Author Archives: Christine Preimesberger

Folk Object: Spirit Stick

Spirit Stick

My informant was a member of the Drill team in high school. In high school the drill team would go to drill camps with teams from other schools. There would be mini-competitions between the schools. Whichever school had the most school spirit was given the Spirit Stick. According to my informant the Spirit Stick was 1 and half to 2 foot long cylindrical stick with a 1 and a half to two inch diameter, just big enough to keep a grip on. She says it was decorated but she can’t remember exactly what it looked like. The Spirit Stick cannot touch the ground. Dropping the Spirit stick on the ground is bad luck. She wasn’t told what type of bad luck would occur but she says it was bad luck for the drill team not the football team. It would probably result in the drill team doing poorly at a competition.

This item shows how the drill team is a distinct community from the football team. The two groups may interact because its the drill teams jobs to perform at games. However, the drill team have separate camps and the meet with opposing teams in a different setting a, at a camp and on the field. Also any bad luck caused by dropping the spirit stick reflects negatively on the drill team not the football team.

Tradition: Drill team

My informant was a member of the Drill team. During half-time at every football game the drills teams from both school would meet in (?). The teams would exchange gifts like school buttons and candy. According to the informant it was a nice tradition that allowed her to meet people from other schools.

The relationship between competing drill teams is kind of interesting. In the other example the informant gave my they are competing against each other. In this instance they are friendly and exchanging gifts.

This an interesting tradition because it contrasts with the spirit stick tradition that this informant also gave me. In that scenario the teams were competing against each other. In those incidence they are exchanging gifts. Still this is the first time I’ve heard of opposing sport’s teams exchanging gifts. It probably has something to do with the way the drill team is structured. According to the other example she gave me different drill teams would go to camp together. As far as I know other sport’s teams don’t do that. Either this tradition was created to promoted a friendly relationship between both groups because they see each other alot. Or it grew out the positive interactions the drill teams have with each other.

Tradition: Luminaras

Note: the informant was originally from New Mexico


Christmas Luminaras

This tradition is primarily a New Mexico. Before Christmas my informant’s family sets up luminaras around their house. Luminaras are made of paper bags,sand, and candles. Generally brown paper bags and wax candles are used although some people use electric lights in lieu of candles. They do not have to be decorated. To make them you just fill a bag with sand and place the candle inside. According to the informant this is a very collaborative process, the whole family (her nuclear family) gets involved, they take turns doing different steps and they all put the luminaras outside. They place several hundred outside the house. On Christmas Eve the informant and her family go out and look at the neighbor’s Christmas lights and luminaras. Then they drive to Old Town in Alberquere, a plaza where a lot of people gather to look at the luminaras. 

In this case the time the family spending time together is the most important part of this tradition than the object itself. The emphasis is about preparation because that’s a collaborative process. Its fairly similar to other Christmas traditions (well h=the ones I’ve experienced) where the traditions like putting up a tree and opening presents are more about spending time with the family.

Joke: Theather humor


“What has two legs, a tail, and bleeds profusely?”

“Half a cat.”

My informant got this joke in high school. It was everyone’s favorite joke in her Theater class. Sometimes they would just text each other “Half a cat”. The informant says that she thought it was funny in an unexpected and twisted way.  It was mostly funny because it was an inside joke within the theater group. She said it in-jokes were in common in her theater class, they wouldn’t make sense to people outside the class.

This is kind of a joke riddle. The humor comes from the fact that the person thinks the answer is going to something they don’t know but then the answer is actually really simple. It actually reminds me of a joke from one of my favorite books How NOT to write a Novel “Giving a reader a sex scene that is only half right is like giving her half of a kitten. It is not half as cute as a whole kitten; it is a bloody, godawful mess ” (Mittelmark and Newman) Apparently in American society dead cats are a source of humor.

Urban Legend: High School

The Nipple Nerve Story

The informant heard this story from a friend about something one of his friends did. The informant’s story is there was a gut who decides he wants to pierce his nipples. Instead of doing the smart thing about getting it down professionally he does it himself.  After week he decides that he doesn’t want them anymore. He takes out one ring and nothing happens. He takes out the other one and a white string comes out. He takes a pair of scissors and cuts the string. He passes out because the pain. When he wakes up, he’s dazed and notices a bad smell. What had happened was that when he pierced his nipple he pierced the nerve. So when he removed it he cut the nerve, passed out, and shit himself.

The informant says he believes that this actually happened because he believed his friends friend’s were stupid enough to try that. He loves telling this story because it gets a great reaction out of people.

This story was one of the only friend of a friend tales I found. Its one of those urban legends that its hard to tell whether it really happened because it sounds kind of plausible. Whether it real or not is not really important but the plausibility makes the story really effective. An effective story just makes it more fun to repeatedly tell people.