Occupation: Professor and Folklorist
Residence: Kenai, AK, now Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: April 25, 2018
Primary Language: English
A fellow classmate and I went to Professor Thompson’s office hours to ask him for any folklore. ME is the classmate, PH is myself, and TT is the informant.
PH: We were wondering if we could collect folklore from you for the project.
ME: Specifically, any stories about Alaska, the Alaskan wilderness, maybe about animals
TT: Stories… You’re looking for something kind of traditional I suppose, um. There’s a story my dad told to me that was told as, somewhat traditional, he got it from someone else who got it from someone else… I got a few stories, probably somewhat true. So here’s, uh, um, uh uh um, there’s one from my hometown, I’ll give you one of those from my hometown, it’s not really an animal story but it’s one from my hometown. So, I grew up in, uh, what was at the time kind of transitioning away from a Native village, it was a Native village when I was born there, but then they discovered oil and a lot of people came in, but just a few years back it was more of a Native village, kind of a Russian Native outpost since the 1700s, this is in Kenai. So, um, my dad moved out there a few months after World War II, uh, and he hung out with a lot of people and collected stories, not that he was a folklorist he just liked talking to people and it was a small town but uh there were a lot of stories from the small town. One that was on my mind um, just recently… Are you ready for it?
PH: Yeah, it’s recording
TT: Back in the day, everybody had little cabins, it was a small little town, and everything was, all the heat was woodpower, everybody had to cut their own wood, there was just wood stoves, and at one point, some guy became aware that somebody in the town was stealing his wood and he didn’t know who, um, you know it’s hard to stop because everybody had their log pile right in front of your house and he just started noticing his log pile going down further than he was burning it, and he couldn’t figure out how to… how to catch the thief so he came up with an idea and he invited everybody over to a party and um, pretty much the whole town… It’s pretty cold in the winter so if someone throws a party everybody shows up, and, uh, they had food, drink, or whatnot, and at one point, he kind of just casually announced to the party, “Yeah, you know, somebody’s been stealing my wood, but that’s okay, I fixed it.” And everybody’s like, “Oh, how did you fix it,” you know, like, “Did you find out who it is?” Like, “No, no, I took care of it.” …like, “How’d you take care of it?” and he’s like, “Well. Here’s what I did, I hollowed out one of the logs and I crammed it full of dynamite and plugged it back up…so….and I noticed that piece of wood was gone last night, sooo, as soon as that…pretty soon we’re going to hear a big bang, and somebody’s fireplace is going to explode.” Yeah, he waits a couple a minutes, pretty soon this one guy says like, “Uhh, I have to get going” and he looks out the window and he sees the guy running as fast as he can home, so..”
All of us laugh
ME: How old were you when you were first told this story?
TT: Probably quite young, and I heard it many times over the years