Author Archives: Belton McMurrey

About Belton McMurrey

ANTH 333

Sore Tooth Joke

The following story is a joke collected from an older cousin during a brief car ride to a hiking area. Instead of turning to music or media-based entertainment as means to pass and occupy time, my cousin and I tend to exchange long dialogues of personal philosophies and other similar thoughts. Because these types of conversations tend to last for extended periods of time, and given that this car ride would only last about ten minutes, we instead opted to share our favorite ‘dirty jokes,’ ie, anecdotal passages of humor that typically rely on sexual topics as their main basis of humor.

The joke goes as follows:

So this man, just your average joe, he’s driving around in backwoods Louisiana, taking in the manner of the country and whatnot, looking for some local character.

He comes up on a bar, this nasty old shack of a place right on the water. Rickety, pieced together, looks like a hell of a time if you can manage to handle it. Anyway, he walks up to the front door with a few hints of second thoughts and then sees a bright yellow notice posted on the front. Big capital letters, reads: ‘Lifetime of Free Beer for anyone who completes the Three-Tier Challenge.’

So the guy shrugs and goes on in. Place is a madhouse, needless to say. He doesn’t fit in at all with his office drone attire compared to all these boondocks Louisiana maniacs.  Sure you can picture that pretty easily. Anyway, he goes up to the bartender and tells him he’s interested in the Three-Tier Challenge.

Guy looks at him like he’s crazy. ‘You sure?’

The man nods, and the bartender tells him the details:

‘Alright, well first, you gotta down a bottle of our specialty flaming pepper tequila. Without crying. Second, there’s a mean ol’ fifteen foot alligator out back with a sore tooth. And once you get that tooth out, you gotta head upstairs and take care of the roughest, toughest hooker in all of Louisiana.’

The man nods. And he goes ahead and starts.

He gets set up with the pepper tequila, and after a few long and painful minutes, he gets through the entire bottle without a single tear. Everyone’s impressed.

He stumbles out the door, drunk as shit, where the alligator’s waiting for him. Closes the door behind him. Everyone inside thinks ‘oh boy, this guy’s a goner’.

And then they hear the sounds. Thrashing, roaring, the most terrifying shrieks imaginable. Noises they don’t think could possibly come from either the man or the alligator. Even the toughest souls in that saloon are haunted to the core. The noise stops. Everyone’s quiet.

In walks the man, his outfit torn to pieces, covered in blood. He looks at the bartender and asks


This particular joke certainly shows the effectiveness of using the combined surprise of subverted expectations and abrupt endings as a comedic tool. In this instance, the listener is expecting to hear the encapsulating line to the joke following the patron’s completion of the third task, but instead, his faulty (and cringe-inducing) completion of the second task serves to cut the joke short without leaving anything unresolved.

104.9 Magic AM Radio

The following story was relayed from a cousin during a night at home in south Texas. On frequent occasion during family gatherings, cousins will gather on the porch following dinner to share cocktails, beers, cigarettes, and conversation. When the night has progressed for a few hours more, the conversation shifts into each member of the conversation sharing humorous anecdotes and stories one-by-one.


The cousin who told the story works and lives exclusively in south Texas, and being out of college is more privy to hearing the bizarre ramblings of local radio stations in the coastal areas surrounding Corpus Christi. The labor culture that exists in this area is predominantly a mix of English and Spanish-speaking idiosyncrasies, drawing from distinctly Hispanic and Anglo modes of speech.


On the night of documentation, the cousin in question told a story of a particular AM radio station known as ‘104.9 Magic’, operated by a 60-something Hispanic man named Lolo Aguilar. As described by my cousin, Mr. Aguilar’s sessions on the radio center on no topic in particular and extend for sometimes a matter of hours consisting entirely of him simply speaking into the radio from whatever is on his mind, with the only interruptions coming in the form of homemade commercial breaks celebrating the popular basketball team of the San Antonio Spurs.


One of Mr. Aguilar’s daily ramblings proceeded as follows (to be read/imagined in a Hispanic-American dialect):


“Today I thought I’d talk about presidents. Couple good topics the last couple days, but I figured today I’d hold off on having people call in and just talk about a few things that’ve been on my mind lately.


Now, you know…the thing about presidents, and we have a lot of good ones too, throughout the years. There was Ronald Reagan. Theodore Roosevelt, uh…Abraham Lincoln. George Washington, he goes without saying. And not just them by themselves either, we had too many good ones. And people normally talk about a few when they’re talking about things like that.


