Author Archive
Legends
Narrative

The Little People

The informant for this piece is my aunt, who worked for the Cherokee Government for several years and is still heavily involved in the organization. She grew up in Tulsa, OK, but has also lived extensively in Tahlequah, OK.

In this piece, my aunt talks to me about the legend of the Little People in Cherokee folklore.

AJ: There was another story I’ll tell you. It’s about the Little People. Have you heard of them?

Me: I don’t think so, no.

AJ: Again, your Mimi, and therefore your mom and I, weren’t told many stories about Cherokee folklore growing up. Some people felt that it was in competition with religion and Christianity, so they didn’t tell their kids.

Me: Right.

AJ: Well, the Little People are this race of spirits who live in caves. They’re about the height of your knees, and are supposedly very pretty and handsome. Their hair is so long it almost touches the ground. They’re helpful, kind, and great workers. They love music and spend their times singing and dancing. They’re kind of like you: they’re very nice and sweet, but don’t like to be disturbed.

Me: That is like me.

AJ: [laughs] My mom told me that sometimes you will hear the Little People drumming but that it is not safe to follow the sound because they don’t want to be disturbed at home. If you bother them, they’ll throw a spell on you so that they become confused and get lost. They like to do things for people, but they don’t like to be watched. Supposedly, you could hear them whispering outside of their house, but that you weren’t allowed to go outside. In the morning, you would wake up and find that corn had been gathered and set outside of your home.

Me: That’s nice.

AJ: I know. I wish I had the Little People clean my house at night.

Me: It would be a good service, huh?

AJ: One last thing about the Little People is that if you find something in the woods you have to say “Little People, I would like to take this” and then you’d say whatever it is you found.

Me: Why do you have to say that?

AJ: Because it may belong to one of them. If you don’t ask permission, the Little People will throw stones at you.

Me: I guess that makes sense.

AJ: So next time you’re out in the woods of California, make sure and say hi to the Little People.

Me: I will.

I personally really like this, and I know my aunt likes it to because she enjoys the idea of these people in a way looking out for the Cherokee people. I like it because it reminds me a lot of myself: I like helping people, but I don’t want any recognition or people to observe me trying to help someone. I would much rather not get any praise. My aunt is very similar to me in that fashion, so in a way we feel a connection to the Little People. I think a lot of the traditions with the Little People, such as asking for their permission to take something in the woods, is a practice that makes life a little more interesting. I don’t think my Aunt believes in the Little People, but she still likes to do the act. In a way, I think it connects her with our ancestors, and in another way, I think it’s just a little thing to do that keeps life interesting.

Digital
Humor

Will’s Favorite Long Joke

On Reddit, which is a message board type website, one of the most popular subreddits is one called /r/AskReddit, where users ask questions for all of Reddit to answer. One question that you can almost always find on /r/AskReddit is some form of the question “what is your favorite joke.” I asked my friend Will, with whom I trade funny or interesting things from Reddit with, to find his favorite joke and tell me why he likes it so much. Below is the original post, and after that is my short interview with Will.

“Three young friends, seeking a fortune, adventure together to Egypt where a new pyramid has been discovered.

Upon arriving at the pyramid, they are immediately told to leave as the site has already been excavated. The friends, not willing to concede, look for a different way in and find an entrance never before used.

It is through this entrance that they find a secret passage way, one that is made at first to look like a dead end but is truly a turn in the hallway. They venture around this turn and into a great room.

In this room are torches. A sign just inside the room warns “He who lights this shall burn to death.” (In Egyptian hieroglyphs of course) The first friend takes a torch, and lights the end. The Friends venture through the room to another.

In this second room is a small lake, with a small canoe able to seat three. In the canoe is a paddle that reads, “He who uses this shall die a watery death.” The second friend takes this paddle and uses it to guide the three of them to the other side of the lake and through a third and final door.

In this last room is a great atrium, filled with heaps upon heaps of golden artifacts and jewels. The three friends rush in, and come to a golden sarcophagus. The third friend looks at it, and sees that it has the warning “The first man to touch this treasure shall die a most terrible death” written on its exterior. The third friend, giving the message no care, proceeds to pick up as much gold as he can. His friends quickly follow suit.

