Author Archives: jrayburn

The Little People

The informant for this piece is my aunt, who worked for the Cherokee Government for several years and is still heavily involved in the organization. She grew up in Tulsa, OK, but has also lived extensively in Tahlequah, OK.

In this piece, my aunt talks to me about the legend of the Little People in Cherokee folklore.

AJ: There was another story I’ll tell you. It’s about the Little People. Have you heard of them?

Me: I don’t think so, no.

AJ: Again, your Mimi, and therefore your mom and I, weren’t told many stories about Cherokee folklore growing up. Some people felt that it was in competition with religion and Christianity, so they didn’t tell their kids.

Me: Right.

AJ: Well, the Little People are this race of spirits who live in caves. They’re about the height of your knees, and are supposedly very pretty and handsome. Their hair is so long it almost touches the ground. They’re helpful, kind, and great workers. They love music and spend their times singing and dancing. They’re kind of like you: they’re very nice and sweet, but don’t like to be disturbed.

Me: That is like me.

AJ: [laughs] My mom told me that sometimes you will hear the Little People drumming but that it is not safe to follow the sound because they don’t want to be disturbed at home. If you bother them, they’ll throw a spell on you so that they become confused and get lost. They like to do things for people, but they don’t like to be watched. Supposedly, you could hear them whispering outside of their house, but that you weren’t allowed to go outside. In the morning, you would wake up and find that corn had been gathered and set outside of your home.

Me: That’s nice.

AJ: I know. I wish I had the Little People clean my house at night.

Me: It would be a good service, huh?

AJ: One last thing about the Little People is that if you find something in the woods you have to say “Little People, I would like to take this” and then you’d say whatever it is you found.

Me: Why do you have to say that?

AJ: Because it may belong to one of them. If you don’t ask permission, the Little People will throw stones at you.

Me: I guess that makes sense.

AJ: So next time you’re out in the woods of California, make sure and say hi to the Little People.

Me: I will.

I personally really like this, and I know my aunt likes it to because she enjoys the idea of these people in a way looking out for the Cherokee people. I like it because it reminds me a lot of myself: I like helping people, but I don’t want any recognition or people to observe me trying to help someone. I would much rather not get any praise. My aunt is very similar to me in that fashion, so in a way we feel a connection to the Little People. I think a lot of the traditions with the Little People, such as asking for their permission to take something in the woods, is a practice that makes life a little more interesting. I don’t think my Aunt believes in the Little People, but she still likes to do the act. In a way, I think it connects her with our ancestors, and in another way, I think it’s just a little thing to do that keeps life interesting.

Will’s Favorite Long Joke

On Reddit, which is a message board type website, one of the most popular subreddits is one called /r/AskReddit, where users ask questions for all of Reddit to answer. One question that you can almost always find on /r/AskReddit is some form of the question “what is your favorite joke.” I asked my friend Will, with whom I trade funny or interesting things from Reddit with, to find his favorite joke and tell me why he likes it so much. Below is the original post, and after that is my short interview with Will.

“Three young friends, seeking a fortune, adventure together to Egypt where a new pyramid has been discovered.

Upon arriving at the pyramid, they are immediately told to leave as the site has already been excavated. The friends, not willing to concede, look for a different way in and find an entrance never before used.

It is through this entrance that they find a secret passage way, one that is made at first to look like a dead end but is truly a turn in the hallway. They venture around this turn and into a great room.

In this room are torches. A sign just inside the room warns “He who lights this shall burn to death.” (In Egyptian hieroglyphs of course) The first friend takes a torch, and lights the end. The Friends venture through the room to another.

In this second room is a small lake, with a small canoe able to seat three. In the canoe is a paddle that reads, “He who uses this shall die a watery death.” The second friend takes this paddle and uses it to guide the three of them to the other side of the lake and through a third and final door.

In this last room is a great atrium, filled with heaps upon heaps of golden artifacts and jewels. The three friends rush in, and come to a golden sarcophagus. The third friend looks at it, and sees that it has the warning “The first man to touch this treasure shall die a most terrible death” written on its exterior. The third friend, giving the message no care, proceeds to pick up as much gold as he can. His friends quickly follow suit.

Many months later, after the friends had returned home with their loot and used it to live lucrative lives, the third friend received troubling news. The first friend had been sleeping when his mansion had caught fire and burned to the ground, killing him. Remembering the warning, he calls the second friend, but they both laugh it off.

A month later, the third friend is watching the news when a breaking story comes on. It is his second friend, who had been out on his yacht. The boat had unexplainably capsized, killing him. The third friend saw this and grew terribly fearful.

Assuming he had a month left before whatever horror would befall him, the third friend sold many of his belongings to afford the most secure underground bunker. He then used his remaining fortune to buy an incredibly high tech security system, cameras all over, and 30+ armed guards stationed at the entrance.

