Bloody Mary excerpted from Spooky Pennsylvania retold by S. E. Schlosser Listen to the podcast

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How Bigfoot Wallace Got his Nickname

Well now, Bigfoot Wallace was just about the roughest, toughest Texas Ranger that ever rode west of the Pecos. He came to Texas to avenge the death of a brother and cousin who’d been massacred at Goliad by Santa Ana’s army, but by the time he got here the Revolution was won and Texas was a Republic. He might’ve gone home then, but Wallace discovered Texas was a hunter’s paradise, so he made his way to the extreme edge of the frontier, where he hunted the abundant game that he sold to the settlements.

Wallace soon learned that Austin was the place to be if you wanted to earn some good money. So he packed up and went north to Austin, which was the new capital of the Republic. Seems there was plenty of work with high wages for a man who could do construction, and Bigfoot was an expert with a broad-ax. Earned himself two hundred bucks a month plus board hewing logs for the buildings being put up along Congress Ave. Bigfoot partnered up with a fellow named Leggett who was as brave and crazy as he was. They head out into hostile Indian Territory to get cedar and other lumber, and then they’d raft down to town. The native tribesmen in that area were so fierce most folks refused to leave the settlement, and forty men were killed in the short time Wallace lived there.

It was during this time that Wallace earned himself a nickname. There was a bloodthirsty Waco warrior living in the area, who stood six foot eight inches in his moccasin feet and weighed over three hundred pounds. Folks called him Chief Bigfoot because his moccasin tracks measured over fourteen inches in length with the right toe protruding from the moccasin. He’d been terrorizing the settlement for nearly twenty years, raiding the good people’s homes, stealing horses and killing any soul he encountered.

One fine day Wallace’s neighbor came home to find his kitchen a mess and large moccasin tracks leading from his house next door to Wallace’s place that he shared with William Fox. Fellow came running over to accuse Wallace of entering his cabin since he knew the hunter always wore moccasins. Wallace had to drag the old coot over to the nearest tracks and put his much smaller moccasin foot inside the track before the feller would believe he hadn’t gone inside his cabin. William Fox was so amused by the incident he started calling Wallace “Bigfoot”, and the name stuck.

Sad to say, it was that same Waco chief who killed and scalped Fox a year later. Bigfoot Wallace tracked down Chief Bigfoot and shot him, but somehow the warrior survived. It was Westfall, a great friend of Bigfoot’s who managed to kill the huge chief in a ferocious hand-to-hand combat on the Llano.

The Fisherman and the Bear

One fine day an old Maine man was fishing on his favorite lake and catching nary a thing. Finally, he gave up and walked back along the shore to his fishing shack. When he got close to the front door, he saw it was open. Being of a suspicious nature, he walked to the door quietly and looked inside. There was a big black bear. It was just pulling the cork out of his molasses jug with its teeth. The molasses spilled all over the floor and the bear rubbed his paw in it, smearing it all over.

Well, the old man was not the timid sort. He went to the back of the shack, put his head in the window and gave a loud yell. The bear jumped and ran out the door. It was running strangely. The old man saw that the bear was holding up the foot covered with molasses so it wouldn't get dirty.

The bear ran to the lake shore. Standing on its hind legs, it held up the paw full of molasses. Soon all the flies and bugs and mosquitoes were swarming all over the sticky sweet paw. Then the bear waded into the water with his sticky paw full of bugs. It held the paw out over the water. Suddenly, a big trout came jumping out of the water trying to get to the flies. The bear gave it a swat and it flew to the shore and flopped there. Then another fish jumped into the air after the flies, followed swiftly by another. Every time a fish jumped after his paw, the bear cuffed it ashore. Soon it had a large pile.

Finally, the bear decided he had enough fish and waded to shore. The bear had caught a mess of fish any fisherman would envy. The old man had caught nothing. He watched that bear eat half a dozen trout, his stomach rumbling. All he had for dinner was some bread and what was left of the molasses. Finally the bear paused in his eating, and looked over to the bushes where the old man was hidden. The bear stood up and laid the remaining fish in a row. Then it walked away up the shore. It kept looking back at the bushes where the old man stood.

The old man crept out of the bushes and down to the shore. Sure enough, the bear had left six large trout for him. He looked over at the bear. It was standing at the edge of the wood watching. "Thanks a lot," the old man called to the bear. The bear waved the now-clean paw at the old man and disappeared into the thicket. "Well," said the old man, "That's the first time a bear has ever paid me for my molasses."

The old man never hunted bears again.

The Hairy Toe

Once there was an old woman who went out in the woods to dig up some roots to cook for dinner. She spotted something funny sticking out of the leaves and dug around until she uncovered a great big hairy toe. There was some good meat on that toe which would make a real tasty dinner, so the old woman put it in her basket and took it home.

When she got back to her cottage, the old woman boiled up a kettle-full of hairy toe soup, which she ate for dinner that night. It was the best meal she'd had in weeks! The old woman went to bed that night with a full stomach and a big smile.

