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"Ripsnorting Whoppers!: A Book of Ohio Tall Tales "

Ripsnorting Whoppers book coverIs 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 the fields?"

Then it hit me. "Oh!" I said. "You mean round bales."

"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 bales.'

"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 management!

"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 Wheat!"

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.


   

"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.

Ripsnorting Whoppers is currently out-of-print.

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