USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘minnesota’
Folk Beliefs
Legends
Narrative

Fossils in the Creek

The Informant GT lived in a house with a huge backyard in Minnesota for 6 years until he moved to California at the age of 11.

GT: There’s this creek in our backyard in Minnesota, and there’s fool’s gold and ammonite fossils in it, and a bunch of other fossils I didn’t know the names for back then. It was really cool, we used to collect them.

There’s a forest behind the creek, and behind that is farmland and undeveloped territory. One of the older kids told us that if you went past the creek into that territory, there’s a guy named Dead-Eye Pete or something like that who lives there, and if he catches you he’ll kill you and turn your body into rocks and that’s what the fossils were. Since the fossils all looked really organic and we were a bunch of dumb kids, we actually thought all the fossils were made of dead people who got lost and wandered into his territory.

This story exploits a child’s fear of the unknown. The older kids referenced in the story were not interested in actually protecting the younger children by warning them off from unmapped territory, but wanted to scare them into doing what they want them to. Scary stories often pique a child’s curiosity about its subject matter more than it does to dampen it with fear.

Childhood
Game

Duck, Duck, Gray Duck

Interview Extraction:

Informant: In school, instead of playing just ‘Duck, Duck, Goose,’ we changed up the ducks. So you’d say different types of ducks, like ‘red duck, blue duck,’ whatever, and then when you said ‘gray duck,’ you’d run and ad the person you’d tag would chase you. So you just run at ‘gray duck’ instead of ‘goose.’”

Me: “Where was your school?”

Informant: “In Minnesota. They’re actually very militant about it, and they’ll insist that it’s ‘Duck, Duck, Gray Duck’ and not anything else, but like, I moved there when I was eight, so I knew from before that almost all other places called it ‘Duck, Duck, Goose.’ But they um, yeah, they insisted on the gray duck part and they thought the ‘goose’ portion was weird.”

Analysis:

Schoolchildren can be very adamant about protecting their games and creations. No matter where they are or what they are playing, their way will be the right way. This is evident in the  Minnesota elementary school kids who were “militant” about playing “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck,” as well as my informant, who despite being a college student, still showed signs of being upset at her old classmates. She strongly felt that it should be “Duck, Duck, Goose,” and that the Minnesota version was a singular place for playing the game differently. I admit that upon hearing the story and being introduced to the adaptation, even I felt slightly angry at these students for playing the “wrong” way. Neither I nor my informant still engage in “Duck, Duck, Goose,” but I imagine we expect to still see children playing in preschools and elementary schools years from now, and furthermore, we both expect to see it played the way we did.

Distancing myself personally from this game however, I must acknowledge that it’s interesting how “Duck, Duck, Gray Duck” even evolved. Upon researching this, I found out that Minnesota was the only state in the US and even Canada that had this version, though without any sufficient information. Even more intriguing, evidently one can now call someone a “gray duck,” and use the phrase in a derogatory way to refer to that person being born or raised in Minnesota. Clearly, childhood vendettas can run very deep, and changing up a traditional staple of schoolyards is frowned upon by all adolescents. While the Minnesotans don’t retaliate by calling residents of other states “gooses,” are determined to persist playing their own adaptation, either to distinguish themselves or to simply continue a game their own parents or teachers taught them.

 

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