Along about midnight, a cold wind started blowing in the tops of the trees around the old woman's house. A large black cloud crept over the moon and from the woods a hollow voice rumbled: "Hairy toe! Hairy toe! I want my hairy toe!" Inside the house, the old woman stirred uneasily in her bed and nervously pulled the covers up over her ears.

From the woods there came a stomp-stomp-stomping noise as the wind whistled and jerked at the treetops. In the clearing at the edge of the forest, a hollow voice said: "Hairy toe! Hairy toe! I want my hairy toe!" Inside the house, the old woman shuddered and turned over in her sleep.

A stomp, stomp, stomping sound came from the garden path outside the cottage. The night creatures shivered in their burrows as a hollow voice howled: "Hairy toe! Hairy toe! I want my hairy toe!" Inside the house, the old woman snapped awake. Her whole body shook with fright as she listened to the angry howling in her garden. Jumping out of bed, she ran to the door and barred it. Once the cottage was secure, she lay back down to sleep.

Suddenly, the front door of the cottage burst open with a bang, snapping the bar in two and sending it flying into the corners of the room. There came the stomp, stomp, stomping noise of giant feet walking up the stairs. Peeping out from under the covers, the old woman saw a massive figure filling her doorway. It said: "Hairy toe! Hairy toe! I want my hairy toe!"

The old woman sat bolt upright in terror and shouted: "I ATE your hairy toe!"

"Yes, you did," the giant figure said very gently as it advanced into the room.

No one living in the region ever saw the old woman again. The only clue to her disappearance was a giant footprint a neighbor found pressed deep into the loose soil of the meadow beside the house. The footprint was missing the left big toe.

A Baker's Dozen
A New York Christmas Story

Retold by S.E. Schlosser

     Back in the old days, I had a successful bake-shop in Albany. I had a good business, a plump wife, and a big family.  I was a happy man.  But trouble came to my shop one year in the guise of an ugly old woman.  She entered my shop a few minutes before closing and said:  “I wish to have a dozen cookies.”  She pointed to my special Saint Nicholas cookies that were sitting out on a tray.  So I counted out twelve cookies for her.  

      The old woman’s eyes narrowed when she saw the cookies.  “Only twelve?” she asked.  I knew at once what she wanted.  There were some bakers in town who sometimes gave an extra cookie to their customers, but I was appalled by the custom.  What man of sense would give away an extra cookie for free?  
     “I asked for a dozen cookies, and you only give me twelve,” the woman said.
     “A dozen is twelve, my good woman, and that is what I have given you,” I replied.
     “I ordered a dozen cookies, not twelve,” said the old woman.  
      I was upset by this demand.  I always gave my customers exactly what they paid for.  But I was a thrifty man, and it was against my nature to give away something for nothing.   
      “I have a family to support,” I said stiffly.  “If I give away all my cookies, how can I feed my family?  A dozen is twelve, not thirteen! Take it or leave it!”  
     “Very well,” said she, and left the shop without taking the cookies.  
      From that moment, my luck changed.  The next day, my cakes were stolen out of my shop, and the thieves were never found.  Then my bread refused to rise.  For a week, every loaf of bread I made was so heavy that it fell right through the oven and into the fire.  The next week, the bread rose so high that it actually floated up the chimney.  I was frightened when I saw the loaves floating away across the rooftops.  That was the first moment I realized I had been bewitched.  It was then that I remembered the old woman who came to my shop, and I was afraid.  
     The next week, the old woman appeared again in my shop and demanded a baker’s dozen of the latest batch of my cookies.  I was angry.  How dare she show her face in my shop after all the bad luck she sent my way?  I cursed her soundly and showed her the door.  
     Things became worse for me then.  My bread soured, and my olykoeks (donuts) were a disgrace.  Every cake I made collapsed as soon as it came out of the oven, and my gingerbread children and my cookies lost their flavor.  Word was getting around that my bake-shop was no good, and one by one, my customers were falling away.   I was angry now, and stubborn.  No witch was going to defeat me.  When she came to my bake-shop a third time to demand a baker’s dozen of cookies, I told her to go to the devil and I locked the door behind her.  
      After that day, everything I baked was either burnt or soggy, too light or too heavy.  My customers began to avoid my cursed shop, even those who had come to me every day for years.  Finally, my family and I were the only ones eating my baking, and my money was running out.  I was desperate.  I took myself to church and began to pray to Saint Nicholas, the patron Saint of merchants, to lift the witch’s curse from myself and my family.  
      “Come and advise me, Saint Nicholas, for my family is in dire straights and I need good counsel against this evil witch who stands against us,” I prayed.  Then I trudged wearily back to my empty shop, wondering what to do.  
       I stirred up a batch of Saint Nicholas cookies and put them into the oven to bake, wondering how this lot would turn out.  Too much cinnamon?  Too little?  Burnt?  Under-done?  To my surprise, they came out perfectly.  I frosted them carefully, and put my first successful baking in weeks onto a tray where they could be seen through the window.  When I looked up, Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) was standing in front of me.  
        I knew him at once, this patron Saint of merchants, sailors, and children.  He was not carrying his gold staff or wearing the red bishop’s robes and mitered hat that appeared on the figure I had just frosted on my cookies.   But the white beard and the kindly eyes were the same.  I was trembling so much my legs would not hold me, so I sat down on a stool and looked up at the Saint standing so near I could have touched him.   His eyes regarded me with such sadness it made me want to weep.  
       Saint Nicholas said softly: “I spent my whole life giving money to those in need, helping the sick and suffering, and caring for little children, just as our Lord taught us.  God, in his mercy, has been generous to us, and we should be generous to those around us.”  
       I could not bear to look into his eyes, so I buried my face in my hands.  
      “Is an extra cookie such a terrible price to pay for the generosity God has shown to us?” he asked gently, touching my head with his hand.  
     Then he was gone.  A moment later, I heard the shop door open, and footsteps approached the counter.  I knew before I looked up that the ugly old woman had returned to asked me for a dozen Saint Nicholas cookies.  I got up slowly, counted out thirteen cookies, and gave them to the old woman, free of charge.  
      She nodded her head briskly.  “The spell is broken,” she said.  “From this time onward, a dozen is thirteen.”  
     And from that day onward, I gave generously of my baking and of my money, and thirteen was always, for me, a baker’s dozen.  

