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Granddads' Amusing Tall Tales
Grandfather had a flair for entertaining his grandchildren with some of the best spun yarns ever to come out of the Ozark Mountains. Adults found him quite amusing also.
I don’t know much about his life before he married grandmother. He was a step granddad to me. James Leland Sharpe was his name; born in 1895 in Calhoun MO. He was a retired welder from the MKT Rail Road.
According to Gramps, times were tough back in his day. I believe he originated most of the “When I was your age…” stories. Or, maybe he just recycled them. In either case we hung on his every word believing everything he said was gospel.
One story he told was about his sister’s husband who was supposedly a real tough customer. He once had an argument with his wife over a fur coat and ended up cutting it off her with a knife. It was an interesting tale; one I later learned was true. One never knew when he was “pulling your leg” or dead serious.
We lived in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, around the Fort Smith area. The country is rich in history and would be enticing to any young boy and I was no exception. He would frequently take us on hikes down the mountainside towards the creek. From that vantage point you could see the majestic mountains rising on all sides of the valley. On one excursion he pointed up towards a high cliff close to a peak.
“Ya’ll see that thar cliff yonder?” he drawled. “That thar is where Belle Starr and her outlaw gang used to hide out.” All he got was blank stares since we didn’t know who the infamous outlaw was. He was happy to clue us in.
However, he had pulled so many pranks on us and told so many tall tales in the past we had grown a little skeptical. “Yep”, he continued. “I heer’d tell that’s where they buried all their treasure.” Now, we were hooked. “If I was only ten years younger I’d climb that mountain and go digging for it.” granddad bragged. He went on to say how he’d come across an old map showing a secret path to get up there. Of course, the map got lost. The story began to smell a little fishy.
Tom, the oldest grandkid, decided to verify the tale. He asked our grandmothers’ brother, Leonard, about the story. Leonard, being in cahoots with granddad, assured us it was true. We planned an expedition. Grandmother, however, told us it was all nonsense and forbid it.
We grew up and classified the story as another of granddads’ famous “tall tales”. But about the age of twenty-five I revisited “The Old Farm” and remembered the story. I decided to check it out and climbed that mountain to the cliff. Hot, sweaty and tired after an hour of steep uphill scaling, I reached the secluded cliff.
There were the ruins of an old shack with what used to be a path trailing off to the other side of the mountain. A few small tools and bottles dating back to the days in which Belle Starr would have lived were scattered around. I began to wonder if…NAW!!!