Ivan Hathaway Jones (1870-1937) was a master spinner of tall tales, a native Oregonian, and the son and grandson of pioneers of the Oregon Trail. He lived most of his life in the Rogue River canyon and traveled through this remote area as a contract mail carrier from 1898 until his accidental death in 1937, trekking the narrow mountain trails and bringing stories to the isolated people of the region.

They were tall tales made up on muleback. He delivered "mail" and various mail order catalogue items to the homesteaders, miners and all who lived along the Rogue River. He had lots of time to make up stories as he led his pack string of anywhere from two to more than a dozen mules and horses. Most were stories about himself.

Hathaway Jones is credited with the authoring the largest collection of Tall Tales in the world. Folks around the Rogue River STILL talk about this guy. Some even do impersonations of him. Hathaway Jones could have been the Aesop or the Garrison Keillor of his time.

There are only a few folks alive today who knew Hathaway. They all seem to tell the same story of how they got the impression that when Hathaway was entertaining folks with his yarns, that he actually believed the tales he told.

They also tell stories of how Hathaway had one type of tale for the ladies and children and another type of tale for when the men folk gathered round. The Tall Tales Festival held each year near Hathaways hometown in Oregon celebrates the family type tales. Leaving all others to use their imagination as to what may or may not have been said in private company.

Rumors abound that he was married to Flora Dell, but there are no records on that union. Hathaway is buried on a hill over looking Big Bend Oregon on "private property". His tombstone has what some consider a misspelling of his name, HATHWAY JONES.

However it could be that since Hathaway spoke with a very pronounced lisp, that the person who cast the tombstone (concrete slab) may have well thought that Hathway was his actual name.

Stephen Dow Beckham has published a book that includes many of the tales told by Hathaway Jones.

Tall Tales from Rogue River: The Yarns of Hathaway Jones.

This collection of his amusing and delightful tales is one of the largest ascribable to one yarn-spinner in the United States. The introduction to the collection puts Hathaway Jones into historical context in the oral tradition of tall tales, tells his personal history, and identifies the informants who kept his tales alive.

The Friends of Hathaway Jones has tried to keep the tradition alive, along with help from The Tall Tales Gazette. Sponsoring the Traveling Trophy that is given out each year to the overall winner at the Tall Tales Festival.

The trophy made in 2002 by World renowned artist: S.K. Hughes of Bagnell, Oregon is made of locally harvested Myrtlewood. Standing almost three feet high it includes an antique mail pouch containing copies of winners names and their tall tales. Also included is the local paper heralding the winners of that years event.
Each year the trophy is passed on to the next winner.

Hathaway and the Balky Mule

I swam a river with my mule one fall to go hunting in one of my favorite spots. I must have picked a good day because I bagged two five point bucks within an hour. I just got them cleaned up when I heard a noise. I turned around and looked at the business end of the biggest black bear I had ever seen.

I just had time to get off one shot but that did it. I cleaned him up to take home for jerky meat. I loaded the two five points on the mule without any trouble, but when I tried to load the big bear the mule just wouldn’t have no part of it.

I went ahead and packed the bear myself and let the mule pack the two deer. Then we came to the river and the mule balked again. She just would not go into the water with those deer on her back. I told her she could stay there as far as I was concerned and I tied the two deer to the back of the bear and then kind of got inside the bear so that all three of them were on my back. I eased into the river and headed across.

Right away I started having trouble. I was lower than I had figured I would be and I was having trouble keeping my nose above water so I could breath. I just kept swimming as hard as I could and I somehow I made it to the other side. Then I saw the problem. That mule had somehow crawled up on top of those two deer.

"That's mah story, an I'm stickin' to it"

Hathaway and the Poisonous Snake

One fall I hitched the mules up to my wagon, threw in my cross cut saw, wedge and maul and headed to Indigo to cut a load of fire wood.

Just as I was pulling into the prairies I heard a noise that I didn’t like. It was a rattlesnake and he was close. I stopped the team and listened real good. I could tell by listening to the rattles when the snake was goin’ to strike.

I waited until just the right moment and then pulled back hard on the reins and them mules reared right up and the snake struck right under the lead mule and nailed the wagon tongue.

I jumped down and unhitched the mules as fast as I could and then got my cross cut out of the wagon and started sawing on the wagon tongue. It was swelling really fast. The sweat was really running. I got ‘er sawed off just in time to save the wagon.

I chopped down a Cedar pole and made a new wagon tongue. Then I sawed the old swelled up wagon tongue in blocks and worked it up. It took me three trips to get all the wood out of there.

Got most of my winter wood supply out of that one wagon tongue. I don’t know where them Indigo snakes get all their poison.

"That's mah story, an I'm stickin' to it"

Hathaway and the Big Snake

The biggest snake I ever saw was about two miles from my cabin. I was heading home and noticed that a tree had fallen across the trail. I made a note to come back and cut it out to clear the trail. I jumped up on the tree and it moved. It was a rattlesnake. He didn’t take kindly to me standing on his back and I didn’t stay long.

I headed for the cabin as fast as I could go and that snake was right behind me. I could hear him following me and I knew he was trying to get close enough to strike. I made it to the top of the clearing and then down to the cabin. I opened the door, dove inside and closed the door, all in one motion, just as he struck. His fangs came right through the cabin door. I took a big hammer and bent them over. That really made him mad.

He tried to get them out and pulled so hard he pulled my cabin right off of the rock foundation. When he started crawling backwards, I went out the window. I sat there watching my cabin going up towards the top of the prairie. Finally the snake backed between to big Ponderosa pines and the cabin wouldn’t fit through.

That snake was really mad and he pulled and pulled and pulled until he pulled his fangs out and left them in the door. He crawled away and I hitched up the mules and drug my cabin back down to the bottom of the meadow and finally got it back on the foundation.

I chopped them fangs out of my front door and gave one to Charlie King and he made a pick out of it and mined with it for four or five years. I kept the other around the house for weeding the garden.

I knew there was one bigger snake around because I heard some squirrels chirping one day and snuck up on them. They were on a pond and were sitting on some chips holding their tails up to catch the wind and they were racing.

When they left I looked at one of the chips they was riding on. It was about the size of a large plate. It was a scale off of a rattlesnake. I never saw that snake but he must have been a big one.

"That's mah story, an I'm stickin' to it"

Tall Tales Festival
Past Winners

Hathaway and the Long Shot

I prefer long shots myself. One hunting season I went to one of my favorite spots and sat down and looked across Deep Canyon to the old Rankin homestead. There was a pretty fair orchard there and the deer used to come for the apples in the late fall.

I didn’t see any bucks in the orchard but I did spot one at the upper end of the meadow. He was a big one too. I watched him for a while and noticed that he was feeding towards the bottom of the meadow where the orchard was located. I studied him for about 10 minutes and noticed the route he was takin’.

It was a long ways across Deep Canyon so I had to do some calculatin’. I know’d how long it would take for the bullet to get across the canyon and I figured that old buck would be right under the first apple tree when the bullet got there. So that’s where I had to aim.

It was so far across that canyon that I had to point my rifle darned near straight up. I shot and then I headed down to the bottom of Deep Canyon and then I climbed up the other side.

When I got to the bottom of the meadow I could see the buck right where I figured he would be, under that apple tree. But he was still feeding. I was trying to figure out where I had miscalculated when all of a sudden, whack, the bullet arrived and down went the buck.

That was one of the longest shots I ever made. Too many of them can ruin a good rifle.

"That's mah story, an I'm stickin' to it"





Tall Tales Festival
Past Winners

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