by Anne Fairchild, Eastern Region Program Manager for the State Historic Sites
So how exactly do you plan an event based on spinning yarns?
“Excuse me ma’am. I am trying to find a really good liar. Would you or anyone you know be interested in entering our contest?”
To clarify, the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site is hosting the First Ever Jefferson County Liar’s Bench: Fabulous Fibs from the (18) Forties to Totally Tall Tales of Today on Oct. 16, from 2 to 5 p.m.
We will not only have a liar’s contest, but a “Whale of a Tale” writing contest for kids, tall tale ballads and, as a centerpiece, the “Liar’s Bench” program offered by the Performing Arts and EducationDepartment at the Indiana State Museum. The audience decides which of the strange stories is actually true about how some of the museum’s oddball artifacts were used in the old days.
In my head, I have a vision of timeless sage elders sipping hot cider settling in around a fire while the wind and rain howl in the distance. They are spinning yarns about coming home from the fair at midnight in a half broken down truck holding a sick calf in the front seat while one of the kids holds a flashlight out the window because the headlights don’t work on the truck. Or the time old Janie Riddamacker was convinced a UFO landed just outside of Deer Camp. However this idyllic state of storytelling can be rather hard to convey to others.
My inspiration is twofold. Mr. Lanier himself may have frowned on the idea of telling lies, being that his reputation in the banking and finance industry relied on his reputation for honesty not only here in Indiana, but also Washington, D.C., and among wealthy investors in Europe. However his servants, employees and possibly even family members probably spent countless hours around the fire telling stories, spinning yarns and telling tall tales. It was the chief form of entertainment in the 19th century.
The other reason is in honor of my Uncle, the storyteller in our family. In fact, one of his standard greetings is, “What good lies do you know?”
Every member of our family who achieves the age of 3 knows he’s definitely a liar. The child searches Uncle Nelson’s face to see if he’ll break up laughing, or if they’re really expected to believe what they were just told. Eventually they get a look of pure consternation on their face and emphatically declarein their tiny voices, “Nuh Uh!” I think he lost me at age 5 when he told me the reason that there was a dark brown stain on the kitchen ceiling was that the bogeyman who lived up there in the attic didn’t have a bathroom.
To this day, I still think of that every time I see a water stained ceiling.
So if you know any good liars, storytellers, yarn spinners or tellers of tall tales, send them my way: firstname.lastname@example.org.