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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Pecos Bill

This American tall tale - or collection of tales - comes from the great tradition of brag stories from the Wild West. Decades of cowboys sitting around the campfire trying to outdo each other with exaggerated exploits gave rise to the legend of Pecos Bill. The stories were collected and put into published form in 1932 by an East Coast writer for The Century magazine. What's fun about these stories - about all tall tales, really - is the zany bravado that takes physical courage to the extreme.

What's that? Never heard of Pecos Bill? How he fell out of his family's wagon while they were heading out west, and him just a little baby? Fell right into the Pecos River and nobody in the wagon was the wiser, but he got himself rescued by a bunch of coyotes and they raised him up. Once he did get grown up he ran across some human beings at last and they convinced him (it wasn't easy) that he was a human being too, and so he decided to give cowboying a try. Beat up a rattlesnake and used it for a whip. Beat up a mountain lion and used it for a horse. Roped a whole herd of cattle and dug the Grand Canyon, and when he saw a tornado coming he roped it and rode it until it could barely whisper. That's who Pecos Bill was.

The benefits of humor to relieve stress and anxiety are well known. "Laughter is the best medicine," has been true since the first human slipped on a banana peel. When taking on a challenge, especially a physical courage challenge, a handful of Pecos Bill exaggeration can well lighten the tension.  Look for the wonderful version of the Pecos Bill stories written and illustrated by Steven Kellogg or the reissued 1938 Newbery Honor Book, Pecos Bill: The Greatest Cowboy of All Time by James Cloyd Bowman.  I promise you your bucakroos will be inspired.

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