Many months later, after the friends had returned home with their loot and used it to live lucrative lives, the third friend received troubling news. The first friend had been sleeping when his mansion had caught fire and burned to the ground, killing him. Remembering the warning, he calls the second friend, but they both laugh it off.

A month later, the third friend is watching the news when a breaking story comes on. It is his second friend, who had been out on his yacht. The boat had unexplainably capsized, killing him. The third friend saw this and grew terribly fearful.

Assuming he had a month left before whatever horror would befall him, the third friend sold many of his belongings to afford the most secure underground bunker. He then used his remaining fortune to buy an incredibly high tech security system, cameras all over, and 30+ armed guards stationed at the entrance.

The third friend spent a month in the bunker.

30 days passed, and night was falling when the third friend look to the security cameras. Outside of the bunker, at the entrance, was an empty expanse of land, save one object. All the security guards were mysteriously gone, and just in frame was the silhouette of a sarcophagus. The third friend panicked.

Rushing to the door, he pushed all manners of furniture before it. A fridge, a bookshelf, his bed, a desk. But once he had placed the final barricade, a great pounding game to the door. Looking to security footage, the sarcophagus had begun to float, and was using itself as a battering ram. To the third friends horror, the door began to crack.

With a tremendous boom, the door and all the furniture was blasted away. The third friend screamed, as there in the doorway floated the sarcophagus. He ran through the bunker, stalked by the sarcophagus. The friend jumped into the bathroom and locked the door behind him. There, he sat on the toilet and cried.

BOOM The sarcophagus was there, breaking through the bathroom door. The third friend panicked, running to the sink as the sarcophagus inched forward. The friend picked up a bottle of shampoo and through it. The sarcophagus kept coming. He threw a can of shaving cream. The sarcophagus was within 10 feet of him now. He threw a tube of toothpaste. The sarcophagus was within arms length. The friend made one final attempt, he reached into the cabinet, grabbed a plastic bottle, filled with a green liquid , and threw it. The sarcophagus fell to the ground and turned to dust.

The man marveled at this. Looking for the last thing he had thrown, he picked it up and thought, “All I had to do was take some NyQuil and the coffin would stop.”

Me: I just want you to know, when you sent me this joke I was very angry with you.

Will: Why?

Me: Because I spent ten fucking minutes reading this soliloquy for a dumb pun!

Will: See, that was my reaction!

Me: So, when did you first see this?

Will: I think I must have been in eleventh grade or something, and I was so mad but I thought it was so funny. Those are my favorite kinds of jokes because once you’ve heard them you can’t believe you were so invested in it and your reward is a pun.

Me: Do you tell this joke often? I can’t imagine that you do.

Will: No, not at like parties or anything. One time my dad and I were driving to my grandparent’s house, and I pulled out my phone and read it to him.

Me: What was his response.

Will: Oh, he thought it was the funniest shit he’d ever heard. He almost crashed the car. I started reaching for the steering wheel just for protection.

Me: So he wasn’t mad?

Will: No. Do you know why?

Me: Why?

Will: Because he appreciates fine comedy.

Will loves to do anything that will get a strong reaction out of people, as long as it’s harmless. To him, telling this long winded joke that ends in a pun is as sweet as life gets. Wasting the time of another person, and making them think excruciatingly hard about what the end result of the joke will be, only to pull the rug out from under them, makes Will laugh. It’s harmless, but it does make people what I call “joke-mad”, where a person is angry, but can also laugh about what has just happened. They’re more angry at themselves for not recognizing the trap the joke was setting up.

Digital
Narrative

The Story of “Kevin”

On Reddit, which is a message board type website, one of the most popular subreddits is one called /r/AskReddit, where users ask questions for all of Reddit to answer. One of the most popular stories to originate out of /r/AskReddit, and became a Reddit inside joke, is the story of “Kevin”. The story of Kevin came out of an AskReddit thread asking teachers about their most memorable student. Below is the original post, and below that I talk to my friend Will, who shares funny and interesting things he finds on Reddit with me, about Kevin.

“It’s not uncommon as a teacher to have students who are a bit behind the curve in certain aspects, but 99.99999% of the time they are keen on something. They might not understand how to identify a noun or what theme is, but they somehow know how to make a mean plate of nachos. You learn pretty quick to not judge fish for their tree climbing ability, ya know?

