Too Much Water- Children’s Legend


“There was a man who was a pioneer. He was very thirsty and when the wagon train came to a river, so he drank a lot of water. Then later he died because he drank too much water.”

The informant grew up in the bay area and recalled hearing this story when she was in elementary school from her classmates. She thinks she was in 3rd or 4th grade at the time. She believes that that if this story really did happen, the man probably died because of whatever microorganisms were living in the water that he drank or something else being related to the fact that pioneers were not known or their good hygiene.

I also heard variations of this story in elementary school. I heard that the man died from drinking too much water, but I also heard that a pioneer/frontier man/gold miner died from eating too many vegetables and another time I heard he died from drinking too much milk. This leads me to believe that children tell this story as a form of rebellion against adults. Children are often told to drink a lot water or milk and eat a lot of vegetables because it is “good for them”. But children often don’t like the taste of vegetables, milk, or water and this story sort of proves that their parents are wrong. If you drink too much water or milk or eat too many vegetables you could die.

But why is the man usually a pioneer/frontiersmen or gold miner? Perhaps it has something to do with the ruggedness associated with those who traveled across America in the mid-19th century.  They survived many unfavorable odds. So even for someone as strong as a pioneer is supposed to be to succumb to an unexpected death from water, milk, or vegetable overdose is daunting.  If a pioneer man died from drinking too much water… it could easily kill the average child.