Febold Feboldson is an American tall tale. He joins Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill, Mike Fink, John Henry, and Casey Jones in being American Folk Legends. Febold is my favorite tall tale to share, however, probably because his name is just so fun to say.
Febold was a Swedish farmer in Nebraska in the mid-1800's. He was a giant of a man physically if not mentally. Febold had an interesting way of getting things done; a way that more often than not didn't exactly obey the laws of reality and common sense.
In truth, Febold was an invention of a Nebraska lumber dealer named Wayne Carroll. Like other tall tales, Febold was concocted to entertain children at night and groups of all ages at local gatherings. Febold remained pretty much a local legend until a series of Febold Feboldson tales were published in 1923 in The Independent, a newspaper in Gothenburg, Nebraska. Febold so captured the imagination of people across the nation that his adventures have become told and retold all across America.
Here's one of my favorite Febold Feboldson tales:
Febold Feboldson needed a wife. Febold knew he was quite a catch, what with being a strong hardworking man with a prosperous farm on the Nebraska plains, but the problem was there was just no-one around to catch him! Not many people settled on the bleak dry Great Plains, and now that gold had been discovered in California, the only people Febold saw were in wagons trains headed for the gold fields. Febold tried waving his hat at the wagons, especially those carrying pretty young women, and shouting "Stay here! Live here!", but so far no-one had taken him up on his offer. They always shouted back that they were going to look for gold, and that it was just too blasted dry in Nebraska anyway.
Febold knew he had to come up with a plan. After thinking for several days, (something that Febold had never done before), he came up with the idea of bringing gold to Nebraska. Now Febold couldn't afford real gold, so he ordered a thousand shiny goldfish from Peru, and dumped them all in a lake near his sod shanty. Febold waited, and the next wagon train that came along had the prettiest blonde beauty that he'd ever seen sitting on the front seat of the very first wagon. Febold shouted that there was no need to go clear to California to get gold...that he had some right here. Well, the settlers jumped off their wagons and came charging across the plains to Febold's pond. They spent the entire day dipping their goldpans into the water. At the end of the day, not only had they not found any gold, but the terrible dry weather of the plains was beginning to get to them. It was so hot that they had to jump into the lake to keep from drying up! Olaf Swenson, the wagon master told Febold that it was just too darn dry there, it never rained, and they hadn't found any gold anyway, so he'd just be moving his wagon train on in the morning.
Febold's dream of living on his farm with the blonde (who just happened to be the wagon master's daughter) began to evaporate. Knowing he had to do something, Febold jumped up and shouted "Wait!!! I can make it rain before morning!! Then you can stay!!" Being tired from all that gold-panning anyway, the wagon master decided to stay the night and see what Febold could do. Febold thought and thought (he was getting better at this thinking stuff) and came up with a hundred ideas, but the best one seemed to be that if he built a really hot fire by the lake, the lake would evaporate, causing clouds that would gather over the prairie and make it rain. So Febold built the biggest, hottest bonfire that anyone had ever seen. Sure enough, the lake evaporated, and sure enough, clouds formed and sure enough, rain began to fall. The problem, however, was that the fire was so hot that it heated up the air near the ground and when all that rain hit the dry hot air it turned to fog. Now the prairie was covered with fog so thick that the pioneers couldn't see a thing. "Well" said Olaf the wagon master. "This prairie is just too foggy. I think we'll be moving on to California".
Once more Febold had visions of his blonde love leaving him and he shouted at the wagon train "Wait!!!! I can get rid of the fog!!!" Febold took out a giant pair of clippers that his grandpa had brought from Sweden. Febold snipped the thick fog into strips and buried them in his fields. Once the fog was gone, the rain reached the ground and everyone shouted with Joy, especially Febold and Olaf's daughter, as they'd been making eyes at each other.
But then a terrible thing happened. Febold hadn't buried one of the strips of fog quite deep enough and it escaped. Now it's a little known fact that rain clouds are very superstitious, and especially afraid of ghosts. That little escaped strip of fog looked so much like a ghost that the rain clouds got scared and up and ran away. With no more rain in sight, the wagon train began packing up to head for California again. Febold knew he had to find a way to bring back the rain.
Febold called all the settlers together and told them of his plan. It seemed that Febold had noticed that rain usually came when there was lots of Noise!! Hadn't anyone noticed that rain always came on the 4th of July when fireworks were making lots of racket? Or on parades and picnics when music and ballgames were sending up lots of noise. Now Febold knew that the noisiest things around were bullfrogs, so all that had to be done was to gather lots and lots of bullfrogs and they'd make such a racket that it would rain for sure!! Now Febold had this way about him...he could persuade most anyone of most anything, and somehow he convinced all the people of the wagon train that if they'd just help him catch thousands of frogs, it would rain. So off they went, catching frogs. They caught tens of thousands of frogs! Big ones, little ones, green ones, brown ones...even a few blue ones, which no one really understood, but they caught them anyway. They brought all the frogs together and waited for them to beginning croaking. They waited...and waited. The frogs uttered not a single peep, let alone a full fledged croak. It seems that frogs only croak either when it's raining or when other frogs are croaking. Febold's frogs were as silent as could be. Thinking quickly (well...quickly for Febold, which isn't saying much) Febold grabbed the biggest frog of the bunch and began to whisper in the frogs ear. "It's raining....It's raining...It's raining." Now I think I mentioned that Febold had a way about him of persuading...and sure enough Febold convinced that frog that rain was falling and the frog began to croak. Well, the other frogs took up the chorus and soon the entire plains was full of the sound of all those frogs singing away. And sure enough...the rain began to fall.
Well, Olaf was so impressed with Febold's powers that he stopped his wagon train right there and started a town around Febold's farm. Febold married Olaf's blonde daughter, the frogs kept croaking, the rain kept the Nebraska plains moist and fertile and they all lived happily ever after.