I can recall my father spinning some tall tales as I was growing up. He was a fount of short little stories, silly little songs, and witty retorts. Which was strange because he did not talk much most of the time. Sometimes, though, like a coffee pot boiling over things came to the surface. I have always blamed his mother's Irish roots for his bouts of spontenaity and her German side for his silence! Every generation had some kind of Celtic roots - be it Ireland or Scotland - and so the basic idea was always possible they were the cause of those tall tales and stories.
For many years, I have been a storyteller traveling here and there sharing tales with children, adults and families in a variety of settings (schools, churches, community events, and libraries). Imagine my delight when doing some family history research I uncovered a brother to my father's great-great grandmother. The Ennis family had come from County Westmeath, by way of Dublin about 1730. Elizabeth Ennis was the only daughter of James Ennis, b. in Virginia and had brothers Zachariah, Ezekiel, Martin, William, John, Jesse, and perhaps others.
In the History of Greene and Jersery Counties, Illinois (1885) contains a sketch on what is believed to be this same Jesse. Imagine my delight as a I read. "Mr. Ennis, while a strictly honest and conscientious man, was rather noted in this locality for his aptitude for pretty tough yarns. One of these was, in describing the timber of this country, he said that he had cut down a sumach tree, from he split out some fourteen joists for a house. At another time he related a long story about taking the fiddle and sitting down near some rocks commenced to play, whereupon thousands of snakes came out of their dens, as they will, and that laying about with a club he killed some three thousand of them Many other stories he did tell all dealing in the same exaggerations." (80).
Anyone familiar with Irish folklore can detect the corpus of tales about the Irish Hercules, Cú Chulainn and numerous other familiar motifs which had no doubt fed his imagination as a youth and entertained the community as an elderly man.