Catfish at the Pump: Humor and the Frontier

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University of Nebraska Press, 1982 - Fiction - 152 pages
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Were our forefathers liars? "You bet they were," says Roger Welsch, "and damned fine ones at that." The proof is in Catfish at the Pump, a collection of the kind of humor that softened the hardships of pioneering on the Great Plains. From yellowed newspapers, magazines, and forgotten Nebraska Federal Writers' Project files, the well-known folklorist and humorist Roger Welsch has produced a book to be treasured. Here are jokes, anecdotes, legends, tall tales, and lugubriously funny poems about the things that preoccupied the pioneer plainsman: weather extremes; soil quality; food and whiskey; an arkload of animals, including grasshoppers, bed bugs, hoop snakes, the ubiquitous mule, and some mighty big fish; and even sickness and the poverty that would inspire black laughter again in the Great Depression. Catfish at the Pump proves abundantly that the art of story telling was practiced diligently by our plains ancestors. Roger Welsch, who brought out Shingling the Fog and Other Plains Lies in 1972 (reprinted by the University of Nebraska Press in 1980), now issues this "book about lies and liars," knowing full well that "underlying the pioneer sense of humor is a profound respect for truth."

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Contents

Foreword and Introduction
1
Beyond Civilization
21
Just Summer and Winter
63
Catfish at the Pump
81
Sons of the West
113
Conclusion
139
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