I thought this was the rule when I was teaching until I met Kevin. Kevin isn’t his real name, but it doesn’t matter because he can’t spell it anyway. Kevin was a student of mine during my last year of teaching. He came to my classroom with very little to show for his academic past. He had moved a few times and thus was missing a lot of typical test scores that we use to try and ballpark their ability (Don’t worry, it was a ballpark…..we didn’t make major decisions until we actually had a chance to talk and work with a student for a bit.) I thought “That’s fine. I’ll just do some one-on-one with Kevin and see what’s up” One on One with kevin was like conversing with someone who’d forgotten everything in a freak, if not impossible, amnesia incident. There was no evidence that he had learned anything past the 2nd grade….and now he was in 9th grade. Flabbergasted, I figured we needed to get more serious with this. If he was going to be in my class, I needed to know why and how.

I decided to meet with him, his guidance counselor, his parents, and another teacher to see what was really going on. This is where it all became clear. It was by some incredible fluke that his family hadn’t been wiped off the face of the Earth years ago. Odds are his entire heritage was based on blind luck and some type of sick divine intervention that saves his family every time a threat presents itself. Kevin was the genetic pinnacle of this null achievement. Even my instructional lead, a woman who could find a redeeming trait in a Balrog, failed to see any reason this kid or his family should be alive today.

So here’s a list of events that made it abundantly clear that god exists and he’s laughing uncontrollably:

Kevin frequently forgot when/where class was. On more than one occasion, I had to retrieve him from other classrooms.

Kevin ate an entire 24 pack of crayons, puked, and then did it again the next day. This is 9th grade. I have no idea where he got crayons.

Kevin’s dad wrote tuition checks and mailed them to me…his English teacher. This was a public school. When I gave it back to Kevin, voided, to give to his dad with a brief note explaining that this is a public school, Kevin got in trouble for trying to spend it at 711 after school.

Kevin was removed from the culinary arts program after leaving a cutting board on the gas stove and starting a fire….twice

Kevin threw his lunch at the School Resource Officer and tried to run away. He ran into a door and insisted it wasn’t him.

Kevin stole my phone during class. I called it. It rang. He denied that it was ringing. (Not that it wasn’t his, not that he did it…..no, he denied that the phone was actually ringing). He tried it three times before the end of the year.

Kevin called the basketball coach a “Motherfucking Bitch” during gym. Basketball tryouts were that afternoon. Kevin tried out. It didn’t go well.

Kevin’s mom could never remember which school he went to. She missed several meetings because she drove to other schools (none of which he ever went to)

Kevin tazed himself in the neck before a football game

Kevin kept a bottle of orange koolaide in his backpack for about 4 months. He thought it would turn into alcohol. He drank it during homeroom and threw up.

Kevin say the N-word a lot. Kevin was white. The highschool was 84% black. Kevin got beat up a lot.

Kevin stole another student’s Iphone….and tried to sell it back to them.

Kevin didn’t understand that his grade was dependent on tests, quizzes, homework, classwork, and participation. Kevin finished his first semester with a 3% average. He tried to bribe me with $11.

Kevin spit on a girl and said “You should get out of those wet clothes”. The girl was the Spanish Student Teacher.

Kevin didn’t know dogs and cats were different animals.

Kevin tried to download porn onto a computer in the library…..at the circulation desk….while he was logged on.

Kevin asked a girl to prom (he was in 9th grade and freshmen don’t go to prom) by asking for her phone number and then texting her his address

Kevin got gum in his hair, constantly.

Kevin regularly tried to cheat on assignments by knocking the pile over, grabbing one before I had picked them all up, and then writing it name on it wherever there was room.

Kevin had several allergies, but neither his parents nor he could remember what they were. They were very concerned that “the holiday party” (it’s high school, we don’t have those) would have peanuts. When they finally got a doctor’s note….he was allergic to amoxicillin

Kevin and his parents took a trip to Nassau (how the fuck did they even get airline tickets?) and forgot all their luggage at home. I didn’t believe him when he told me until I talked to him mom, who told me 1st thing when I saw her at the bi-weekly meeting.

