Modern Tall Tale Challengers

Written by Charli Mills

Charli Mills, a born buckaroo, makes literary art accessible at She writes about the veteran spouse experience and women forgotten to history.

October 9, 2019

Tall tales aren’t just for contestants. Some writers took to telling whoppers like they were alligators born to drive golf carts. Some tall tales are less flamboyant. The following are submissions as challenges (not contest entries) to the Rodeo #1: Modern Tall Tales.

The contest is now closed. Rodeo #2 launches October 10, 2019 at 11:59 p.m. EST.

Make America Skate Again by D. Avery

“Hard ta tell a tall tale from fact these days Kid, ‘cause fact is there’s some shift goin’ on ya jist cain’t make up.”

“Yep. Pal, tell the one ‘bout the guy who denied global warmin’, claimed it was all a part a his plan.”

“Called it coastal improvement, got folks in South Dakota ta invest in waterfront property. Water kep risin’ an’ when them extreme cold snaps a winter came it all turned ta ice. Whole country iced over. Guy said it was all part a his plan, an’ he sold hats. Hats said, ‘Make America skate again’.”


Blasting Bunyan by JulesPaige

Paul and Babe worked hard to keep their farm going. The city slowly encroached. The two were a simple pair that got the job done. Their undoing was the tourists looking to escape the city. Some young kids had mom and dad stop the car to take photos on their tablets. The youngsters not being thrilled with being taken away from the city created video manipulating the farmer into a giant and coloring Babe blue.

The giant hatchet throwing farmer and his dancing blue Ox soon had over ten thousand likes, and too many city folks looking for them.


Lou Ell, Master Photosnappishooter by Faith A. Colburn

No chance of unremembering Lou Ell. He was the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission wildlife photographer. A bachelor, he spent most of his time outdoors somewhere fulfilling his role as “photosnappishooter.”

On vacation, he shot a film on the Alaska brown bear. In one spectacular sequence, he got between a sow and her cub. The momma attacked. Backed against a cliff, Lou kept shooting. “Somebody will find the camera,” he thought. Since he survived, he intended to make wildlife movies.

I visited him once years later. He lived alone in the dark. You see, he had lost his sight.


Say Mozzarella by Sharon C

Influencers travel the world to capture photogenic spots for social media. Traditional travelers’ enjoyment is ruined by Millenials lining up to ‘hand heart’ iconic locations. In response, camera bans are enforced at tourist sites across the world.

Not so at the Tower of Pisa. Millions of visitors annually photograph the ‘straightening’ of the tower. The impact of this phenomenon is now being scrutinized. Permanent human activity has caused denser, more resistant, air composition around the tower, significantly reversing the leaning process. Consequently, the combined minuscule lifespans of a million Instagram posts may be saving the landmark for future generations.


Untitled by Pete Fanning

Ben tore out of the job site, his spotless boots on the gas, dust trailing the truck.

He was happy to have a task. Being new, he’d worried the guys would mess with him. He wanted to get the errand done without any trouble.
He entered Green’s Hardware, his hardhat gleaming.

At the desk, he presented the levels the guys had handed him. “Hello, I need to get some new bubbles for these levels,” he said proudly.

Old Green gave him a wizened smile.

“First day?”

Ben removed his hat. “Sure is.”

“Thought so, I’ll check on your bubbles.”


Tall Tales: A Trio of Fledglings by Charli Mills

Wind flapped across my neighborhood so fiercely every maple leaf fell at once. Powerlines went down, and we had to call a tow truck to dig out cars and trucks along Roberts Street. Piles of red and orange drifted like snow. My neighbor said he ain’t seen the likes of this occurrence ever, and he’s older than the Porcupine Mountains. While everyone was looking at the leaf mess, I was looking up. Starlings. They flew as if the flocks were a single wing, beating over us like a thundercloud. Two small notches marked where the hatchlings would have flown.


