"Tall Tales" - Adventure for Deadlands
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Player Handout: Pecos Bill & Slue Foot Sue

Pecos Bill and Slue-Foot Sue

Pecos Bill was, according to legend, the ultimate cowboy of the western frontier. Whatever a cowboy could do, Pecos Bill could do it best, and taught everyone else how to do it. (In fact, many of the legends credit him as teaching a number of the "critters" of the West a thing or two.)

The adventures of Pecos Bill started when he was an infant. His parents decided that Texas was too small, so they loaded their sizeable family onto a wagon and headed west. While crossing the Pecos River, the wagon hit a rock and the baby bounced out of the wagon and into the water while no one was looking. Fortunately, a pack of coyotes raised the child and raises him as their own. In most versions of this legend, Pecos Bill never sees his family again, but in one particular version, he rides the infamous cyclone to California, where he finds his long-lost family and lives happily ever after.

Various tales of Pecos Bill feature him performing some wild stunt, demonstrating his prowess as the "greatest cowboy of all time". In one tale, he rides into town on the back of a mountain lion (because he didn't have a horse). In another, he is attacked by a twenty-five-foot-long rattlesnake, which he tames and uses as a lariat.

Another character that figures into the legends of Pecos Bill is that of Slue-Foot Sue, a girl with the strength of ten grown men. In some stories, they get married, while in others, they are only sweethearts. In various versions of the legend, Slue-Foot Sue is either thrown from her own horse, or else off of Pecos Bill's horse. When she hits the ground, her bustle bounces, springing her all the way to the moon. The legend goes on to say that every time you hear a coyote howl, it's really Pecos Bill longing for his lost love.

In the mid 1880s, with these tall tales already well known, there surfaced several reports (diligently recorded in issues of the notorious and widely discredited Tombstone Epitaph) of a cowboy that dubbed himself "Pecos Bill" and purportedly performed a number of feats that, while not quite on par with knocking someone to the moon or riding a cyclone, were still quite extraordinary (and, in the reports, obviously exaggerated), undoubtedly patterned after the feats in several of the more popular tall tales.

On display here is a lariat that supposedly was used by this "Pecos Bill" during a brief visit to Cobalt, Idaho, back in 1884. By all appearances, it is fashioned from the hide of an exceptionally large rattlesnake, and, over a century later, it is still surprisingly tough. According to local legend, Pecos Bill gave the lariat as a gift to a young girl by the name of Susan Whitaker (native to Cobalt), aged 10, who challenged him to a lasso contest and supposedly beat him. He claimed that the lasso would grant the legendary strength of his love, Slue-Foot Sue to whomever used it and who was pure of heart.

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