Kevin’s grandfather apparently died in a chainsaw accident. I can only assume God was looking the other way that day.”

Will: Which one are we talking about next.

Me: Kevin.

Will: Oh fuck, yes!

Me: So, Will, thoughts…

Will: How the fuck is that kid alive?

Me: [laughs] I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me why you like this story?

Will: Isn’t it obvious? It’s probably one of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard in my life. The things this kid did, and the way the guy wrote it.

Me: You know, there are some people on Reddit that think it was made up.

Will: No. No. Everything that was written that kid did. I mean, how did that guy come up with some of the shit he did? You’re a screenwriter. Could you think of that stuff?

Me: Kevin is what I like to call a ‘gift from God’, because everything he does it gold and it makes writing easier. You are frustrated though, because you wish you could come up with that kind of stuff.

Will: But you can’t, because if you did you’d be just as dumb as Kevin.

Me: So do you think Kevin was just dumb?

Will: Yes. Extremely.

Me: I feel bad for him.

Will: Why?

Me: I mean, that’s his life, right? He has to be Kevin all his life. What’s he going to do?

Will: Ignorance is bliss, dude.

Me: Yeah, I guess you’re right.

I’m always interested in this story because it always gets two different reactions: people either think the story of Kevin is real, or they think whoever wrote it is just a really creative writer. As mentioned above, Will believes Kevin is a real person, and in a way I do as well. I think Will might believe in Kevin because in a way he likes to think that a person like that can exist. I think we’ve all met somebody who was a bit of a “Kevin”, and it’s nice to be able to put a name to that kind of person.

Folk Beliefs
Signs

Native Americans and Dreams

The informant is my mother, Dayna Rayburn, born in 1960 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She grew up in Tulsa, before going to college at the University of Oklahoma and graduating with a degree in nursing. She has worked at St. Francis Hospital in the newborn nursery for thirty years.

In this piece, my mother tells me about dreams and how Native Americans use them as a way to comfort us in times of trouble or uncertainty.

Mom: Something about us Native Americans is that we really read into dreams.

Me: Yeah, we’ve talked about this.

Mom: Yeah. I think we see it as a connection to our ancestors. For example, … I guess I need to give them backstory on this.

Me: Go ahead. I got 40 pages to fill.

Mom: [laughs] Are you going to put that in your report?

Me: Hell yeah.

Mom: [laughs] Don’t embarrass the family, son.

Me: Go on with the backstory.

Mom: Okay. Well, me and Joey’s dad got married in 1982, and we started trying to have a kid a year or so later, but it just never happened. We kept trying and trying, and we started thinking that it wasn’t going to be possible for us to have kids. It was a really hard time for both me and your dad. I was even told that I only had a ten percent chance of having a child, and then, like a little miracle, I got pregnant with Alyssa [my sister]. I was so thrilled, but I started getting worried. I started having this fear that I was going to die in childbirth. It still happens, a lot of people think it doesn’t. I was really worried, and then about a week before Alyssa was born, I had a dream. I saw my Grandpa Eli, who was this very stoic Indian man. He barely said a word to me, or really anybody, but I loved him very much. And in my dream, I was walking through this… mist? It was cloudy, kind of, like Heaven, and my grandpa was there, and he looked at me and said “Everything will be alright,” and it was.

Me: I have those dreams about Pa sometimes.

Mom: I think we all do. We’re a very spiritual people. But, anyways, your sister was born maybe a week later and everything was fine. I remember when I was in labor I just kept saying “everything will be alright”.

Me: What do you think those dreams mean?

Mom: I think they mean that they’re watching over us. That they’re walking alongside us. It’s a comforting thought, isn’t it?

Me: Yeah.

Dreams have always been something my mother and I have bonded over, and I was always able to tell that she really believed that she was connecting to those she loved most. I think my mom is right in thinking they mean something, even if they’re not entirely real. She hears what she wants from who she wants to hear it from, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Personally, I’ve still been trying to decide whether my dreams carry any weight, but I do know I’ve been affected by them. She doesn’t put all of her life’s biggest choices in waiting to see what her dreams say: to her, they’re just supplementary, and will happen when you need them to happen.