The third friend spent a month in the bunker.

30 days passed, and night was falling when the third friend look to the security cameras. Outside of the bunker, at the entrance, was an empty expanse of land, save one object. All the security guards were mysteriously gone, and just in frame was the silhouette of a sarcophagus. The third friend panicked.

Rushing to the door, he pushed all manners of furniture before it. A fridge, a bookshelf, his bed, a desk. But once he had placed the final barricade, a great pounding game to the door. Looking to security footage, the sarcophagus had begun to float, and was using itself as a battering ram. To the third friends horror, the door began to crack.

With a tremendous boom, the door and all the furniture was blasted away. The third friend screamed, as there in the doorway floated the sarcophagus. He ran through the bunker, stalked by the sarcophagus. The friend jumped into the bathroom and locked the door behind him. There, he sat on the toilet and cried.

BOOM The sarcophagus was there, breaking through the bathroom door. The third friend panicked, running to the sink as the sarcophagus inched forward. The friend picked up a bottle of shampoo and through it. The sarcophagus kept coming. He threw a can of shaving cream. The sarcophagus was within 10 feet of him now. He threw a tube of toothpaste. The sarcophagus was within arms length. The friend made one final attempt, he reached into the cabinet, grabbed a plastic bottle, filled with a green liquid , and threw it. The sarcophagus fell to the ground and turned to dust.

The man marveled at this. Looking for the last thing he had thrown, he picked it up and thought, “All I had to do was take some NyQuil and the coffin would stop.”

Me: I just want you to know, when you sent me this joke I was very angry with you.

Will: Why?

Me: Because I spent ten fucking minutes reading this soliloquy for a dumb pun!

Will: See, that was my reaction!

Me: So, when did you first see this?

Will: I think I must have been in eleventh grade or something, and I was so mad but I thought it was so funny. Those are my favorite kinds of jokes because once you’ve heard them you can’t believe you were so invested in it and your reward is a pun.

Me: Do you tell this joke often? I can’t imagine that you do.

Will: No, not at like parties or anything. One time my dad and I were driving to my grandparent’s house, and I pulled out my phone and read it to him.

Me: What was his response.

Will: Oh, he thought it was the funniest shit he’d ever heard. He almost crashed the car. I started reaching for the steering wheel just for protection.

Me: So he wasn’t mad?

Will: No. Do you know why?

Me: Why?

Will: Because he appreciates fine comedy.

Will loves to do anything that will get a strong reaction out of people, as long as it’s harmless. To him, telling this long winded joke that ends in a pun is as sweet as life gets. Wasting the time of another person, and making them think excruciatingly hard about what the end result of the joke will be, only to pull the rug out from under them, makes Will laugh. It’s harmless, but it does make people what I call “joke-mad”, where a person is angry, but can also laugh about what has just happened. They’re more angry at themselves for not recognizing the trap the joke was setting up.

The Story of “Kevin”

On Reddit, which is a message board type website, one of the most popular subreddits is one called /r/AskReddit, where users ask questions for all of Reddit to answer. One of the most popular stories to originate out of /r/AskReddit, and became a Reddit inside joke, is the story of “Kevin”. The story of Kevin came out of an AskReddit thread asking teachers about their most memorable student. Below is the original post, and below that I talk to my friend Will, who shares funny and interesting things he finds on Reddit with me, about Kevin.

“It’s not uncommon as a teacher to have students who are a bit behind the curve in certain aspects, but 99.99999% of the time they are keen on something. They might not understand how to identify a noun or what theme is, but they somehow know how to make a mean plate of nachos. You learn pretty quick to not judge fish for their tree climbing ability, ya know?

I thought this was the rule when I was teaching until I met Kevin. Kevin isn’t his real name, but it doesn’t matter because he can’t spell it anyway. Kevin was a student of mine during my last year of teaching. He came to my classroom with very little to show for his academic past. He had moved a few times and thus was missing a lot of typical test scores that we use to try and ballpark their ability (Don’t worry, it was a ballpark…..we didn’t make major decisions until we actually had a chance to talk and work with a student for a bit.) I thought “That’s fine. I’ll just do some one-on-one with Kevin and see what’s up” One on One with kevin was like conversing with someone who’d forgotten everything in a freak, if not impossible, amnesia incident. There was no evidence that he had learned anything past the 2nd grade….and now he was in 9th grade. Flabbergasted, I figured we needed to get more serious with this. If he was going to be in my class, I needed to know why and how.

I decided to meet with him, his guidance counselor, his parents, and another teacher to see what was really going on. This is where it all became clear. It was by some incredible fluke that his family hadn’t been wiped off the face of the Earth years ago. Odds are his entire heritage was based on blind luck and some type of sick divine intervention that saves his family every time a threat presents itself. Kevin was the genetic pinnacle of this null achievement. Even my instructional lead, a woman who could find a redeeming trait in a Balrog, failed to see any reason this kid or his family should be alive today.

