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Swapping Stories

Swapping Stories: Folktales from Louisiana

Carl Lindahl
Maida Owens
C. Renée Harvison
Copyright Date: 1997
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    Swapping Stories
    Book Description:

    Here are more than two hundred oral tales from some of Louisiana's finest storytellers. In this comprehensive volume of great range are transcriptions of narratives in many genres (ghost stories, tall tales, myths, magic tales, buried-treasure tales, and reminiscences of small-town life), from diverse voices (including Cajuns, Creoles, Native Americans, African Americans, and Louisianans of Hungarian, Italian, and Vietnamese descent), and from all regions of the state.

    Told in both intimate and public settings ranging from the front porch to the festival stage, these tales proclaim the great vitality and variety of Louisiana's oral narrative traditions. Given special focus are Harold Talbert, Lonnie Gray, Bel Abbey, Ben Guine, and Enola Matthews-whose wealth of imagination, memory, and artistry demonstrates the depth as well as the breadth of the storyteller's craft.

    For tales told in Cajun and Creole French, Koasati, and Spanish, the editors have supplied both the original language and English translation. To the volume Maida Owens has contributed an overview of Louisiana's folk culture and a survey of folklife studies of various regions of the state. Carl Lindahl's introduction and notes discuss the various genres and styles of storytelling common in Louisiana and link them with the worldwide art of the folktale.

    This is a book that will have appeal both for scholars and for anyone who loves a well-told story.

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-778-1
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-xxii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  4. The Louisiana Storytelling Project
    (pp. xxv-xxviii)
    Maida Owens

    To promote understanding of Louisiana’s traditional cultures, the Louisiana Folklife Program within the state’s Division of the Arts strives to assist cultural specialists in public presentation of their findings by means of various formats appropriate to their subjects. These include publications, concerts, recordings, festivals, videotapes, and exhibits. The Louisiana Story-telling Project is one such project The Folklife Program also tries to focus attention upon neglected cultures and folklife genres. A special concern is to assist communities with identifying their cultural resources and determining the most culturally appropriate means to support or use these resources. The ultimate goal is self-determination, which...

  5. Louisiana’s Traditional Cultures: An Overview
    (pp. xxix-xlvii)
    Maida Owens

    A basic principle in the study of folklore and anthropology is that in order to understand a cultural feature, one must understand the context in which it exists. Therefore, to understand a basket, dance, song, ritual, or story, one must know about the maker, dancer, singer, practitioner, or teller. One must understand the culture or setting in which it is made or performed. Only then can one know its significance and function within the cultural region for the people. One must take a holistic look at the integrated system to understand each part.

    Therefore, when one examines the storytelling traditions...

  6. Louisiana Folklife Bibliography
    (pp. xlviii-2)
  7. Louisiana’s Folktale Traditions: An Introduction
    (pp. 3-26)
    Carl Lindahl

    This broad-based collection of Louisiana tales belongs to a current surge of interest in the ageless art of storytelling. Many recent fine and successful collections—including Barry J. Ancelet’sCajun and Creole Folktales(1994), John A. Burrison’sStorytellers: Folktales and Legends from the South(1991), James P. Leary’sMidwestern Folk Humor(1991), and W. K. McNeil’sGhost Stories from the American South(1985)—attest to a growing interest in state and regional samplers, books that showcase the narrative variety and cultural diversity of living American folktale traditions. In the last years of the twentieth century, readers and listeners are returning...

  8. The Texts of the Tales
    (pp. 27-30)

    Most of the following tales were collected in 1990 and transcribed by C. Renée Harvison in 1991. As the book developed, however, seven other transcribers (four of whom also contributed translations of foreign-language performances) added fifty-three tales to the volume.¹

    As there is no universally accepted or entirely satisfactory method for representing an oral performance on the printed page, the transcribers varied greatly in their approaches. Carl Lindahl, Maida Owens, and Denise Wenner have worked to create a consistent transcription style that would make the tales both as readable and as faithful to the spoken originals as the printed word...

  9. Part I. Individual Storytellers

    • Harold Talbert: Arcadian Anecdotes
      (pp. 33-59)

      Gus lived here in Arcadia and had a wrestling match here. One of the first real kind of wrestling matches. That was before it got to where you see them on TV, of course. It wasn’t as popular then as it is now. But anyway, Gus had a wrestling place here in Arcadia. And he’d have these wrestlers come in.

      One day, he had a fellow named Red Flash. Every Tuesday night we had a wrestling match. He wore a mask. You know how phony and what ham actors these wrestlers are. So he had this mask on. And he...

    • Lonnie Gray: “They’re All Lies”
      (pp. 60-68)

      I’ll start off with an old cowboy story. There were two cowboys riding across the plains. Decided they’d stop and make some coffee. They had a bucket—that’s what they made it in. A bucket. Pour water in that bucket, heat it, pour the coffee in there, and drink it.

