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THE TELLING OF TALL TALES

Beth Jensen won first place at Hathaway Jones festival held this weekend. ().
Beth Jensen won first place at Hathaway Jones festival held this weekend. ().

Pilot story and photos

by Joe Friedrichs

GOLD BEACH –Ask Beth Jensen about Hathaway Jones; she remembers him well.

The late mail carrier for Curry County, who spent his years telling tall tales and dropping off letters along the Rogue River, left Jensen with an abundance of stories all her own.

At the Curry County fairgrounds in Gold Beach on Saturday, one of those stories won her $300 in the annual Hathaway Jones Tall Tales Festival.

Jensen, dressed appropriately for a rainy Oregon evening in a green hat and slicker, reminisced about Jones, a cat, a skunk and a fish.

It was a calm afternoon many years ago when the incident occurred, Jensen said.

The audience was wide-eyed and focused as she explained how Jones was sitting on a rocking chair, gently petting the cat when he looked down and confused the black and white animal for a stinking skunk.

Using experssive gestures, Jensen described that Jones, terrified of skunks, tossed the cat 10 feet in the air. After that, he ran full speed to his rowboat stationed on the Rogue.

"He paddled as hard and fast as he could to get out of there," Jensen said. "That was the first ever Rogue River jet boat ride."

Several days passed before Jones returned to the Jensen property, thrilled with a fish he caught on the river earlier that morning. Apparently it was the biggest fish caught out of the Rogue in some time. Jensen said she was skeptical because Jones, as everybody knew, was notorious for elaborating his stories.

When Jones led her to his boat, there were no fish on board. The only thing there was a big rubber sack. It appeared, once again, that Jones was only telling a tall tale.

When Jensen returned home that long-ago afternoon, she saw her cat on the porch. The feline was licking his chops and appeared to be smiling.

Upon a closer investigation, Jensen noticed the cat's breath smelled like fish. It had eaten the very fish that Jones had caught.

"The cat had gotten his revenge," Jensen said.

Tall tales such as Jensen's were told to a crowd of approximately 100 people.

There were three categories for the storytellers: junior, intermediate and adult divisions. Fifteen people participated in the festival.

Nicole Rodgers of Brookings placed second in the adult division, behind Jensen.

"I think that Beth was awesome," Rodgers said. "She deserved first place with no question."

Rodgers admitted that she was a little nervous before taking the stage.

"I didn't know what to expect," she said. "You might end up looking like a total idiot up there."

Rodgers pieced together her tall tale at 11 the morning of the competition, she said.

Her story was about the son of Jones attempting to put an end to all electronic communication. He was attempting to do this so that the United States Postal Service would return to its once booming success.

Many of the adult's stories were focused on something related directly to Hathaway Jones.

The children at the event seemed to be looser with the term "tall tale."

Stories about the death of Bigfoot and why a butterfly has its wings were told by the young performers.

Eddie Freeman stood on his head while he told about a giant turkey he shot last fall.

Freeman finished in second place.

The master of ceremonies for the festival was Scott Lewis, the weatherman for Newswatch Channel 12, the ABC affiliate in Medford.

"I thought the turnout this year was great," he said. "There were some treasures on stage."

Lewis has been the guest host for the event the past several years.

"I actually look forward to this every year," he said.

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