So here’s a list of events that made it abundantly clear that god exists and he’s laughing uncontrollably:

Kevin frequently forgot when/where class was. On more than one occasion, I had to retrieve him from other classrooms.

Kevin ate an entire 24 pack of crayons, puked, and then did it again the next day. This is 9th grade. I have no idea where he got crayons.

Kevin’s dad wrote tuition checks and mailed them to me…his English teacher. This was a public school. When I gave it back to Kevin, voided, to give to his dad with a brief note explaining that this is a public school, Kevin got in trouble for trying to spend it at 711 after school.

Kevin was removed from the culinary arts program after leaving a cutting board on the gas stove and starting a fire….twice

Kevin threw his lunch at the School Resource Officer and tried to run away. He ran into a door and insisted it wasn’t him.

Kevin stole my phone during class. I called it. It rang. He denied that it was ringing. (Not that it wasn’t his, not that he did it…, he denied that the phone was actually ringing). He tried it three times before the end of the year.

Kevin called the basketball coach a “Motherfucking Bitch” during gym. Basketball tryouts were that afternoon. Kevin tried out. It didn’t go well.

Kevin’s mom could never remember which school he went to. She missed several meetings because she drove to other schools (none of which he ever went to)

Kevin tazed himself in the neck before a football game

Kevin kept a bottle of orange koolaide in his backpack for about 4 months. He thought it would turn into alcohol. He drank it during homeroom and threw up.

Kevin say the N-word a lot. Kevin was white. The highschool was 84% black. Kevin got beat up a lot.

Kevin stole another student’s Iphone….and tried to sell it back to them.

Kevin didn’t understand that his grade was dependent on tests, quizzes, homework, classwork, and participation. Kevin finished his first semester with a 3% average. He tried to bribe me with $11.

Kevin spit on a girl and said “You should get out of those wet clothes”. The girl was the Spanish Student Teacher.

Kevin didn’t know dogs and cats were different animals.

Kevin tried to download porn onto a computer in the library… the circulation desk….while he was logged on.

Kevin asked a girl to prom (he was in 9th grade and freshmen don’t go to prom) by asking for her phone number and then texting her his address

Kevin got gum in his hair, constantly.

Kevin regularly tried to cheat on assignments by knocking the pile over, grabbing one before I had picked them all up, and then writing it name on it wherever there was room.

Kevin had several allergies, but neither his parents nor he could remember what they were. They were very concerned that “the holiday party” (it’s high school, we don’t have those) would have peanuts. When they finally got a doctor’s note….he was allergic to amoxicillin

Kevin and his parents took a trip to Nassau (how the fuck did they even get airline tickets?) and forgot all their luggage at home. I didn’t believe him when he told me until I talked to him mom, who told me 1st thing when I saw her at the bi-weekly meeting.

Kevin’s grandfather apparently died in a chainsaw accident. I can only assume God was looking the other way that day.”

Will: Which one are we talking about next.

Me: Kevin.

Will: Oh fuck, yes!

Me: So, Will, thoughts…

Will: How the fuck is that kid alive?

Me: [laughs] I don’t know. Why don’t you tell me why you like this story?

Will: Isn’t it obvious? It’s probably one of the funniest stories I’ve ever heard in my life. The things this kid did, and the way the guy wrote it.

Me: You know, there are some people on Reddit that think it was made up.

Will: No. No. Everything that was written that kid did. I mean, how did that guy come up with some of the shit he did? You’re a screenwriter. Could you think of that stuff?

Me: Kevin is what I like to call a ‘gift from God’, because everything he does it gold and it makes writing easier. You are frustrated though, because you wish you could come up with that kind of stuff.

Will: But you can’t, because if you did you’d be just as dumb as Kevin.

Me: So do you think Kevin was just dumb?

Will: Yes. Extremely.

Me: I feel bad for him.

Will: Why?

Me: I mean, that’s his life, right? He has to be Kevin all his life. What’s he going to do?

Will: Ignorance is bliss, dude.

Me: Yeah, I guess you’re right.

I’m always interested in this story because it always gets two different reactions: people either think the story of Kevin is real, or they think whoever wrote it is just a really creative writer. As mentioned above, Will believes Kevin is a real person, and in a way I do as well. I think Will might believe in Kevin because in a way he likes to think that a person like that can exist. I think we’ve all met somebody who was a bit of a “Kevin”, and it’s nice to be able to put a name to that kind of person.

Native Americans and Dreams

The informant is my mother, Dayna Rayburn, born in 1960 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She grew up in Tulsa, before going to college at the University of Oklahoma and graduating with a degree in nursing. She has worked at St. Francis Hospital in the newborn nursery for thirty years.