      Well, they stopped and got off their horses to make some coffee. They looked, and in the distance they saw dust coming at them. One of them said, “I see somebody coming.” He kept getting closer. About time they’d gotten the coffee hot, he rode up. He was riding—big,...

    • Wilson “Ben Guiné” Mitchell: Creole Tales
      (pp. 69-79)

      Ah well, and this seems true, you understand? An ant works all summer long. He was gathering things to fill his house. He asked Grasshopper, this way, he said, “Why don’t you come help me? I could give you something.”

      “Oh!” Grasshopper said, “Oh no!” He said, “I don’t have the time to bother with you!” He said, “I play the accordion for a living.”

      Ant said, “All right, go ahead, but,” he said, “I’m going, when the grasshopper is gone, to start putting food away.” He did.

      And then, well, when winter arrived, there was ice. Everything was frozen!...

    • Bel Abbey: Koasati Stories
      (pp. 80-104)

      Recorded September 22, 1990, at the St. Francisville Heritage Festival, West Feliciana Parish.

      Two young men decided to go hunt in the woods, along the river. They went in that woods, and they went off with a bow and arrow and tomahawk, all that stuff. They find a trail along the river bank. They find a bear. A big black bear in there. It was starting rooting, something in the bushes. Said, “Look at that bear. Let’s kill that bear.”

      Other said, “How we going to kill it? That big bear?” “It’s a big one,” they said. Said, “Who’s going...

    • Enola Matthews: A Creole and Irish Family Tradition
      (pp. 105-121)
      Annette Huval

      There were Bouki and Lapin and Possum. And Lapin was naughty. And Bouki and Lapin and the others, they were working. It happened that they ran out of water.

      So Bouki and Possum say to Lapin (that means “rabbit”), “Let’s dig a water well.”

      “Oh,” Lapin says, “I,” he says, “live on dew.”

      While they were digging the well ... that night—when they came the next morning, the well was dry. Lapin went in the night and stole the water.

      So Bouki says to Possum, he says, “Oh, I’m going to make a woman out of tan And,” he...

    • Alfred Anderson: Master Teacher of a Family Tradition
      (pp. 122-140)
      Carl Lindahl

      So—they had a lady. She used to work. And she had three daughters. So she told the little girl, she said, “I’m going to work.” She said, “I want you all to stay upstairs until I come back.” Because they had a big alligator—right outside of the house, they had a bigponddown there. Big Alligator stayed there. So the mom and the daddy was working. And she told her three daughters, “I want you to go upstairs. And you stay up there till Icallfor you. And this is the way I’m going to call:...

  10. Part II. Tales from the Everyday World

    • Family Life, Memories, and Pranks
      (pp. 143-165)
      George Lezu, Alex Bartus, Max Greig, Harry Lee Leger, Sidna Coughlin, Robert Albritton, Rodney Cook, Harry Methvin, Bill Cox, Tommy Grafton, Harry Cook, A. J. Smith and Dave Petitjean

      When we were growing up around there, everybody helped everybody back in those days. When somebody needed help, all you had to do was call. I got loaned out quite a bit. It’s just like I was a tool or something, you see? There was an old couple that lived close to where we were. It was Janosbacsi[Mr. John]; I’m not sure if you all remember him. But he was old when I was living. He was really old. You know how kids always think of anyone grown up as old. But this man was old. He could...

    • Louisiana Politics: The Longs and Their Cousins
      (pp. 166-192)
      Hiram Wright, Eck Bozeman, John T. Campbell, Jimmie Davis, Mazie Hardy, Stephen Dart, Roy Inabnett, Virgil E. Callender Sr., Hubert L. “Anatoo” Clement Sr., Joseph Aaron, Crawford Vincent, Max Greig, Sarah Kent and Dorothy Peroyea

      At Earl Long Park here, on the east side of town, they’d buried Earl right there and put a lot of concrete over his grave to hold up the statue of Earl that’s on top of his grave. The cement man had poured all that cement there and was out there one day finishing the cement, smoothing it. A local Presbyterian pastor walked by, saw all that cement on top of that grave and said, “You know, I don’t believe I’d want all that cement on top of my grave come Judgment Day.”

      The old cement finisher didn’t even look...

    • Religious Humor: Personal Narratives and Jokes
      (pp. 193-205)
      Max Greig, Clarence John Broussard, Évélia Boudreaux, Autrey “Chank” Baudoin, James “Podge” White, Jerry Bunch, Harry Methvin, Sarah Albritton, A. J. Smith and Barry Jean Ancelet

      I tell a little story about a Cajun boy from Catahoula. He was hiking a ride to St. Martinville. He couldn’t hardly get a ride and directly here comes a preacher—in an old, beat up Model A Ford. He stops. Told him, “Son, get in.”

