Last one out of the Kinjaverse, turn out the lights.

Otters Oddities

An apple a day keeps the tin pot on your head.

Hmm. I don't think that will ever catch on as a saying. I mean, I'm not psychic. (if I was there would have been a winning powerball ticket in my possession long ago).


Yes, I would use my mutant powers for my own benefit. If I had the super power of being able to be invisible, my teen years would have been spent in the girls locker room. Education would have been pointless. I could take what ever I wanted. No one could see me do it, so why not?

And don't get me started on x-ray vision.

Does it shock any of you that I wouldn't use my super powers for good? It shouldn't. I mean, you have been reading my posts, right? I wouldn't be evil. No, of course not. But I wouldn't go out of my way to be the 'savior of the world', or whatever superheros are. Mostly what I'd do is use my super powers to mess with people.

Today is Tell The Truth Tuesday, after all, so I am bound by my own stringent rules to tell the truth. And thus, the truth is, if I had super powers, I'd be a jerk.

But no one cares about that. You all want to know about yesterdays post on John Henry. The story of John Henry is known as a folk tale. Folk tales have their own classification number under the Dewey Decimal System. That number is 398.2. Both the children's and adult's section have a 398.2 section. It is located in the non-fiction areas of the library.


As you know, non-fiction is what we call books that are considered to be true. That doesn't mean all folktales are true in the strictest sense of the word. But they all hold some 'truth' in their telling that can teach a valuable lesson. Aesops Fables are located in the same section, but there are not too many people who think they are the literal truth.

But that also doesn't mean folktales are made up either. Hence the tale of John Henry.


In the late 1920's Guy Johnson, a folklore historian, was researching some folktales for a book he was writing. When he got to the town of Walcott West Virginia, he encountered an aged man who claimed to have been present at the Big Bend Tunnel on the day of the race. He was 17 at the time, and his job was to haul water for the workers.

He clearly remembered the race between John Henry and the steam drill. And he remembered that John won by more than 5 feet.


He found a few other men who remembered the race, but not the name of the man that did the racing. They also couldn't recall who had won.

This alone isn't enough to say the story is true. However, Johnson wasn't the only man to research the story. Another researcher, Scott Nelson, was researching his book and found the records of a John William Henry, prisoner #497, in the Virginia state penitentiary. The warden was known for renting out his prisoners. And it is known he rented several inmates to the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. The C&O railroad just so happens to be the railroad that built the Big Bend Tunnel.


Nelson says it wasn't the Big Bend Tunnel, though. He could find no evidence in the railroads records that a steam drill was used at Big Bend. He says it was the Lewis Tunnel, about 40 miles away, that was the tunnel in the story. The convicts did in fact, work next to steam drills at the Lewis Tunnel. (Nelson found records from the C&O that showed the man who remembered the race at Big Bend Tunnel worked there, and at the Lewis Tunnel)

To bolster Nelsons case, there is a part of the story that tells about after John Henry died, he was "buried behind the white house in the sand where the sounds of the locomotives roared." The prisoner graveyard at the prison where John Henry was an inmate was comprised of sandy soil, and it was behind the main prison building, which was white at the time. And you could, in fact, hear the trains as they passed.


On top of that, the last mention of John Henry in the prison records was in 1873. No mention of him was found in the release records from that year. Prisoners who died were dropped from the records and buried in unmarked graves in the prisoners graveyard.

All this evidence is purely circumstantial. But when taken as a whole, most historians agree that John Henry was a real man, who really worked the rails, and did race a steam drill.


So, the story of John Henry is true. It might be embellished a bit, but it's a true story.

Many folktales, or tall tales, or legends, or fables, whatever you want to call them, are based on truth. And since I'm lazy tonight, today's oddity is an example.


There was a man named John Chapman. He was born in 1774 in Massachusetts. As a youth he joined the Swedenborgian Church. All his life he acted as a missionary. At the age of 18 he moved west to Ohio. There he apprenticed at an orchard. It was at this orchard that he fell in love with the care of trees.

He would travel around the frontier and buy plots of land where he would plant an orchard. He would fence them off and hire people to run them for him and he would move on. He started several orchards across several states. He preached his religion the entire time. (no....I'm not going to go into the details of Swedenborgianism)


Because he would wander about the frontier, he could only visit each orchard about every two years. Many people thought he was a common vagabond, but he was never lacking for a place to sleep in any of the towns he passed through.

After his orchards were well established, and he was satisfied that the person he hired to run it knew what they were doing, he would gift the orchard to the person. The actual number of orchards Chapman started isn't known, but it's though to be several dozen.


After he died, the story of John Chapman and his apple orchards spread. Someone wrote a story about him and called him Johnny Appleseed.

Many stories that people consider to be just stories have some basis in truth, In fact, I could write about one every day for the next several years before running out of subjects. But I won't. Because I don't want to. (oh hell....the phrase "I'll do it because I want to, not because you tell me to!" just ran through my head. If you don't recognize that phrase, go read some Mrs Piggle-Wiggle.)


And on that note, I'll leave you with the word Swedenborgianism. Because it's a funny word. Go ahead, say it out loud.

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