USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘campfire’
Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Taily Poo

Context:

The informant – BL – is a 20-year-old white male, born and raised in Seattle, Washington. He spent a lot of time hiking and camping in the mountain ranges near Seattle, and, therefore, had a few campfire stories to share. He shared this story with me in a fairly typical storytelling context – outside, alone at night, after I had asked him if he knew any scary stories.

Piece:

BL: This is the story of the Taily Poo. Once, there was a hunter who lived in the forest with his three dogs. Every other day, he would go out to hunt small game. Just rabbits and squirrels… the occasional deer if he stumbled upon it. And one week, he went out and didn’t get anything. And went out the next day, hoping he would get something, but still…nothing. He didn’t see a single lick of an animal. Um.

The following day, he went out, and he brought all three of his dogs, and he saw a squirrel hiding up in a tree. So he shot it down, blew its head right off. The dogs went and picked it up, but something else caught his eye… to his right. A large shape in a tree that he thought might be a panther… but… it couldn’t be a panther? Right? Panthers don’t exist in… Northern America. Um. He thought maybe a cougar. Either way, he was hungry, and he needed some big meat… (long pause, and some snickering).

So he pointed his gun at the animal… and shot it. And he heard a bloodcurdling yowl, and saw something fall off the tree, and the animal jumped into the night. He went to go look what fell out… off… and it was a tail. A long black tail with coarse hair, but still a fair amount of meat on it. So he decided to take it home and cook it up, – maybe put it in a stew.

So he goes home with his dogs, cooks it up. He and the three dogs eat their meal and then go to bed. Um. He wakes up in the middle of the night to some scratching sound. Um. And it’s pitch black, but he looks at the foot of his bed and sees two bright yellow eyes.

(In a harsh whispering voice) “Give it back… Give me back my taily poo.”

The man is petrified. “I’m sorry, what?” he says. (we both laugh)

“Give me back my taily poo.”

The man, realizing that this must be the creature who’s tail he shot off in the forest, pushes the dogs off the bed towards the creature, and they chase it off into the night. He waits for them to return, but when they come back, only two remain. He goes back to sleep. He wakes up later that night, in the early hours of the morning, maybe 1am… to see the same pair of bright yellow eyes, next to his bed this time. Scratching at the side of it with its claws.

“Give me back my taily poo.” Very startled, uh, the man sicks his dogs on the creature, chasing it away into the night. He waits for their return, but only one comes back.

It’s morning now, and he goes out to look for his two other dogs. He calls their names, but no response. He goes and looks for them, but is afraid of getting completely lost in the forest, and so, by sunset, he gives up hope, realizing the creature must have killed them. So he goes to bed that night, hungry, because the forest is bare. Um. Uhhh. Then he wakes up in the middle of the night to a ripping sound. (BL poorly imitates a ripping sound and we both laugh). He jumps awake, thinking it must be the creature, and he’s right. At the foot of his bed… No… revise, revise. On his bed, the creature is pawing and clawing his sheets, ripping them to shreds. It’s yellow eyes gleam in the pure darkness.

“Give it back! Give me back my taily poo!” The man sicks his last dog on the creature, which chases it outside the house. Only a few moments later, to hear a heartbreaking cry, which he only assumes can come from the dog. Now, shaking in fear in his own bed, in the pure darkness, he hears something walking up to his bed. Two yellow eyes peek over the bedframe. And that was the last we only heard of that man…

(We both laugh).

BL: That was terrible…

Me: That’s just how it ends?

BL: Alright…um. When his friends went to go look for him, because they hadn’t heard from him in days, when they show up at his house… his house was no longer there. The only thing that remained… was the chimney.

Analysis:

I think, for the most part, this story is just an entertaining campfire story, relying on the performer’s dramatic performance determine how well it’s received. BL here clearly did not remember the tale too vividly, as he paused with many “ums” and “uhs” to recall what happens next. Though the story is likely mainly for mere entertainment, it does have anti-hunting connotations, with the hunted returning for vengeance on the hunter, which is a common archetype in tales and stories. Also, the creature killing the hunter’s pets creates an interesting comparison between animals that we hunt and animals that we keep as pets. Stories like this often help us cope with the fact that we hunt and eat animals, as we soothe the moral complexity of the issue with stories of the hunted animals enacting vengeance on us.

Legends

Yosemite Ridge Runner

Background: The Informant was backpacking in Yosemite with friends, and they heard this story from a member of the group they were traveling with.

Context:This ghost story was performed to an audience of one in a fraternity dining hall.

“In the early 1800s there was, like, a mining company that was out there in Yosemite. There was a big storm and one of the workers got left for dead there in the storm. And supposedly he became, like, a zombie named the ridge runner. If you’re walking in the valley you can see him and his fires. Apparently there used to be a lot of decapitated bodies in Yosemite. Like they would just be like ripped apart super weirdly, and people were like, “I don’t think animals could do that” so might have been like a serial killer, but they just blame it on the ridge runner.”

It can be very unnerving to go be exposed in nature, away from the comfort that four solid walls provide. This story seems to be playing off of these fears.

Earth cycle
Legends
Narrative
Tales /märchen

Camp Stories

My informant told me about some of the camp stories that she used to hear at her summer camp, Camp Letts, in Edgewater, Maryland, which as my informant describes, is an offshoot of the Chesapeake Bay.

She said that the counselors were the ones who typically told these stories to the campers, and that there aws no particular time that they always told the stories. It was sometimes around a campfire, or sometimes just in the cabins or during mealtime.

There were two stories in particular that were mainly used as a means to scare campers away from wandering in the woods or near the pool late at night, thought this intention never occurred to my informant until she was older.

The first story was the girl with the red scarf. My informant doesn’t remember why she had a red scarf, but it was significant to the story. The story is that there were two counselors who were in love and they decide that in the middle of the night that they were going to go into the middle of the woods and meet up at this spot. The boy goes into the woods and he waits and waits for this girl but she never shows up. It’s really dark and the guy doesn’t have anything with him to light the way. He starts walking when suddenly he runs into a body, which turns out to the body of the girl, hanging from a tree by strangled by her red scarf. Her death was blamed on a strangling ghost, meant to scare the children at the camp.

The second story scared children away from the pool. There was a camp manager having a secret relationship with a counselor, and they would often meet at a certain spot that would later become a spot for the camp pool. One night, there was an accident and the girl counselor slipped and fell and died. The camp manager, afraid of getting caught in the relationship and blamed for her death, buried her under the spot where the pool was built and the campers were told that if you went to the pool at night, her ghost would try and grab you. They also warned campers of swimming to the bottom of the pool because of her ghost, to keep beginner swimmers from pushing themselves too far.

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