      So they started toward St. Martinville. He said, “Son, are you a Christian?”

      He said, “No, I’m a Cajun!”

      He said, “If you not a Christian, how in the heck you going to get to heaven?”

      He said, “Man, don’t kid me. I can’t get to St. Martinville. How in the hell am I...

    • Fishing and Hunting: Personal Narratives and Tall Tales
      (pp. 206-222)
      Jerry Bunch, Bill Cox, Glenn Demoulin, Harry Methvin, Hugh McGee, Sarah Kent, A. J. Smith, Dave Petitjean, Pierre Daigle, Tommy Sanches and Ray Robinson

      I want to tell you why I don’t hunt. Well, back in the days, Watty and R. T. Carter and Robert Carter, they had some dogs. Watty had old Blue. I was a little old bitty yearling boy. Harry was down to there. We’d beg Watty to go hunting with him, and Watty’d say, “No, you two kids got to stay. You’ll slow us down.”

      Now, old Blue was a good dog. Now, baby, you talk about a good dog—he was. If I’m lying, I’m dying, but I’m going to tell you the truth—he was a good one....

  11. Part III. Legendary Louisiana

    • Outlaws, Heroes, and Local Characters
      (pp. 225-255)
      Clarence Faulk, Julienne Cole, J. Maxwell Kelley, Carl Bunch, James B. Rider, Wendell Lindsay, Arthur “Arturo” Pfister, Mary Etta Scarborough Moody, Vernie Gibson, Ray Robinson and Irvan Perez

      Of course, they were not personal friends of mine, but they were a couple of killers. I guess today we would call them serial killers or something like that. I hear of serial killers today who kill a dozen or so people, and usually they appear to be doing it just for the hell of it, you might say, to see somebody die.

      But back in 1934, this fellow Clyde Barrow and his girlfriend, Bonnie Parker, got together somewhere or another as youngsters. He was out starting his career, of course, stealing cars and breaking into stores, robbing banks. And...

    • Buried Treasure
      (pp. 256-267)
      Pierre Daigle, Wendell Lindsay, Luther Sandel, Arthur Irwin, Virgil E. Callender Sr. and David Allen

      The man whose story I’m going to tell you, as far as I know, actually lived, because I played around his grave a lot He was buried, still buried, where we lived. He was buried in the yard where I lived. They had built a cypress picket fence around it. By the time I was old enough to know anything, the picket fence was falling apart But it was still intact, partially.

      This was a guy by the name of Fisher, which is obviously not a Cajun name. Supposedly Fisher and his wife and Fisher’s wife’s son, whose name was...

    • Tales of the Supernatural
      (pp. 268-294)
      Velma Duet, John Verret, Loulan Pitre, Glen Pitre, Loulan Pitre, Peter Gitz, Mary Etta Scarborough Moody, Jack Holman, Paula Brown, Harriet Lewis, Lucille Culbertson, Mildred Osborne, Allen Babineaux, Joe Fedele and Clifford Blake Sr.

      Then there were things like theavertissements,which were warnings. For example, now this is a fact. It happened to my grandfather. My grandfather’s name was Celestin, and he had a trawl boat. He had a good friend that was trawling with him. They were real good friends all through the years. One day they went trawling. Grandfather slept in the top part of the boat, and his friend slept in the bottom. The fumes from the boat overcame [his friend], and he died.

      About three months after he had died, Grandfather was sleeping one night, and he heard his...

  12. Part IV. Beyond the Everyday World

    • Myths, Animal Tales, and Magic Tales
      (pp. 297-326)
      Julia Dupuis Huval, Max Greig, Nicholas L. Stouff Jr., Sarah Albritton, Joseph “Chelito” Campo, Bertney Langley, Dolores Henderson, Tang Thi Thanh Van, Clifford Blake Sr. and Barry Jean Ancelet

      Bouki had a cotton field that he was chopping. He hired Lapin to come help pick cotton.

      And Bouki says to Lapin, he says, “I’m making a pot full of couche-couche. When we take a break, we will have some couche-couche.” So, of course, Lapin, right off, he started to figure how he could come and eat the couche-couche.

      So, when he’s been picking a little while, he says, “Listen, listen, Bouki, listen. There’s somebody calling me to a baptism.”

      “Oh,” he says, “Lapin.”

      He says, “I tell you. I promised to go to a baptism.”

      “Good,” he says, “Go,...

  13. Notes on the Tales
    (pp. 327-364)
    Carl Lindahl
  14. Folktale Bibliography
    (pp. 365-376)
  15. Index of Tale Types
    (pp. 377-380)
  16. Index of Motifs
    (pp. 381-394)
  17. Index of Titles
    (pp. 395-400)
  18. Index of Storytellers
    (pp. 401-402)