But you know who was, maybe, perhaps the best president that nobody talk about too much like the others is Franklin Delano Roosevelt. They call him FDR. He was president during Worl’ War Two, and also, he was president The Great Deprechon [Depression]. And you know, he was in office for four times. Which was the most terms of any other president. He had a lot of really goo things going for him in these time. But the thing is, he die. So he could not be president no more.”


What particularly stands out to me from my cousin’s story, later tuning in myself the next day to wind up listening to a ten minute discussion on Crayola’s success being measured in how many colors they offer in crayon boxes, is his encapsulation of perhaps not the exact words of Mr. Aguilar, but undoubtedly the spirit with which he carries his day-to-day personality on the airwaves. The most important notion for my cousin to capture and feed our complete understanding (as an audience to his own recollection) depends not on perfectly remembering every comma, pause, and word, instead relying on a sensory recreation of what it feels like to listen to this man on the radio.

Oscar Watch Party

To provide context, the ‘awards season’ is a film industry term that refers to the months and awards shows leading up the final, and most historically prestigious show, the Academy Awards (also known as the Oscars). Held at the end of each year to recognize various achievements in filmmaking, the awards given in this show are considered the highest achievement in the entertainment world.


Despite being centered on a relatively small industry, the place of movies is highly visible in the eyes of the American public, given that they are seen by millions of people. Therefore, it becomes a popular group activity to try and predict the winners of the Academy Awards, given its competitive nature, the widely familiar subject matter and the ability of anyone to play.


The following situation illustrates an ‘Oscar watch party’ with a number of guests at the house of a friend during the airing of the 90th Academy Awards. It should be noted this took place in Los Angeles, the seat of the film industry and the location of nearly all the awards shows, with the hosting friend a prominent producer in said industry:


Invited guests arrived at the host’s home in the hours preceding the show, with a dinner of pasta and salad being prepared at the same time. A number of appetizing foods were laid out for the meantime- chips, salsa, queso, guacamole, and bottled beers, with the television switched to the channel that the show would soon air on.


The awards show itself is preceded by a ‘red carpet’ program where nominees and their guests, naturally forming a sizable body of famous celebrities and movie stars in a single location. The stars are documented arriving to the venue of the awards show, showcasing elaborate dresses and participating in interviews.


The presence of this program allows a pleasant occupation of time before the actual show begins, alongside the appetizers and friendly conversation. During this time, the host additionally distributed ballots with a complete list of nominees in each category for guests to fill out and make their respective predictions.


As the show began, dinner was served alongside more alcohol-heavy tequila margaritas, ballots were handed in, and guests took their seats before the television.


Loud cheers, boos, praises, and surprises filled the room as each winner was announced over the course of the three hours making up the show. All the while, guests checked off their ballots to see whether they were correct or not in their predictions.


By the show’s end, the person with the greatest amount of correct marks earned a moment of pride, along with a physical prize of the last margarita.


On a further explanatory note regarding the Academy Awards and the fervor that comes to surround its airing, the months preceding the Academy Awards are peppered with smaller, less prominent awards shows (Screen Actors Guild, Golden Globes, BAFTAs) most of whose voting members have great amounts of crossover with the voting body of the Academy. Altogether, the nominees and winners of these preceding awards illustrate candidates of favorability to eventually be nominated for an Academy Award. Once the nominees have actually been announced, the winners and nominees of the awards leading up to the final show helpfully contribute to an overall historical record of statistics that allow one to pinpoint the likely ultimate winners.


With so many factors and events that present an increasingly clearer picture of who might win an Oscar, competition can become understandably heated as to making accurate predictions. The most interesting contentions arise when viewers are attached to certain films, directors, actors, or other nominees and insist their likelihood to win despite statistics suggesting otherwise. Given that there have been plenty of surprises and snubs throughout its 90-year history, upsets are not out of the question.


Although bets are frequently placed on the winners, this was not the case in the matter of this watch party’s ballot. The non-necessity of betting likely suggests the reason why so many people participate in the guessing-game conversation regarding the Academy Awards, being that the only thing at stake for most participants is the pride lost from having made an incorrect prediction.

Point Vicente Lighthouse ghost

The following story is one that was told to me by a classmate regarding a supposed haunted lighthouse in his hometown. As the subject explained, the lighthouse in question does not involve much of a personal experience, but that of his local community.

For the sake of convenience, I have included the subject identified as ‘A’, with his interviewer denoted as ‘Q.’