Digital
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Senior Pranks

On Reddit, which is a message board type website, one of the most popular subreddits is one called /r/AskReddit, where users ask questions for all of Reddit to answer. One of the most popular questions that have been asked over the years are about senior pranks, or really any prank for that matter. Senior pranks are a tradition in American school where students in their last year of high school decide the go out with a bang and prank the school, usually in a humorous way. I asked my friend Will, who sends me funny or interesting things he finds on Reddit, what his favorite senior prank was that he saw on Reddit, and this is what he found…

“My friend tapped into the PA system and figured out how to broadcast from anywhere. He found an English teacher that was willing to collude, and near the end of the year he started broadcasting pre-recorded messages to the whole school.

the administration had no idea where it was coming from and they followed every lead that the broadcasts claimed they originated from (including the local high school burger joint). a lot of the broadcasts were hilarious, including a fake emergency drill where the speaker said that our study desks could double as flotation devices and that our teachers would demonstrate.

We had a nice lunch one day where we got to listen to opera and classical music.

Eventually he got caught but it was only because he let too many people know. because he didn’t broadcast anything offensive he didn’t get into any trouble.”

Me: How did you find this?

Will: It was a while back, and it was just a thread that I would always go to when I was bored and just shift through. This is one that always stuck out to me.

Me: Why?

Will: I just love it. A lot of pranks nowadays go too big and they usually destroy property or hurt somebody. This is just harmless fun.

Me: It reminds me of when, in “The Shawshank Redemption”, Andy started playing classical music into the prison.

Will: Yeah! Yeah!

Me: So, let me ask you, if you were to do this prank, what would you play?

Will: Oh, I’d play some fucking death metal or something.

Me: You don’t even like death metal.

Will: I know! Nobody does! That’s why it’d be so funny. That’s the other thing, is that kid who pulled that prank should work as a writer. “Use your desk as a flotation device”. I stole that joke one time in class and everybody laughed. It’s priceless.

Will and I have often spent time talking about pranks, especially those that we see as detrimental and end up hurting people or damaging property. It makes sense to me that Will would love this prank. It’s not only harmless, but it’s incredibly witty. I personally think it’s a much better prank for both of those reasons. One of the reasons I asked Will about what he would do if given that opportunity was because I knew Will loved thinking about that. He likes hearing stories and wondering what he would do if he was in that situation. Even when he watches movies, he puts himself in the shoes of the main character and says what he would’ve done. I think he partially likes this story because he wants to think he could be that witty.

Digital
Narrative

“The Smiling Man”

The following is a story my friend Will sent to me that he found on Reddit. The subreddit, a small community of people interested in a similar subject, he found this on was called /r/nosleep, where people write their own scary stories and share them with people around the world. He sends me a couple that he enjoyed, and he said this was his favorite. Down below after the story, I ask him about why he likes this story. The story is titled “The Smiling Man”.

“About five years ago I lived downtown in a major city in the US. I’ve always been a night person, so I would often find myself bored after my roommate, who was decidedly not a night person, went to sleep. To pass the time, I used to go for long walks and spend the time thinking.

I spent four years like that, walking alone at night, and never once had a reason to feel afraid. I always used to joke with my roommate that even the drug dealers in the city were polite. But all of that changed in just a few minutes of one evening.

It was a Wednesday, somewhere between one and two in the morning, and I was walking near a police patrolled park quite a ways from my apartment. It was a quiet night, even for a week night, with very little traffic and almost no one on foot. The park, as it was most nights, was completely empty.

I turned down a short side street in order to loop back to my apartment when I first noticed him. At the far end of the street, on my side, was the silhouette of a man, dancing. It was a strange dance, similar to a waltz, but he finished each “box” with an odd forward stride. I guess you could say he was dance-walking, headed straight for me.

Deciding he was probably drunk, I stepped as close as I could to the road to give him the majority of the sidewalk to pass me by. The closer he got, the more I realized how gracefully he was moving. He was very tall and lanky, and wearing an old suit. He danced closer still, until I could make out his face. His eyes were open wide and wild, head tilted back slightly, looking off at the sky. His mouth was formed in a painfully wide cartoon of a smile. Between the eyes and the smile, I decided to cross the street before he danced any closer.

