Whoppers!: A Book of Ohio Tall Tales "
The Tall Tale Dead? Judge for Yourself.
The annual Farm Bureau banquet was over, people
were leaving. I, the guest speaker, was gathering up my things
and saying my thanks and goodbyes when I became aware of him
standing in front of me.
"Farmers are kind of reserved, you might say.
Taciturn is the word, I think. They don't talk much about
a resource we have around here, the Shredded Wheat stud farms."
I wasn't sure I had heard him correctly.
"You've seen 'em," he said. "Big round things,
look like they're made out of hay, standing around out in
Then it hit me. "Oh!" I said. "You mean round
"Some people call 'em that, but Shredded Wheats
is what they are ... it's an animal like any other. If you
get them when they're little, in the larva stage, the veal,
you might call it, well, then, when they're young and tender,
you can eat them for a breakfast cereal if you want to. Later
on, as they grow larger, they get tougher and they're only
fit for cattle fodder.
"You see 'em out in the fields grazing, big
round things. Originally bred from a hybrid cross between
the Tumbleweed and the Wooly Worm, you know.
"They're slow to mature. You drive by a field
of grass three feet high? They're in there, little Shredded
Wheats, running all around on the ground like mice. And then,
the next day, you drive by that same field and all the grass
is gone, just like that! What's happened? Why, they've gone
and eaten it all up! Suddenly reached what the Ag professors
call the 'pupae' stage. You see them, rectangular shapes in
this stage of their life, scattered all over a field where
the day before there was nothing but grass. Overnight, those
little creatures will eat fifty times their weight in grass,
nibblin' it right down to the ground and converting their
intake to body parts!
"Then they're dormant for a while. Farmers don't
have to chase 'em around much. A farmer'll just go over to
one of 'em, pick it up and pile it onto a flatbed wagon along
with the rest. You see farmers sometimes driving a tractor
slowly down the road, pulling a whole load of rectangular
pupae-stage Shredded Wheats, stacked up a dozen high. Ever
wonder what are those farmers doing? Why, they're transporting
those Shredded Wheats over to other fields of grass where
they can graze some more and develop into the final, mature
state, all big and round, what they call, like you said, 'round
"Sometimes you see these 'round-baled' Shredded
Wheats standing in a field, all of them solitary and apart,
keeping away from each other. That means there's trouble in
the herd, and none of 'em are speaking to one another. But
that's unusual, actually. Most often you see 'em in the single
file herd formations they seem to prefer, all lined up in
a row and waiting for you to drive on by so that they can
cross the road, one at a time, Indian style, the way they
like to do.
"A herd of Shredded Wheats was playing leapfrog." Illustration
by Maureen O'Keefe.
"Shredded Wheat stud farmers are forming an
association and they're going to start a Shredded Wheat Promotion
and Research check-off program, the sole goal bein' increased
profitability for U.S. Shredded Wheats. They want to find
new uses for their product and, if you've tasted it as a breakfast
cereal, I think you'll agree that human consumption should
be way down toward the bottom of the list.
"Oh, yes, they're going to hire university researchers
and scientists and whole teams of marketeers to look into
competing with the Brillo Pad, and the makers of Excelsior
packaging material. You ever see in the big cities how they
have these huge street-sweeping trucks? Pah! Those things
are noisy and they pollute the air. Well, sir, there's some
fellow out to the University of Nebraska who's just about
got some round-baled Shredded Wheats trained to do the same
job. They make no noise, they're non-polluting and they eat
the trash right up off the street. Talk about solid waste
"The Shredded Wheat check off people are going
to hire Paul Harvey to go on the radio calling their product
"the only green meat," just like he called pork "the other
white meat." Of course, Shredded Wheat isn't really green,
but then pork isn't really white neither, truth be told.
During mating season they go to pieces, just
like everyone else. The farmers have to wrap them in that
industrial strength vinyl you see, comes in both white and
black. They have to seal 'em up like that to keep 'em from
reproducing. Why, if it weren't for those vinyl wrappings,
this whole country would be nothing but wall-to-wall Shredded
And then he turned and was out the door before
I could even thank him for the valuable information he had
provided me about this little known resource.