and saw Carrie up there with a .22 rifle.  She was also hunting, this being in the days of the first democrat made Hoover depression, and I called up to her and said if I was a squirrel that I’d die of old age, if there were none but women hunters.  For some reason she resented my remarks and hollered down that she could shoot a hole in my hat without touching a hair on my head.  I guess she was 175 to 200 yards from me up hill and would have to shoot down at about a 45 degree angle.  So just to be kind of smart, I called back to her to crack down and do her best to even hit me, as I was sure I would be safe, and as I stepped out in the open she threw her rifle to her shoulder and all at once my hat jumped off my head.  When I jerked up my hat I saw she had done just what she said she would do, and I kicked myself clear around that hill for being such a fool.  Now there has been a question in my mind just whether she really knew her ability as a marksman, or that she just didn’t give a hoot.  Now honest Injun, Carrie, which really was it?

Originally published November 9, 1950

Trotline Fishing

   Once upon a time Fred, Rolla Goodnight and myself though we would do a little fishing.  So we made us a good boat about 14 foot long and four foot beam and also made a trailer to haul it on.  Then loading up our trot lines, tools and bedding we all started down on the river to fish.  We put our boat in the water and it was in good shape and waterproof, then we started out to get some bait.  On the bank near us was a big cottonwood tree with a long straight limb sticking out and was about 15 feet long.  It showed marks of being the roosting place for wild pigeons but there were none there at the time.  Now trotline fishing has its many difficulties and one of the worst is getting bait.  We scouted around not doing much good for the democrats had taken over and the jackrabbits were scarcer than hen’s teeth.  Finally Rolla killed a hawk and we baited up our lines and put them in the river.  We’d barely caught 100 lbs. of fish when we ran out of bait again, so I took my old six shooter and went down by the old cottonwood tree and there out on the long limb that I before mentioned was 808 pigeons.  I know because I counted them.  It was easy.  I just counted their legs and wings and then divided by four.  I was careful not to scare them and slipped around so I was in a line with the limb and I shot at the end of the limb and split it full length and as the surprised pigeons slipped into the cracked limb, it snapped shut on their toes and held them securely.  Then I picked off what I needed for bait and left the others, until we needed them, that way we had fresh bait for some time.  We caught several tons of fish, which we ate all up.

Originally published November 16, 1950