As such, "Water Liars" affords an important antecedent to Hannah's later story "Evening of the Yarp," in which it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain any ontological determinacy between true stories and lies with which to ground our interpretations, or even to invest these categories themselves with interpretative expediency.
The possibility raised in "Water Liars," that "true tale[s]" ("Yarp" 99) exist somewhere outside the falsehoods that otherwise flood the narrative, has already been undermined by the obvious fact that the subject matter of Roonswent Dover's so-called "report" itself is brazenly surreal.
For example, the Yarp, who is not only the very stuff of legends but also a storyteller himself, (3) berates tale-teller Dover for exhibiting a regional proclivity for "legending" (93) that directly recalls the old water liars' favored pastime: "I dont want to hear none of your tales, boy ...
Problematically, on the one hand, Dover does indeed display an apparent (and apparently native) propensity for imaginative, Gothic hyperbole or "lying." With the Yarp as his traveling companion, Dover describes his claustrophobia on the narrow mountain road with its hanging rocks on either side seeming to close in on him: "I aint nere liked them and now, getting on dark, the mountains I feel they live and squeeze in on you to a narrow lane when nobody's around.
(93) Therefore, in his subtle (and ironic) affiliation with the Yarp's distrust of fiction-making (in which the imagination "ruins" or obscures the truth) our interpretation of Dover's reliability as a "reporter" has come full circle.
The integrity of both Dover's and the Yarp's ostensibly unbelievable tales is authenticated at the story's Gothic climax, when the Yarp really does "pull his coat out" (101) to reveal "Miz Skatt's head in his belly cooking and hollering" (102).
"Evening of the Yarp" becomes a self-reflexive metafictional inquiry into the very efficacy of southern storytelling as an aesthetic practice, and thereby it undermines the virtuosity of the putative claims it makes about its ability to document history and place "truly."
He tells us that "My grandpa knewn a family of Yarps" and that "one woman saw [a Yarp's] stomach and there were a human brain" (95); he says that Deacon Charles "seen exactly one Yarp and ...
Despite having acknowledged his own Ozarkan ancestry, and though he proceeds to place his Yarp directly "here in Arkansas" (95-96), in fact Dover's tale is conspicuously <i>displaced</i> throughout: "We must be higher, higher than all Arkansas and Missouri" (93).
But on the other hand, in "Evening of the Yarp" the process of recognizing the textual contingency of a "true" story with an authentic sense of place happens even while the notion of a poignant sense of place is upheld, even to the extent of geographical entrapment.
back to real," as said by Don Nini ("Yarp" 94), with the making of fiction which, equally paradoxically, concurrently acknowledges its own textuality and performative strategies.
Dover and the Yarp have a complex relationship to history and place because both are characterized, literally and figuratively, as outsiders.