It began with starlings. The urge to rescue something vulnerable. My heart is rose quartz, and it fractures when I fail. That day, before my house was home, I failed two baby starlings, and my quartz fractured twice. Later, rose quartz still beating, I held a baby loon to my chest. Again, I failed, and another crack emerged. Giving up on nestlings, I fed the grown chickadees. Then, one fall day, two fledged pigeons appeared, motherless, flightless, and so I became a surrogate again. They grew, they flew. Only one returned to roost. This is how crystals are formed.


Summer ended. The starlings razed the birdfeeders by the millions and left behind two changelings. They grew big, peeping. That’s when the street coyotes showed up to circle the house, howl at the moon, and demand plum pie. Turns out, the big starling babies were really coyotes. This is how I knew they were changelings. The peeping always stopped when the coyotes emerged, scratching at grizzled coats. I caught them pulling downy nestling feathers from their fur. Tricksters. That’s how I’ll remember the departures. Tricked into raising vulnerable things that go away. My empty nest is an abandoned den.


Kid’s KEVA Kiosk by D. Avery

“Kid. What’re ya doin’ asettin’ in thet upended stock tank?”

“I decided ta set up shop fer the rodeo crowds. This here’s my think tank. Folks’ll pay me fer my thoughts.”

“I don’t think much a this idea, Kid. Didja clear it with Shorty?”

“What do you think?”

“Thinkin’ not. So how’s yer gig work?”

“Easy. Ask me a question, I give ya the Kid’s Eye View Answer.”

“In 99 words?”

“Naw, jist somethin’ quippy. But if’n someone was ta request a 99 word tale fer themsefs an’ were ta donate via Shorty’s paypal button…”

“Huh. Who’da thunk it.”



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  1. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Oh shift! Kid’s gonna have ta put her mouth where the money is.

    • Charli Mills

      Kid’s got no problem there!

  2. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Changelings… stories change things, give wings to circumstances and ideas. I enjoyed your trio of bird stories and so glad you got to see some fly. Coyote reminds us that not all is as it seems, but just maybe it’s all good.
    This was a cool collection, didn’t see it coming. Wow, the tall tales for the contest are gonna be something!

    • Charli Mills

      Stories are great big human processors. The modern part of the challenge is what I think will give the tall tales an edge.

  3. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Thoughts Fer Yer Pennies

    “Pal! Shorty put up a flier fer my Think Tank. Ah’m in business!”
    “Some business. Asettin’ in a gol dang stock tank! Yer gonna tank, all right. Seems like a poor investmint, payin’ fer yer thoughts.”
    “That’s what you think.”
    “I think ya oughta git outta thet tank and inta a barrel. The Pro-Bull Mashup starts tomorrow. Yer clownin’ aroun’ could be useful in the ring.”
    “Ha! No way, Pal.”
    “Well whut about yer reglar chores?”
    “Ya mean shovelin’ shift?”
    “Go with yer strengths Kid.”
    “I am, Pal! I’ll be shovelin’ it, quipply.”
    “Hmmff. It’s all jist punnin’ games.”

    • Charli Mills

      Quipply! You rule at punnin’ games!

  4. Anne Goodwin (Annecdotist)

    If these are the practice stories the contest entries are going to be fantastic! I particularly like the one about the Tower of Pisa … and I have one of those photos from way before Instagram!

    • Charli Mills

      I’m looking forward to what the modern era can add to the literature of tall tales. I liked that story, too!

  5. robbiesinspiration

    There are some great pieces here.

    • Charli Mills

      I’m glad we are getting some challenges, too! It’s a sampling of what to expect.

  6. Liz H

    Remarkable modern tall tales here, and it tastes like “more.” Come late Nov…
    What made this task especially challenging was the gray area between expressive exaggeration/metaphor and a clear lie/tall tale.
    Always challenged, here at the Ranch.

    • Charli Mills

      Gray areas can be challenging areas! The next contest will have color and different challenges!

      • Liz H

        (Jogging in place and rubbing her hands together.)

  7. Norah

    Wow! These challenges are great. I like the use of the camera in many of them. If these weren’t the writers’ best pieces, then the best pieces must be impressive.

  8. Jim Borden

    those are some good tall tales!


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