I took my eyes off of him to cross the empty street. As I reached the other side, I glanced back… and then stopped dead in my tracks. He had stopped dancing and was standing with one foot in the street, perfectly parallel to me. He was facing me but still looking skyward. Smile still wide on his lips.

I was completely and utterly unnerved by this. I started walking again, but kept my eyes on the man. He didn’t move. Once I had put about half a block between us, I turned away from him for a moment to watch the sidewalk in front of me. The street and sidewalk ahead of me were completely empty. Still unnerved, I looked back to where he had been standing to find him gone. For the briefest of moments I felt relieved, until I noticed him. He had crossed the street, and was now slightly crouched down. I couldn’t tell for sure due to the distance and the shadows, but I was certain he was facing me. I had looked away from him for no more than 10 seconds, so it was clear that he had moved fast.

I was so shocked that I stood there for some time, staring at him. And then he started moving toward me again. He took giant, exaggerated tip toed steps, as if he were a cartoon character sneaking up on someone. Except he was moving very, very quickly.

I’d like to say at this point I ran away or pulled out my pepper spray or my cellphone or anything at all, but I didn’t. I just stood there, completely frozen as the smiling man crept toward me.

And then he stopped again, about a car length away from me. Still smiling his smile, still looking to the sky.

When I finally found my voice, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. What I meant to ask was, “What the fuck do you want?!” in an angry, commanding tone. What came out was a whimper, “What the fuu…?”

Regardless of whether or not humans can smell fear, they can certainly hear it. I heard it in my own voice, and that only made me more afraid. But he didn’t react to it at all. He just stood there, smiling.

And then, after what felt like forever, he turned around, very slowly, and started dance-walking away. Just like that. Not wanting to turn my back to him again, I just watched him go, until he was far enough away to almost be out of sight. And then I realized something. He wasn’t moving away anymore, nor was he dancing. I watched in horror as the distant shape of him grew larger and larger. He was coming back my way. And this time he was running.

I ran too.

I ran until I was off of the side road and back onto a better lit road with sparse traffic. Looking behind me then, he was nowhere to be found. The rest of the way home, I kept glancing over my shoulder, always expecting to see his stupid smile, but he was never there.

I lived in that city for six months after that night, and I never went out for another walk. There was something about his face that always haunted me. He didn’t look drunk; he didn’t look high. He looked completely and utterly insane. And that’s a very, very scary thing to see.”

Me: So, Will.

Will: Can I curse in this?

Me: Yeah, man. Just be yourself.

Will: Yeah, but how much of myself?

Me: Like 25%.

Will: [laughs] Okay.

Me: So, “The Smiling Man”. Where’d you first find this story?

Will: I think I first read it, maybe in 2013? I was a junior, and it was before Cass and I started dating, so I had a fuck ton of free time. I started binge reading the nosleep subreddit, and this was the one that always stuck in my mind.

Me: Why?

Will: It’s scary as fuck, dude. I think it was because I always loved the idea of going out on walks by myself at night. They always seemed so peaceful. Then I read this story and was like “I’m Audi!” [Audi is how Will says “I’m out”]

Me: So when you walk to Subway do you get scared you’ll see that Smiling Man?

Will: If I do I’ll just kick him. You’ve seen my sweet kicks.

[Will then demonstrated to me how high he can kick. He cannot kick very high.]

Me: So, do you tell this story to people?

Will: Yeah. I went camping with a few friends last summer and I told them this story.

Me: Did they think it was scary?

Will: Not really. Cass did though.

Me: I was going to ask you what you would do if you ran into The Smiling Man, but I guess you already…

[Will demonstrates his kicks for me again]

Me: I’m not putting this in the report. [I did.]

I can completely understand why Will likes this story. As he said, he has always liked the idea of going out for walks at night, and for as long as I’ve known him he still does. I think this story was a bit of a warning to Will: not that he was going to run into “The Smiling Man”, but just about the dangers of walking alone. This might be while he was so affected by the story and likes it so much. In a weird way, he can see this having happened to him.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Folk medicine

Birth Plans Jinx the Actual Birth

The informant is my mother, Dayna Rayburn, born in 1960 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She grew up in Tulsa, before going to college at the University of Oklahoma and graduating with a degree in nursing. She has worked at St. Francis Hospital in the newborn nursery for thirty years.

