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Liars 2013


The 2013 West Virginia State Liars Contest took place on Saturday, June 22. It was part of the special Sesquicentennial edition of the Vandalia Gathering, bringing the heritage arts to the Mountain State’s 150th birthday celebration. Nothing livens up a party like a couple of tall tales, so here are excerpts from two of last year’s contest winners.

Congratulations to all of our 2013 winners:
Biggest Liar (First Place) - Adam Booth, Shepherdstown
Bigger Liar (Second Place) - Gary Buchanan, Creston
Big Liar (Third Place) - Scott Hill, Beckley
Youth (age 15 and under) - Jackson Sorrells, South Charleston



Three prize-winning liars from 2013. At left is Youth Award winner Scott Sorrells, from South Charleston. At center is third-place winner Scott Hill, from Beckley.
At right is second-place winner Gary Buchanon, from Creston, Calhoun County. First place was awarded to Adam Booth, of Shepherdstown. Photograph by Tyler Evert.

First Place (Biggest Liar) – Adam Booth, Shepherdstown
“Beauty Contest”

A buddy of mine is a rural community events planner, and he and his team just recently constructed a new community events building in southern West Virginia. They had a big grand opening ceremony, and he called me to be a part of it.

He asked me would I like to judge a beauty pageant in Wayne County. And I thought about it, and I said, “Yes, indeed I did want to judge a beauty pageant in Wayne County.” And he said, “Great! Go south of Wayne, about 20 or 25 minutes down 152.”

Now, if you’re from around there, like I am, you know that 20 or 25 minutes south of Wayne – that ain’t out Wayne, that’s wa-a-ay out Wayne. So I went wa-a-ay out Wayne down 152 to the community center.

It was a pretty little building, a few cars out in the parking lot, and there was a banner over the door that answered one very important question that I should have asked before I agreed to be a judge.

It said, “The First Annual Lower Wayne County Over-80 Beauty Pageant and Hot Dog Sale.” I was gawking at the banner when my buddy came out, and I said, “Over 80?” And he said, “Ain’t it great!” And he pulled me on in.

Now, they had divided the inside of the community center in half with one of those accordion dividers, because also happening that day on the other side of the building, the 4-H was having a goat judging competition.

Over on this side where the beauty pageant was, they had set out chairs. And eight or nine people had shown up to watch. There were three judges – myself, my buddy, and a representative from the governor’s office who “regretted that he could not be there in person” to judge the First Annual Lower Wayne County Over-80 Beauty Pageant and Hot Dog Sale.

We waited for the competitors. Slowly three beauties came in. There was Mabel A. Adkins, Dottie Ferguson Adkins, and Letha Adkins Ferguson – none of whom were related to each other. And we waited and waited for more competitors. My buddy went over to the other side to see if maybe people had gone to the wrong side of the building.

Before I knew it, he was pulling that divider back because only three goats had shown up for the 4-H competition, and he had made an executive decision to combine the two competitions so that the over-80 beauties and the goats were now competing against each other. They would alternate rounds of competition from one side to the other.

So the first round of competition was the general beauty competition. And the over-80 beauties came down the catwalk. They had made themselves up. They had pretty dresses and pretty make-up on with great southern West Virginia beauty queen hairstyles that I can only describe as the Cement Mixer, the Bundt Pan, and the Mushroom Cloud.

Following them, the goats came down. But they all received low scores, because they had all chosen to wear a beard to a beauty competition.

After the first round, Bundt Pan was in first place. Second place was a breeding goat, and third place was a tie between a meat goat and Mushroom Cloud. We went on to the second round of competition, which came from the 4-H side. This was the milking competition.

The goats came down the catwalk and a pail was placed under each one. See, it was the first competitor to fill their pail who would win the competition. Bundt Pan, Cement Mixer, and Mushroom Cloud looked at each other, they nodded, and they went up on the catwalk and took a stool next to each one of the goats. They decided it would be a team competition, and they began milking those goats. The team that won was meat goat and Mushroom Cloud, and that just boosted them right up to the top of the competition.

