Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Legend Of Captain Stormalong

A New England Folk Tale
As told by the Riverman
Back in the old days, things would happen that you'd never believe now. Why, things that seemed downright magical were commonplace back then. Pigs could fly, birds could talk and farm boys could marry princesses! I know some of it because I was there and some of it because other folks have told me. My name is Riverman, and I tell stories for a living. Or maybe I live for stories. Either way, I have a whopper for you today, you lucky people. A tale so tall that the stars... well... you'll see what the stars have to do with the story later!

We start out on the coast of New England. Now, I know, some of you are sayin' "Why Riverman, that aint one certain place, that's a whole mess of states! Well, it happened a long time ago, and like I said, things was different then. In New England, there was a boy born. A boy so big, his momma must have burst wide open, cause we never heard from her again! (Though for those worried about such things, I'm sure she survived having this boy and is just fine. Probably eating a whoopie pie somewhere right now!) 

This boy was huge! Why, he was bigger as a baby than some small men are as boys! His proud poppa named him Alfred Bulltop Stormalong. A big name for a bigger baby, and soon, young Stormalong grew even bigger. By the time he was up and stomping around, Alfred was five fathoms tall! (For those of you that fancy yourselves landlubbers and don't know better, that's near 30 feet, which is plenty tall.) All his childhood, Stormalong was fascinated by the Atlantic Ocean. Every day he would wander down to the sea and gaze out at it, watching the boats as the worked and the waves as they crashed.

Finally, one day, much younger than you or I could have gotten away with it, Stormalong walked up to a fishing boat, it's sails wide and white, and joined the crew. The captain was nervous about taking the lad on. Not because he was so young, mind you, but because a mouth that big can eat a mighty amount of food. But the nearby lighthouse had been damaged in a storm and the good captain knew that he needed someone for a lookout that could see for a long ways and without a doubt, 30 foot tall Stormalong sure fit that bill!

It wasn't long to sea before their new lookout earned his keep. It was a Wednesday, memorable because the crew got the good grog on Wednesdays, when Stormalong happened to look up and noticed a ship fast approaching, and with his big eyes, so high off the ground, he noticed something else... Every man aboard the ship was carrying cutlasses and looked dangerous - pirates! 

Stormalong's ship went into a flurry of motion, but they were a simple fishing boat and didn't have much along the lines of defenses. Then our lad had an idea and poured their thick barrels of real New England Maple Syrup across the decks. When the pirates boarded, they were stuck fast in the syrup, bogged down in the sweet trap, and Stormalong simply knocked them out, swinging a 10 foot log like it was a baseball bat! (Though of course, baseball didn't exist back then, so no one rooted for the Red Socks.) 

Naturally, his quick thinking and mighty brawn made Stormalong mighty popular on that there boat, and he was promoted to first mate, forthwith. For a while, things went just grand for our lad. He  grew and grew, his strength matching his height, and he sailed the atlantic, eating whole schooners of Clam Chowder, drinking vats of coffee and having adventures. 
Then, one fateful day, something changed. That's what made it fateful, you see? The ship was attacked by the Kraken. I see some of you recoiling in fear and some of you raising your eyebrows in confusion. Those recoiling are correct, for the Kraken was a truly fearful creature! Hundreds of feet long, half teeth, half tentacle, one quarter beak and two thirds giant eye, the kraken has wrecked more ships than king Neptune and that iceberg from Titanic combined! 

It was close for Stormalong's crew. their hull was cracked, their hopes were dashed and the Kraken was hungry. So thinking big, the only way he could think, Stormalong dove into the water to distract and fight the kraken on his own! Just his mighty dive sent tidal waves to Africa and the ensuing battle was so tremendous that a mighty crack opened in the ocean floor, lava flowed out, an island was created, then torn apart by their battle. 

Then that fateful thing happened. First Mate Alfred Bulltop Stormalong lost! The Kraken wrapped it's mighty tentacles tight and squeezed him until he was close to death. But the beastie was in pretty rough shape too, Stormalong was no pushover, and before it could finish the job, it had to retreat, and fled to the depths of the Atlantic.

His mates towed Stormalong to shore in Maine, where they revived him by dropping anvils on his chest from the Portland Head Light until he coughed up the seawater he'd swallowed.

Defeated and despairing, Stormalong did something even I could never have forseen. The mighty sailor walked two hours away to Idaho, the only place that grew potatoes big enough for Stormalong to pick without crushing them. One time I visited ol' Stormalong's farm and asked him for 150lbs of potatoes. And you know what that giant said to me? He said "Why Riverman, you're gonna have to get your potatoes from somewhere other than Idaho if you want 150lbs! We don't cut our potatoes in half for no one!"