In this piece, my mother talks about how she feels “birth plans”, or when the parents think they know more than the nurse, will jinx the birth of the baby.

Mom: One last nursing thing I thought of.

Me: Okay.

Mom: In the past few years, some expectant parents have done research on the internet and have downloaded these “birth plans” which indicate their preference on labor, mobility, hydration, and nourishment, monitoring, pain relief, augmentation, which is what they want to do to speed up labor…

Me: Like, literally?

Mom: No, like distraction.

Me: Got it.

Mom: The birth plans basically just include things about what they want. Inevitably, things never go as planned. Either the moms require a C-section, the mom and or the baby do not tolerate labor or the baby has to go to the neonatal intensive care nursery, which is where the sick babies go.

Me: That’s where you used to work.

Mom: Yes, but then I left because it was too sad. Is that okay to say?

Me: Yes, yes.

Mom: Okay, but yeah. Nurses believe that the birth plan jinxes the mom and baby because the delivery never goes as planned. It’s kind of like life: you think it’s going one way and then it comes and changes everything. All nurses think the birth plans sets the moms up for feelings of failures. Nobody can plan what will happen for sure with labor and delivery. There’s just too many variables.

My mother, especially in her profession, does not like it when someone talks about nothing have gone wrong, or anticipates that nothing will go wrong. She always wants people to be prepared for anything, which is what you have to do when you’re working as a nurse. These parents coming into the hospital believing their child’s birth will go smoothly obviously irks my mother, as she thinks they have jinxed themselves and, most importantly, their child. I know this also bothers my mom on a different level, as she hates it when her patients think they know better than her. After working as a neo-natal nurse for thirty years, she hates being told by a twenty four year old what is going to happen.

Customs
Folk Beliefs
Protection

Talking About Nightmares

The informant is my mother, Dayna Rayburn, born in 1960 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She grew up in Tulsa, before going to college at the University of Oklahoma and graduating with a degree in nursing. She has worked at St. Francis Hospital in the newborn nursery for thirty years.

In this piece, my mom discusses the practice of not talking about your dreams before breakfast, and gives some explanation as for why we do it.

Mom: Do you remember when I would say “don’t talk about dreams before breakfast”.

Me: Yes, but why don’t you say where you heard that.

Mom: I think it was my grandmother. She must have told my mom, and I remember one day when I was really little I ran into the kitchen where my mom was and told her I had a bad dream. Before she would let me talk about my dream, she made me sit down and eat something. I think it was a banana. It didn’t have to be a full course meal: just something little.

Me: Why couldn’t you talk about your dreams before breakfast?

Mom: I don’t know. My mom just always said it was bad luck. It might be an old Indian thing. She heard it from her grandma, like I said.

Me: So why do you follow it?

Mom: I guess I believe in it? I think it’s just a nice thing to do, whether or not it stops bad luck. I think it calms you down. When I went into the kitchen, I was probably running. I still do it to this day, and I know I’ve told you and Alyssa about it.

Me: Yeah, I’ve even told Allen [my roommate] and a few other people about it. They’ll send me a text saying “I just had the worst dream” and I’ll reply back “Have you had breakfast yet?”

Mom: [laughs] They probably think you’re crazy.

Me: I mean, yeah.

Mom: Just tell them that your mom does it.

Me: I’m sure that will help.

This is an interesting belief my mom has, because we both believe in it without really knowing why we do it. I think we do it because we think we’ll be so worked up after waking up from the nightmare that we’ll just worry and put more stress on ourselves. In order to combat that, my mom tells me to eat something. This gives me time to calm down and think rationally about whatever my nightmare was, and remind myself that it was only a dream. I think the reason why we’re told to eat something is because eating is usually one of the first things we do in the morning, and it takes a bit longer than brushing your teeth, which means we have a longer period of time to cool down.

Folk Beliefs

Things Happening in Threes

The informant is my mother, Dayna Rayburn, born in 1960 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She grew up in Tulsa, before going to college at the University of Oklahoma and graduating with a degree in nursing. She has worked at St. Francis Hospital in the newborn nursery for thirty years.