Armadillo's Song

A Bolivian Legend

retold by S.E. Schlosser

There once lived an armadillo who loved music more than anything else in the world. After every rainfall, the armadillo would drag his shell over to the large pond filled with frogs and he would listen to the big green frogs singing back and forth, back and forth to each other in the most amazing voices.

"Oh," thought the armadillo, "Oh how I wish I could sing."

The armadillo would creep to the edge of the water and watch the frogs leaping and swimming in a frantic green ballet, and they would call back and forth, back and forth in beautiful, musical tones. He loved to listen to the music they made as they spoke, though he didn't understand their words; which was just as well - for the frogs were laughing at this funny animal that wanted so badly to sing like a frog.

"Don't be ridiculous," sang the frogs as they played. "Armadillos can't sing."

Then one day a family of crickets moved into a new house near the armadillo, and he was amazed to hear them chirp and sing as merrily as the frogs. He would creep next to their house and listen and listen all day, all night for their musical sounds.

"Oh," sighed the armadillo, "Oh how I wish I could sing."

"Don't be ridiculous," sang the crickets in their dulcet tones. "Armadillos can't sing."

But the armadillo could not understand their language, and so he just sighed with longing and listened to their beautiful voices laughing at him.

Then one day a man came down the road carrying a cage full of canaries. They were chirping and flittering and singing songs that were more beautiful even than those of the crickets and the frogs. The armadillo was entranced. He followed the man with the cage down the road as fast as his little legs would carry him, listening to the canaries singing.

"Oh," gasped the armadillo, "Oh how I wish I could sing."

Inside the cage, the canaries twittered and giggled.

"Don't be ridiculous," sang the canaries as they flapped about. "Armadillos can't sing."

The poor tired armadillo couldn't keep up with the man and the cage, and finally he fell exhausted at the door of the great wizard who lived in the area. Realizing where he was, the armadillo decided to beg a boon of the man.

Timidly, the armadillo approached the wizard, who was sitting in front of his house and said: "Great wizard, it is my deepest desire to learn to sing like the frogs and the crickets and the canaries."

The wizard's lips twitched a little in amusement, for who had ever heard of an armadillo that could sing. But he realized that the little animal was serious. He bent low to the ground and looked the creature in the eye.

"I can make you sing, little armadillo," he said. "But you do not want to pay the price, for it will mean your death."

"You mean if I die I will be able to sing?" asked the armadillo in amazement.

"Yes, this is so," said the wizard.

"Then I want to die right now!" said the armadillo. "I would do anything to be able to sing!"

The wizard and the armadillo discussed the matter for many hours, for the wizard was reluctant to take the life of such a fine armadillo. But the creature insisted, and so the wizard finally killed the armadillo, made a wonderful musical instrument from his shell, and gave it to the finest musician in the town to play.

Sometimes the musician would play his instrument by the pond where the frogs lived, and they would stare at him with big eyes and say: "Ai! Ai! The armadillo has learned to sing."

Sometimes the musician would play his instrument by the house where the crickets lived, and they would creep outside to stare at him with big eyes and say: "Ai! Ai! The armadillo has learned to sing."

And often the musician would visit the home of his friend who owned the cage full of canaries - who was also a musician - and the two men would play their instruments together while the little birds watched with fluttering wings and twittered in amazement: "Ai! Ai! The armadillo has learned to sing."

And so it was. The armadillo had learned to sing at last, and his voice was the finest in the land. But like the very best musicians in the world, the armadillo sacrificed his Life for his Art.
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