His explanation proceeded as follows:


A. We have this lighthouse, Point Vicente.

 Q. Is that PV?

 A. P.V., it’s short for Palos Verdes. Green Sticks.

 Q. What’s that?

 A. That’s my hometown.

 Q. No, the type of story.

 A. Oh, it’s a ghost story.


So yeah, we have this lighthouse, Point Vicente. It’s this big famous lighthouse.


The story goes that, um, there is a ghost lady who lives at the top because she’s the widow of some sailor who lived or- who sailed on the- I forget, there’s some boat…The Destroyer? That’s wrecked in one of our bays, I forget. Or one of our, I forget what it’s called. I think it’s the Destroyer, the SS Destroyer, but that sounds like a made-up boat name!


Anyways, so there’s this shipwreck, it’s like an army boat.


And the story goes that she is the wife of one of the sailors. And so every night she comes out and like, moans. And you can see her silhouette if you look at the top of the lighthouse. And I remember as a kid, if you go- if you’re like driving by, and you look up, it looks like there’s a person up there walking around. Every night. Even if it’s like 5 a.m. and you’re coming back from somebody’s house or something, there’s- it looks like a person. It’s bizarre.


Another version is that she was the wife of the Vanderlips, who were this rich family that lived in P.V.. And they’re the reason there’s peacocks in P.V., because they had a pet peacock and it escaped, anyways, that’s another story.

Anyways, Mrs. Vanderlip is also said to be the widow. But no one knows.



Q. Where did you hear it?

A. I think I heard about it at the Point Vicente Cultural Center, but I also read about it a bit online, because there’s this whole thing about like, ghosts in P.V. It’s a good read. Spooky.

Personally, I find it interesting that so many ghost stories are set at lighthouses or center around them. Such makes one consider what kind of specific aesthetic appeals (for lack of a better word) delineate the lighthouse that make it such a prominent candidate for spectral suppositions, stories, etc. than others. Their isolation and distinct architecture could be a candidate, along with their arguably spectral functionality in the popular image, being that of a lone shining beam cutting through the fog on lonely, misty coastlines.

As for the trope of the wife eternally waiting for her perished sailor husband to never return home, such also makes for an easy pairing that contributes to a particular image of ominous nature. One mention in particular of being able to see the ghost at any time of day prompts me to believe that the specter is, in fact, an optical illusion of some kind. However, debunking a mystery serves no purpose other than to ruin fun, and in the case of a hometown’s distinct cultural facet of having a community ghost story everyone is familiar with.


Demon Dog story

Below is a supernatural story told to me by a classmate whose family hails from the Mexican state of Michoacán, the subject of the story being her grandmother at a young age encountering an evil supernatural entity, possibly a demon, with her siblings.

For the sake of convenience, I have identified the interviewer in the following interaction as ‘Q’, and the subject as ‘A.’

The story was told as follows:

Q. Let’s hear a ghost story.

A. So In Mexico, my grandma told me this story- my grandma was born in Mexico. Um, my grandma told me that at a certain time, so you had to cross this river to get back, but her and her brothers and sisters, they would go and get fruit. But like, you had to cross the river- it was a long way. So you basically had to leave early to get back before sunset and you have to cross this river 

If you were to cross it before sunset you would see a dog, but it was like a demon dog. And it would turn its head and look back at you and like turn its head upside down

She said one time, her and her sisters, they were fighting. They were fighting over a banana. And the sun had already set, and the oldest sister was all like, if y’all stop fighting and we all stay quiet and be calm, the dog won’t come.

But because her and her sister were fighting over a banana, the dog ended up appearing. Like, she said that they saw the dog, and uh, the only way they could outrun him was to like, swim in the river. So they had to swim in the river. The dog ended up catching up to them, but by the time he did, they were already like, in their house. And what they had to do was all like, get together, under a table, and just like apologize to each other and like hug each other.

So once all of them, basically like, were good, the dog- they just stopped hearing the barking. 

Q. What part of Mexico was this in?

A. Michoacan 

What stands out about this story is its similarity to many classic tales in utilizing supernatural elements to form a moral or some kind of concluding lesson.

Whether the incident happened or not is not the matter. What does matter is the scenario of a grandmother giving her granddaughter a story involving the escape and overcoming of assailing evil forces by the power of familial love, something that could only have been accomplished if each of the family set aside their qualms and focused on the issue at hand rather than continue to fight.


Such small, personal tales demonstrate the power of narrative in illustrating lessons for successive generations in a manner that can be properly understood and perceived in a child’s eyes, hence the presence of a monster (the demon dog).