In this piece, my mother talks about things happening in threes, and how this relates to both her job and personal life.

Mom: In nursing… should I say that I’m a nurse?

Me: No, I got that part.

Mom: Okay. In nursing, we always say things happen in threes. If there’s, um, an abnormal diagnosis in a newborn, like if they have hydrocephalus… let’s say there’s one baby born at St. Francis that has hydrocephalus.

Me: Alright.

Mom: Then we usually expect two more to be born with it in a short interim. If a second baby is born with it, then we usually almost always expect one more to be as well. It’s kind of like the third time’s the charm idea.

Me: You have a past with the third time’s the charm proverb.

Mom: I do? Oh yes, I do!

Me: Do you want to talk about that?

Mom: Sure. My mom and dad tried to have a baby two times before me, but my mother lost both the pregnancies. I was their third try, in a way, so I always think about third time’s the charm in relation to me.

Me: You were a lucky baby.

Mom: Thanks, son.

My mom has a strong personal connection to “threes”, and it’s fitting that she has chosen a profession where things coming in threes. Nursing, as we’ve talked about in class, is a profession where there is little control. Nurses cannot prevent a child from being born with a certain disease, and have these beliefs as a way to cope and explain why a child has to go through something like hydrocephalus. It’s a superstition in a way, and one that can’t be prevented, but my mom has always tried to see the silver lining in things, and seeing her birth as a “charm” after two previous attempts is her way up saying good things can come in threes too.

folk metaphor

“Spit the Bit” & “Faunching at the Bit”

The informant is my father, John Michael Rayburn, born in 1957 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He spent his childhood in Dell City, a suburb to Oklahoma City, before graduating from the University of Oklahoma with a degree in business. His parents are both from Arkansas.

In this piece, my dad discusses two folk metaphors: “spit the bit” and “faunching at the bit”, which is used to describe eagerness in people. I conducted this interview during dinner alone with him.

Dad: One of the things I remembered was this… I guess you could call it a phrase. You can use those right?

Me: Yeah.

Dad: Okay… it was when we were riding horses, you would put a bridle on the horse’s head, and a bridle was this… headgear harness type thing that was used to control the horse. It had a bunch of buckled straps, and it would connect a bit and the reins. It helped control the horse, ‘cause you could just pull on the reins and that would pull on the bit, which was this metal rod that goes in the horse’s mouth, and so when you pulled on the reins it pulled on the bit and you could pull it back to slow the horse.

Me: Okay.

Dad: There were two terms we’d use to describe people that relates to that bit. One of them was where we’d say “faunching at the bit”. Faunching means something along the lines of display angry excitement.

Me: Did you look that up?

Dad: No, that was all me. When the horse would be acting excited or wanting to run, we’d say that horse is “faunching at the bit”. My parents, whenever me or Cathy [sister] would be acting rowdy about going to the grocery store or whatever, you would hear my dad yelling at my mom asking “what are those kids doin’,” and she’d yell back “They’re faunching at the bit,” because we were so excited to get going.

Me: That’s very Arkansas of you.

Dad: I know. I know.

Me: What’s the other phrase?

Dad: It’s about the same thing. There was another term called “spit the bit,” and it’d be when the horse would somehow work the bit out of its mouth, which meant the rider had no control. So the horse would just be bookin’ it, and eventually the rider would just fall off and crash into the dirt. What made me remember this was at work the other day we were discussing a company that stopped doing business with our company, and I, with my Arkansas vocabulary, described the customer as having “spit the bit”.

This is a very “Mike Rayburn” thing to say. My dad, being from a small town in Oklahoma and having grown up with two parents from Arkansas, always says these little phrases. I think they’re good little metaphors in a way, because comparing rambunctious kids or large companies as horses is very descriptive of their behavior. I think he also likes saying these metaphors because he’s proud of where he comes from. It’s somewhat routine to be a little embarrassed when you say you’re from a small town in Oklahoma: there’s a kind of stigma that comes when you admit that. I think my dad likes that though. He must think it’s charming in a way. That’s how a lot of his family is. They like that rural part of their life, and like using metaphors and phrases that remind themselves and others of where they’ve come from.

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