Author Archives: Amanda Miller

The Golden Arm

The Tale:

“Once upon a time there was a little lady who lived in a cottage…all on her own, uh, in the woods. One day, when she was out in her house, outside her house, um, working in her garden and gathering, uh, vegetables and taking care of her flowers, she um, she decided to go on over to the little graveyard…that was not too far away from her house, and she thought she would go and lay some flowers on the various graves. Well when she came upon one grave, she found this very interesting…uh…gold…thing that caught her eye, and when she looked at it more carefully, it looked like it was in the shape of an arm, and she thought that was very odd, but yet it was still so pretty and shiny. She decided she would pick it up and take it home. So she took it home with her, and she went on back home, and she made dinner and everything, and uh, lit a fire, and sat by the fireplace for a little while, and then she got tired and decided to go to bed. So she went to bed that night, and after she had fallen asleep for a little while, she, she thought she heard something and she wasn’t sure, so she sat up so she could hear a little bit better, and she heard something, um from a, sounded like from a distance going: ‘Briiiing back my golden arm. Briiiing back my golden arm.’ And it kept getting louder, and louder, and louder. And she was very nervous, she didn’t know what was happening. And it got louder, and closer. ‘Briiiing back my golden arm. (louder) Briiiing back my golden arm. BRIIIING BACK MY GOLDEN ARM.’ So the little lady…scrambled up, she got the golden arm, and she looked out but she didn’t see anyone, so she quickly ran back out to the graveyard and put it back where she found it, and ran back to her house and locked the house, and she never heard, or saw the golden arm again.”

The informant is my mom. She is from Tennessee working as a middle school Spanish teacher. She heard this tale from her mother when she was a little girl, and she then told it to my sister and I at home. The tale had a haunting impression on her as a child. My grandmother was an intimidating woman; she was very strict and got upset with my mom if she didn’t obey exactly what she wanted her to do. I believe my grandmother told this story to my mom in order to scare her and instruct her to follow the rules or avoid messing with things about which she doesn’t know enough information. It doesn’t seem to have that exciting of an ending, but I imagine my grandmother’s intention was just to scare my mom, so it didn’t matter. It also kind of disturbed my sister and me.

Kiss the Lollipop

The ritual: “My high school’s cross-country team…our sectionals which was like the last meet of the year, cause we always lose sectionals…it’s always at the same place, it’s at this elementary school in Noblesville. And we would go there and there’s like this random path into the woods, and all the guys on the team would go there together, and we would take one lollipop and everyone had to kiss the lollipop and it was super weird.”

The informant carried out this ritual for his high school cross-country team. He said that one guy on the team never did it because he thought it was too weird, probably because he thought it was too close to kissing other guys. This ritual was probably more ironic than for good luck, since the informant himself said that the team lost sectionals every year. Going in knowing that they’ll lose, the ritual for “good luck” was probably just a parody, since the ritual itself is kind of weird to begin with.

The Author of Ben-Hur

The rumor/myth: “The author of Ben-Hur, whose name is something Lane I think? (The only book ever written in Crawfordsville, Indiana.) His house is in Crawfordsville, and they say that on the grounds of this house is like every tree that’s like native to Indiana. I don’t actually know if it’s true though, I heard it from my 5th grade teacher Mrs. Harris. She was really weird.”

The informant, originally from Crawfordsville, told me this about the author of Ben-Hur, actually named Lew Wallace. He has never actually read the novel, but his teacher told their class about Wallace’s house in Crawfordsville. I think she told 5th graders this story to give them pride about their hometown, as it is a very small rural town that isn’t very famous to people that aren’t from there. Its truth value doesn’t seem to matter, and one could even say that it’s a sacred truth to the inhabitants of Crawfordsville. I imagine Mrs. Harris would be a bit offended if anyone challenged her on the verity of this statement, since it represents the mythology of Crawfordsville.

Don’t Swim After Eating

The belief:

“If go swimming after you eat, you’ll drown.”

 

The informant doesn’t remember where he heard this rumor, but he thinks it was probably from a friend’s mother during his childhood. He doesn’t think it’s true now, though. In my opinion, I think this is a popular statement told to children by their parents so that they let their food digest before they get back in the water to swim. Another popular belief is that you’ll get cramps if you swim right after eating, so maybe the parents who say this more extreme belief are just trying to protect their children from painful cramps.

Delta Sigma Theta step/chant

The chant:

“Contrary, contrary, contrary to the story,

Everybody knows that this is Delta territory.

In 1913, a change was made,

And for a solid sisterhood, the foundation was laid.

Twenty-two women who were destined to lead

Founded the devastating, captivating—DST.

In Delta Sigma Theta Sorority,

Public service is our number one priority.

For royal red, and nine white pearls,

It takes a lot to be a—Delta girl.”

 

The informant, my mom, is from Tennessee working as a middle school Spanish teacher. She learned this sorority chant in college in the South from her sorority sisters while they were getting ready for a stepping competition. Stepping is a combination of claps, steps, and chants to a particular rhythm; this practice is popular among traditionally black Greek organizations. She told me that she learned a lot of chants while pledging Delta Sigma Theta, but she didn’t learn this one until later. These chants are usually learned directly from sorority sisters or fraternity brothers in these organizations, and many have roots as far back as the beginning of the 20th century when the organizations were founded. The chant serves primarily to tell Delta’s history and take pride in their organization, while carrying out impressive stepping as well. Thus, it is somewhat also the mythology upon which Delta Sigma Theta is founded, as it tells of its origins and identity.