In this piece, my mother tells me about dreams and how Native Americans use them as a way to comfort us in times of trouble or uncertainty.

Mom: Something about us Native Americans is that we really read into dreams.

Me: Yeah, we’ve talked about this.

Mom: Yeah. I think we see it as a connection to our ancestors. For example, … I guess I need to give them backstory on this.

Me: Go ahead. I got 40 pages to fill.

Mom: [laughs] Are you going to put that in your report?

Me: Hell yeah.

Mom: [laughs] Don’t embarrass the family, son.

Me: Go on with the backstory.

Mom: Okay. Well, me and Joey’s dad got married in 1982, and we started trying to have a kid a year or so later, but it just never happened. We kept trying and trying, and we started thinking that it wasn’t going to be possible for us to have kids. It was a really hard time for both me and your dad. I was even told that I only had a ten percent chance of having a child, and then, like a little miracle, I got pregnant with Alyssa [my sister]. I was so thrilled, but I started getting worried. I started having this fear that I was going to die in childbirth. It still happens, a lot of people think it doesn’t. I was really worried, and then about a week before Alyssa was born, I had a dream. I saw my Grandpa Eli, who was this very stoic Indian man. He barely said a word to me, or really anybody, but I loved him very much. And in my dream, I was walking through this… mist? It was cloudy, kind of, like Heaven, and my grandpa was there, and he looked at me and said “Everything will be alright,” and it was.

Me: I have those dreams about Pa sometimes.

Mom: I think we all do. We’re a very spiritual people. But, anyways, your sister was born maybe a week later and everything was fine. I remember when I was in labor I just kept saying “everything will be alright”.

Me: What do you think those dreams mean?

Mom: I think they mean that they’re watching over us. That they’re walking alongside us. It’s a comforting thought, isn’t it?

Me: Yeah.

Dreams have always been something my mother and I have bonded over, and I was always able to tell that she really believed that she was connecting to those she loved most. I think my mom is right in thinking they mean something, even if they’re not entirely real. She hears what she wants from who she wants to hear it from, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Personally, I’ve still been trying to decide whether my dreams carry any weight, but I do know I’ve been affected by them. She doesn’t put all of her life’s biggest choices in waiting to see what her dreams say: to her, they’re just supplementary, and will happen when you need them to happen.

Senior Pranks

On Reddit, which is a message board type website, one of the most popular subreddits is one called /r/AskReddit, where users ask questions for all of Reddit to answer. One of the most popular questions that have been asked over the years are about senior pranks, or really any prank for that matter. Senior pranks are a tradition in American school where students in their last year of high school decide the go out with a bang and prank the school, usually in a humorous way. I asked my friend Will, who sends me funny or interesting things he finds on Reddit, what his favorite senior prank was that he saw on Reddit, and this is what he found…

“My friend tapped into the PA system and figured out how to broadcast from anywhere. He found an English teacher that was willing to collude, and near the end of the year he started broadcasting pre-recorded messages to the whole school.

the administration had no idea where it was coming from and they followed every lead that the broadcasts claimed they originated from (including the local high school burger joint). a lot of the broadcasts were hilarious, including a fake emergency drill where the speaker said that our study desks could double as flotation devices and that our teachers would demonstrate.

We had a nice lunch one day where we got to listen to opera and classical music.

Eventually he got caught but it was only because he let too many people know. because he didn’t broadcast anything offensive he didn’t get into any trouble.”

Me: How did you find this?

Will: It was a while back, and it was just a thread that I would always go to when I was bored and just shift through. This is one that always stuck out to me.

Me: Why?

Will: I just love it. A lot of pranks nowadays go too big and they usually destroy property or hurt somebody. This is just harmless fun.

Me: It reminds me of when, in “The Shawshank Redemption”, Andy started playing classical music into the prison.

Will: Yeah! Yeah!

Me: So, let me ask you, if you were to do this prank, what would you play?

Will: Oh, I’d play some fucking death metal or something.

Me: You don’t even like death metal.

Will: I know! Nobody does! That’s why it’d be so funny. That’s the other thing, is that kid who pulled that prank should work as a writer. “Use your desk as a flotation device”. I stole that joke one time in class and everybody laughed. It’s priceless.

Will and I have often spent time talking about pranks, especially those that we see as detrimental and end up hurting people or damaging property. It makes sense to me that Will would love this prank. It’s not only harmless, but it’s incredibly witty. I personally think it’s a much better prank for both of those reasons. One of the reasons I asked Will about what he would do if given that opportunity was because I knew Will loved thinking about that. He likes hearing stories and wondering what he would do if he was in that situation. Even when he watches movies, he puts himself in the shoes of the main character and says what he would’ve done. I think he partially likes this story because he wants to think he could be that witty.