Truth be told, her lies are the size of Texas

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Front Page - By Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje STAFF WRITER

Shayne Larango is a very, very good liar.

How good? She re­cently won the “Big­gest Liar in Texas” tro­phy at the 30th an­nual Ge­orge West Sto­ryfest, one of the pre­mier sto­ry­telling events in the state, held in the name­sake town about an hour south of San An­to­nio.

The fes­ti­val fea­tures a host of speak­ers spin­ning yarns in the grand old style of Texas sto­ry­tellers. But it’s the liars com­pe­ti­tion — a seem­ingly fit­ting coda for the re­cent mid-term elec­tions — where things truly go off the rails.

As a racon­teur, Larango could hold her own against even the slip­peri­est po­lit­i­cal pre­var­i­ca­tor. She’s the per­fect fab­u­list for our post-truthi­ness era.

“You just take a ker­nel of truth and then you stretch it,” said the grin­ning, ex­u­ber­ant red­head who spent some time with fam­ily in Floresville after the con­test be­fore head­ing home to Dal­las.

The corn anal­ogy is apt, in more ways than one.

Larango’s ridicu­lous but lively tall tale in­volves a woman who ac­ci­den­tally knocks her hus­band un­con­scious with a can of shoepeg corn. (For the unini­ti­ated, shoepeg is a white corn val­ued for its sweet­ness.)

The 10-minute story fol­lows the woman as she’s wrongly ar­rested and held overnight in jail, where she’s sur­prised to dis­cover the se­ri­ous­ness of her crime lends her a cer­tain vaunted sta­tus among the fe­male check-kiters and traf­fic-ticket scofflaws.

Once her hus­band wakes up at the hos­pi­tal and clears things with the cops, the woman is re­leased — to her un­ex­pected disap-

point­ment.

Seems the jail birds were go­ing to teach her how to paint pic­tures us­ing the dye from colored candy shells, “which would have been a great craft for the next va­ca­tion Bible school.”

Dressed as her stage per­sona — red hair teased to the rafters, cow­boy boots, black dress, pearls — Larango de­liv­ers her whop­per of a fib with a de­li­cious Texas twang and a flair for the pre­pos­ter­ous that clearly im­pressed the judges.

“There were sev­eral sto­ries that stood out from the rest and it was a very close con­test,” said judge and Sto­ryfest founder Rob Sch­nei­der. “Shayne had just an edge on be­liev­able ab­sur­dity.”

The liars con­test, held for the 14th time on Nov. 3, is open to the first 10 peo­ple to en­ter. As the rules point­edly state, no politi­cians are al­lowed. Per­haps the judges feel they bring an un­fair ad­van­tage, given all that prac­tice.

Larango, 50, comes by her sto­ry­telling skills, well, hon­estly.

She grew up in Kauf­man, a town 30 miles south­east of Dal­las, and used to linger with her rel­a­tives at the bar­be­cue pit and kitchen table and lis­ten to the men spin tales. The women told sto­ries too, but they weren’t near as much fun.

“The men told sto­ries about tall tales and ad­ven­ture,” she said. “The women’s sto­ries were more hon­est and fac­tual.”

She lis­tened to the al­bums of Jerry Clower, an Amer­i­can co­me­dian who told tales about the ru­ral South and was known as the “The Mouth of Mis­sis­sippi.”

About three years ago, while car­ing for her ill mother, Larango needed a cre­ative out­let. She took part in a work­shop based on “The Artist’s Way,” a book about fos­ter­ing cre­ativ­ity.

Hav­ing spent her pro­fes­sional life in the cor­po­rate and aca­demic con­sult­ing world, she’d al­ways loved writ­ing. The work­shop prompted her to try her hand at oral sto­ry­telling.

Larango cre­ated a ghost story, which she would per­form at the 2016 Texas Sto­ry­telling Fes­ti­val in Den­ton. So im­pres­sive was her per­for­mance that she was named one of a hand­ful of “Ris­ing Stars” at the fes­ti­val.

“I was just hooked,” she said. To pre­pare for the liars’ con­test, Larango at­tended an­other work­shop, this one put on by the Te­jas Sto­ry­tellers Guild in Waco and tai­lored to cre­ative ways of stretch­ing the truth.

“To tell a good lie you have to have specifics,” she said. “Add as “You don’t want to start be­liev­ing your own BS. Then we’re all in trou­ble.” Shayne Larango, about telling tall tales in th real world many true de­tails as you can. You’re cre­at­ing a world that peo­ple can just slip into with their imag­i­na­tions. Peo­ple just want to be en­ter­tained.”

These days, she per­forms at fes­ti­vals as well as wed­dings, bars, pri­vate events, open mic nights and just about any­where peo­ple want to be be­guiled by what she calls her “10-gal­lon Texas tall tales.”

One of the best com­pli­ments she re­ceived came from a man who ap­proached her after a show and said her per­for­mance re­minded him of Jerry Clower.

“I mean, who even knows about Jerry Clower?” she said.

Larango wasn’t aware the Wash­ing­ton Post keeps a run­ning tally of the false or mis­lead­ing state­ments made by the pres­i­dent since he took of­fice two years ago. The most re­cent count: more than 6,000.

She did raise an eye­brow about it, say­ing it’s all fine and good to con­flate re­al­ity with fic­tion on the stage. In the real world, not so much.

“You don’t want to start be­liev­ing your own BS,” she said. “Then we’re all in trou­ble.”

Bob Owen / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Shayne Larango won the Big­gest Liar in Texas award at the 30th an­nual Ge­orge West Sto­ryfest. She learned sto­ry­telling by hang­ing around while the male mem­bers of her fam­ily told sto­ries.

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