Then winter arrived in Idaho, and Stormalong realized that he didn't much like the snow or wind and he strolled South, to big, bold Texas, where he bred blue oxen, even selling one to a lumberjack fellow up north. He was pretty happy in Texas. They had spicy food and everything was big down there, but the land was flat and they got mighty twisters - mean tornadoes that tore everything up. 

The first time Stormalong saw one of these, he hollered to his neighbor. "Hey there!" he said. The neighbor stopped and nodded his hat to Stormalong - even during a twister, Texans are polite to their neighbors. "What do we do during a tornado?" Stormalong asked. "I've never been in one!"

His neighbor pointed to the ground and shouted "Jist git low an' hole on tight, partner!" then he ran into a barn.

Stormalong thought about the advice for a bit and did just that. When the tornado got close, 'ol Stormy ducked low and grabbed that twister tight around the middle! Well it didn't care for that! That twister went to bucking and writhing, twisting and un-twisting! It was a mighty strong wind, but Stormalong had been working out since the Kraken and he was even stronger, and he held tight! Finally, the tornado gave up and fell apart, dumping Stormalong into the gulf of Mexico.

Well, as Stormy's feet got wet, he remembered how much he liked being a sailor and walked right back home - North to New England. 

The folks up there were wicked happy to see him back and threw him the biggest lobster bake ever thrown. After the feast, where Stormalong ate over three thousand lobsters, he built himself a boat, the biggest sailing ship ever built!  Named the Tuscaroura, after the mighty and beautiful Indians where he grew up, Stormalong's ship was so long, the crew used a stable of Arabian horses to get from one end of the deck to the other. The sails were so large that they had to be stitched in the desert and the mast was so high that they had to fold it down at night to let the stars pass by! (I told you the stars would be in the story later!) The ship was so wide that onece, sailing past the Grey Cliffs of Dover, the ship got jammed up and the crew had to cover the cliffs with soap to slip free, turning them white. 

Well, this wouldn't be a good tale if Stormalong never met the Kraken again, and rest assured, this is a good story. He met that beastie many a time and each time, he did a little better fighting it until the last time, when Stormalong was old and big and wise and hairy, like any good New England sea captain, he finally defeated that slimy monster, by lassooing it Texas-style and drawing the creature into a massive whirlpool.  Some say it's there still, trapped in the ocean, and if you stray too close, it can still pull you down, so Stormalong drew a triangle around it so that people would know to stay out.

He had many other adventures. Stormalong challenged the captain of a newfangled steamboat to a race and won after a hard battle, he helped dig the Panama canal and finally, one night, after Stormalong was old and tired, he fell asleep at the helm, the first time ever and found himself blown into the midst of a hurricane! He wasn't alone though, for hurricanes are sneaky and like to collect ships, and there were many boats a-flying around in that storm. Stormy knew he had to do something, so he gathered them up as they flew past, plucking them from the waves and carefully lashing the boats to the deck. 

It was hard, dangerous work, but that's what sailors are best at and by the end of the hurricane, Stormalong managed to save every last boat caught in it. The storm was too much for the giant man though and he died just as they reached Boston safely. From the depths of the green waters a boiling, bubbling form arose. It was Davy Jones himself, towing his locker along with him, to accept the great sea captain into it. All of New England showed up for the funeral at sea, saluting the legendary Alfred Bulltop Stormalong as he faded into legend.

Are you gonna finish that last dunkin' doughnuts' muffin?

Riverman is a traveling talesman, a spinner of lies and a twister of truths. He wanders the nation collecting stories and telling tales. If you see him in your town, offer him a crust of bread and some soup in return for a story. You wont be disappointed.

This was just for fun... I wanted to type, but didn't feel like working on a book, so I decided to retell the legend that we based the name of our new car on. Riverman is the narrator of a different book I'm writing who has managed to hijack the story, insert himself into it and make everything better. Or so he says.


randymeiss said...

I loved the story, thank you! It reminds of a recent email fellow bloger steveratrandom sent me. "You keep writing, I'll keep reading."

You've got talent up to your armpits, Kris! I can't wait to see your first publication.

Steve at Random said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve at Random said...

I've gotta whale of tale to tell you boy, a whale of tale or two...'bout a fella name Kris who likes to write and others who like to read tall tales. Keep it up Kris.