#1 Swapping Stories
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 comes, and oh, they get in there. Course, he makes out like he's putting pepper in Gus's eyes. He'd hold his head away from the referee, put something in his eyes, and Gus would come out and couldn't see and all this.
So Joe Johnson's boys lived right down the road here by Oak Grove Church. Joe had some of the toughest boys in America. I mean, they were tough. . . . They thought that Red Flash [starts chuckling] put the pepper in Gus's eyes, and the referee wouldn't do anything about it, they just jumped up in the wrestling ring. They got Red Flash and like to have beat him to death. Took his mask off of him. [Laughs.] I mean, they were whipping him! Mr. Brown was the deputy sheriff. He had to get up there and beat Joe's boys off of Red Flash. They whipped Red Flash!
Renée Harvison: Did he ever come back?
Harold Talbert: He never did come back!
Notes to the Teacher: Harold Talbert's tales walk the thin line between the personal experience story and the tall tale. These reminiscences richly and lovingly illustrate the small-town backdrop for so many of the subsequent stories in this collection. Having sampled the 1930s as presented in Talbert's words, one can more easily imagine the world depicted by tall tale tellers Lonnie Gray, Bill Cox, and Jimmie Davis. A master at depicting the daily concerns of small town Louisiana, Talbert is also expert at pushing his accounts to the regions where fact and fantasy overlap. In the midst of delivering a vivid account of the role of the movie theater in his boyhood life, Talbert inserts the story of a boy so impressed by the lifelike quality of the cinematic experience that he shot the movie screen. A tale that begins in a sleepy town ends in frenzied flights from a man in a wild gorilla suit; a baptism nearly becomes a drowning. Because Harold Talbert's oral art makes his own life a tall tale, he draws on far fewer internationally distributed tale types than any of the other British-American narrators. Only two of his tales possess clear analogues in international oral tradition.