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2014 Liars Contest

The tales were tall and the bull was flying at the State Liars Contest at last year's Vandalia Gathering. This annual event proudly provides some of the most preposterous prevarications we have ever been privy to. Once the air was cleared, the winners were announced. They were:

Biggest Liar (First place) - Fred Pollack, Charleston

Fred Pollack. Photograph by Tyler Evert.

"Kanawha Kraken"

The Kanawha River starts out at Gauley Bridge up there where the New River and the Gauley come together. Then it goes 97 miles down to the Ohio River.

If you look carefully somewhere between the South Side Bridge and the Highway 64 bridge, there’s some kind of big fish under there. Now, Mayor Danny Jones says it’s just a big catfish. But a catfish with eyes that glow? I don’t think so.

I did a little research on this, and I went right here in Charleston, in this Cultural Center, to the Archives in the basement to find out what’s going on.

I found out that the Marmet Locks were built in 1924 to control flooding in Charleston. But the Winfield Locks? Why? Then I found a document down there from the government that said they were trying to control the Kanawha Monster right here in Charleston and keep it here.

I didn’t believe it, so I asked some politicians. I asked Governor Manchin right next door here at the Governor’s Mansion when he was governor before he was a senator, and he said he thinks he saw something in the EPA documents in his library. So I went there, but unfortunately it was the one that he’d shot with a shotgun so it wasn’t there anymore.

Brigadier General Chuck Yeager was here in town, and I asked him, “You know that time in 1957 when you flew under the South Side Bridge, did you see anything?” He said, “Yeah, a huge thing. It was as big as a school bus.” But he’ll never mention it again. He’ll never talk about it again. And he never has.

I asked Shelly Moore Capito if she knew anything about it, and she said, “Talk to Mitch McConnell, because I always vote the way he does anyway.”

And Mitch McConnell said, “As long as you keep that thing out of Kentucky then we’re all right. We need the water to make good whiskey.”

Last summer in July I was walking along the Kanawha River right in front of the capitol, down on the lower walkway, and there on the side was a beached little fish. When I say little, I’m talking four feet long. It had big kind of jaw-like teeth, and it didn’t look good. Its little wings were kind of all shriveled up, and its little dorsal scales didn’t look good. The only thing I could think to do is I threw it in the back of my pick-up truck, took it up to South Hills where I live, and threw it in my swimming pool.

All last summer we worked on resuscitating that little fish monster. “Kanawha Kraken” some people call it. We didn’t know what to give it, so we tried everything. We tried a little bit of vitamins, minerals. We went down to GNC at the mall to get some stuff, and it wouldn’t get better. Finally my kids gave it some candy. And it got better! Its little wings perked up, its eyes started to shine again. And they found it was best on Good ’n’ Plenty candy.

We studied why. It wasn’t the sugar. It turned out it was the licorice. The licorice was making that darn fish healthy again. My kids, for their science project, found out that if you gave it one part per billion of licorice, then it was okay.

And that little thing got better and better. I went back down to the Archives here, and I looked back in the dustiest part, right below where the museum is, where there happens to be a fossil. They say it’s extinct – big lie.

Then I found out there’s a government program with a front called something like Freedom Enterprises that’s supposed to supply the licorice for the water for these monsters that are going to be used for defense purposes.

But nobody listened to me. I’ve got to come to the liars contest to tell this. So the only way I can get my word out is maybe if I get first prize in this contest. Thank you.

Bigger Liar (Second place) - Ariana Kincaid, Charleston

Fred Pollack. Photograph by Tyler Evert.


I love the sound of bagpipes. It’s one of my favorite instruments, and that’s part of the reason why I love coming to Vandalia because I get to hear them out there in the Great Hall. It’s just such a neat sound. It starts with this low droning noise, then it works up to this screeching, high-pitched squeal. I don’t think that it’s any accident that the word that you read when you read about bagpipes, that they describe the sound as skirling. Skirling is a synonym for shrieking.

After the Jacobite uprising in 1745, the British, who won that one unfortunately, they outlawed the bagpipes in addition to kilts and plaid. They outlawed the bagpipes as a weapon of war. They were afraid of the sound of the bagpipes, literally.