The third round was back on the beauty pageant side, and that was the talent competition. That was really great. The judges were really impressed because there was a recitation of the preamble, one of them played the fiddle, a goat tap danced a little bit, and one of the beauties came forth and she was singing her favorite song, “...down upon the Swanee River...”

Right as she got to that high note, her mouth was so wide open that her teeth fell out on the floor. And a goat, thinking it was a can, came over and gobbled them up and kept going like this as she sang, and it turned into a really great ventriloquism act that just pushed that meat goat all the way up to first place.

Now there were several more rounds of competition, but by this point, Bundt Pan was so far in the back that she bowed out of the competition. Two of the goats, they had decided that this wasn’t their thing anymore, and they were eating hot dogs in the back row. And poor old Cement Mixer had fallen asleep.

So it was in a dead heat between the meat goat and Mushroom Cloud. Then came the final round of competition – the interview. The question was, “If you are the crowned the First Annual Miss Over-80 Lower Wayne County, what would you do to fight hunger?”

Mushroom Cloud stepped right up and answered without even thinking, “I would bake more cookies.” So pleasant. And they passed the microphone to the meat goat, and the meat goat gave another great answer, “Mehhh...ma-aa-hh,” which put all of us judges into a big deliberation.

We thought about it and argued for a while, and then finally we decided that Mushroom Cloud had come up with the better answer. So we crowned her the First Annual… . This is when Cement Mixer woke up.

And she looked, and she stood up, and she said, “Wait a minute! She’s 79!” Mushroom Cloud was so confused and distraught, she said, “It’s true. I’m only 79.” Which meant that, by default, meat goat won the First Annual Lower Wayne County Over-80 Beauty Pageant.

By agreeing to be a judge, I didn’t know that I had also agreed to take the winner out on a date. Everyone thought the joke was on me, but really the joke was on the goat, because Mushroom Cloud had actually won the goat from the 4-H raffle to serve at her restaurant, which is where my date was.

So, that is how I won a date with the prettiest old goat in Wayne County, and boy she sure tasted good!

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.



Gary Buchanon, second-place winner. Photograph by Tyler Evert.

Second Place (Big Liar) - Gary Buchanan, Creston
“Time Travel”

Years ago my daddy took me to Talcott. The C&O Railroad was making a tunnel over there, and they had brought in this steam-powered hammer. My daddy wanted to see it.

When we got there, there was a huge crowd. My daddy asked what was going on, and he was told there was this large Negro man who worked for the railroad. He was the best hammer man anyone had ever seen, so they decided to have a contest.

It had been going on all day, and that man had only stopped twice for a little sip of water. Pretty soon a huge cheer went through the crowd, and people were shouting, “The man bested the machine! The man bested the machine!”

I told my daddy I wanted to meet that man, so I worked my way over through the crowd. When I got there, he was all sprawled out on the ground. His wife was kneeling next to him, holding one hand. In his other hand he had his hammer. And he was dead.

I told the lady I was sorry, and I asked her what his name was. And she said, “They calls him John Henry.”

My daddy always said that we can learn lessons from things that happen in life. He asked me if I learned anything there today. And I said, “Yes sir. I don’t want to work for the railroad.”

In 1888, I was asked to go down to the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy. It seems there was two families down there, one from West Virginia, one from Kentucky. And they’d been killing each other for quite some time. They asked me if I could do anything.

So I was walking up the road to this family’s cabin, and there was all these daffodils growing along the road because it was early spring. So I got an idea. I picked a bunch of them daffodils and carried them with me. When I got to that cabin, they all came out to meet me, men and boys, women and children, babies and dogs. And they all had rifles, even the dogs. So I walked right up without saying anything, and I put one of them daffodils in the barrel of each of them rifles. And them people were so happy that some stranger would do something kind that they decided not to shoot their neighbors any more.

Now I had to find a way to keep their neighbors from shooting them. So I told them boys, “When you want to wave to your neighbor, don’t be waving with one finger like you have been doing. Wave with two fingers like this. And that will show them that you don’t want to fight any more.

I’ve been told that people later started calling this the peace sign. I don’t know. That’s how I settled the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys.

Have a happy sesquicentennial, and thank you for listening to my story. Goodbye, goodbye.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.