Informant: The interviewee in question here is a 20 year old girl studying business at USC. She hails from Austin, Texas.
Okay, so another story from my lake house. Whenever we had someone new to the house, we would always hold an armadillo hunt. Our house is pretty big, and then down the road there’s a bunch of fields that are separated from the house area. So we’d pile in the golf cart or whatever with a bunch of coolers and sticks and get everyone far from the house. And you take the cooler and bang the stick on it and supposedly that’ll attract the armadillos and the armadillos will crawl right into the cooler. Everyone’s walking around banging on coolers and then the people who are in on it sneak back to the house and laugh at the people who were out there banging on coolers for no reason until they figure it out and come back and then they’re mad at you and everyone laughs. It’s fun. It’s like a snipe hunt. I heard that one from my dad too. That one was his own little invention. It’s memorable and as a kid I thought it was the best practical joke ever and I love pranks and practical jokes now and making people feel stupid.
Analysis: This story serves as an excellent example of a practical joke being used as an initiation ritual. In many cases, an initiation ritual serves as a power play to assert a hierarchy, with the older members of the particular group asserting dominance over the newer members. Practical jokes serve excellently in this purpose, making the newer, less experienced members feel foolish compared to the experienced older members. This puts the older members in a position of power over the newer members – however without sacrificing any of the camaraderie between them. Oftentimes, those older members suffered the same humilation themselves and wish to see the same thing done to them carried out on others.