We were wondering one day how the bagpipes came to be. Why would you figure that a plaid sack and some sticks would make this noise? I have a cousin who’s done a lot of genealogy for our family, and he’s looked into our family tree. And our earliest traceable forebear actually had a notation near one of his inventions that it was an inspiration for the invention of the bagpipes.

These plans that we saw looked like a chair. They called it the highland litter, and it was two rectangles that were made of wood that were criss-crossed and kind of pinned together. The rope was lashed between two of the arms of the “X” that this frame made. So that made sort of the seat and also held the chair together. These plans were some 250 years old.

I also am involved with a group of reenactors, many of whom wear the kilt.     I told them about these plans that my cousin had found, and they said, “Yes, we’ve got to make this chair. This is awesome. It’s the earliest known folding chair.” And so we made one, and we took it to the next encampment and everybody wanted to sit in it and try it out.

So as the evening wore on, with more people sitting in it, the ropes in the chair started to settle and sag a little bit. And of course dew had settled on it which led to more stretching of the ropes. My friend Walt had helped me build the chair, so he got to be the last one to sit in it and chose it for his chair for the evening.

We were sitting around the fire playing music, singing. A couple people had bagpipes out. And other things began to settle within the kilt as he was sitting in the chair. It began to settle through the ropes of the chair. We didn’t realize that he was sitting close to the fire, so as the evening wore on, the ropes actually started to tighten back up again. We’d been drinking, and nature began to call. So Walt went to answer nature’s call, and, as he stood, the chair rose with him. And we heard this sort of low, moaning, droning noise before it reached up to a screech as Walt was trying to pull this off of him. As he was silhouetted in the firelight, we saw the sticks of the chair over his shoulder tied together with the ropes and the thing in front and this plaid-covered bag. It was horrible. And that is how the bagpipes came to be invented.

Big Liar (Third place) - Gary Buchanan, Creston

Youth Award - Noah Lepp, Charleston

Fred Pollack. Photograph by Tyler Evert.

“The Five Bears”

You may not know this, but Warren Buffett really likes to hold contests. A couple months back actually, he held a contest that whoever could tell him a story that was undeniably false, he would give them $5 million. And lots of people came and lots of people told him stories, but the four financial advisors who were acting as judges always said that the story could’ve been true. A while into the contest, I came in and I told him this story:

A long time ago when my dad was a kid, he saw these five bears out in the woods. He thought it would be really cool if he could catch and tame and ride those bears. So he started chasing them, and he chased them for many years. But then eventually he started to get old, no offense, and he enlisted me to chase the bears for him. So I chased them all around West Virginia.

I chased them over Spruce Knob, around Dolly Sods, all the way up to the Northern Panhandle, all the way across Blennerhassett Island, through a still in Upright, West Virginia, and through the Great Hall of the Culture Center. I managed to catch those bears, and I started to tame them and train them. I made sure to give them lots of food and water, although make no mistake, I gave them bottled water because I didn’t want to give them any Elk River tap water because there was MCHM in it. I thought that stood for “Mean Crazy Hostile Mammals,” and I didn’t want that to happen to my bears.

I trained those bears to do all kinds of crazy stuff. I taught them how to do a conga line, I taught them how to juggle, I taught them how to let me ride all five of them at the same time. I tamed those bears so well that a guy from the Ukraine called and asked me to tame the Russian bear.

So I was riding the bears around this area here, and Mr. Buffett – remember, this is the story I was telling Warren Buffett - Mr. Buffett and the four financial advisors they saw me riding those bears. They were so impressed at how tame they were that they asked to buy them from me for $1 million apiece. Except I couldn’t make change for a $10 million bill right then, so they decided to pay me at a later date. The date they agreed upon was today. So, Mr. Buffett, if your advisors agreed that this story is true, then they owe me $5 million for the bears. If they agree it is false, I win the contest and I win $5 million. Thank you. I’ll be here all weekend.


Congratulations to our winners! Here are excerpts from some of the winning tales. Photographs by Tyler Evert.

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