Author Archives: Belton McMurrey

About Belton McMurrey

ANTH 333

104.9 Magic AM Radio

--Informant Info--
Nationality: USA
Age: 28
Occupation: Oil/Gas
Residence: Midland, TX
Date of Performance/Collection: 1//20/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

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.

Sore Tooth Joke

--Informant Info--
Nationality: USA
Age: 29
Occupation: Agriculture
Residence: La Quinta, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 2/23/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

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.

Oscar Watch Party

--Informant Info--
Nationality: USA
Age: 24
Occupation: Talent Agent
Residence: Silver Lake, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/04/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

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.

Lapp Mug

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Finnish
Age: 54
Occupation: Nomad
Residence: Vuontisjärvi, Finland
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/15/18
Primary Language: Finnish
Other Language(s): English, Saame

The item pictured is a traditional Lappish drinking cup/mug (known locally as a guksi) gifted to me by a local Saame (Lapp) woman while I was spending time in Finland in an area known as Lapland, which covers the northern expanse of the Nordic countries of Sweden, Finland, and Norway and is largely located within the Arctic Circle.

The Saame, the group to which the woman belongs, are a people indigenous to Lapland.

Although the woman did not speak English, my guide acted as an interpreter between us as I asked questions regarding the mug.


The mug itself is carved out of a single piece of wood collected from burls on birch tree trunks. The birch tree is ubiquitous in the Finnish wilderness and is the most commonly used material in the construction of most Lappish items, including the mug itself, sled frames, furniture, and even entire homes. Revered for its strong, hardy, and unyielding quality and capable shock resistance, the use of birch is an endless sight in Lapland.


The most significant characteristic of birch, as it relates to the mugs, is its antibacterial properties, which necessitates little to no cleaning. Thus, the mug bears with it benefits of both health and convenience. Any cleaning of the mug is to be conducted with a simple combination of cloth and water, as it is believed soap or detergents will damage the mug.


As for the actual construction of the mug, what is most noteworthy is the presence of two holes through which to place one’s fingers. This serves a practical purpose for maintaining additional stability as to not accidentally drop the mug, although the dual hole it is not a strict method of construction, as many guksis contain a single hole. Another benefit is the insulative properties of the wood when drinking hot liquids, as one can wrap their hand around the entirety of the mug without discomfort, as opposed to the tendency for ceramic mugs to become heated (hence the necessity of a handle.


Friendships Toast

--Informant Info--
Nationality: USA
Age: 20 (all)
Occupation: Students
Residence: Austin, TX
Date of Performance/Collection: 2/17/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

The following is a toast collected from a group of five friends who recite a pledge aimed at their longstanding mutual friendship. The pledge is performed during communal games involving alcohol, particularly ‘beer pong’ which is played between teams of two along the ends of a tall rectangular table.


The rules and practice of said game do not apply to the situation of the toast besides the table on which the game is played, which plays an integral and symbolic part to the performance of the toast. Therefore, the rules of the game will not be explained further outside of any direct relation to the proceedings of the toast.


The context of the situation proceeds as such:

The five friends gather around a handmade table constructed from available and basic wood materials. The table itself is kept at the host participant’s home, whose name has been excluded. While the participant is not the exclusive host to every party, each use of the table and recital of the toast is reserved to his home.


While there is no designated time during these parties for the toast to occur, it often falls after a few rounds of initial play of any alcohol-centered games, where everyone will have had at least one turn playing and thus have ingested sufficient amounts of alcohol to be slightly intoxicated at the very least.


At this point, each member of the group gathers around the table. The toast itself goes as follows:


(recited altogether)

“There are good ships, there are wood ships. There are ships that sail the sea. But the best ships, are friendships. So here’s to you and me!”


Each member of the group then simultaneously taps their beer can on the table and raises it up to drink. While raising their drinks, everyone together says (with less intensity)


“Down with Hitler.”


Each member then drinks until satisfied.


The pledge itself is a cheerful acknowledgment of the mutual bonds of friendship between each participant, and for the group as a whole. The concluding mention of “Down with Hitler” serves as a humorous reference to the host participant’s Jewish heritage, serving as a sarcastic assurance of false machismo that underlines the lightheartedness of the toast itself.


The table on which the toast is centered is constructed with dimensions of around 8 feet-by-2 feet and standing at waist height. Its top is painted with horizontal stripes of blue, green, yellow, and red, giving it a vibrant and outstanding place in the room.


Written in permanent marker across the top of the table are the words to the toast itself, along with various doodles such as star-bound rockets and bizarre imaginary creatures.


The names of each participant, accompanied by self-applied nicknames (often overly elaborate and nonsensical, otherwise only a vague relation to a defining characteristic of each person) meant to be referenced in an exclusively ironic manner.


These nicknames include:


Dr. Dreidel

A play on the stage name of popular rapper Dr. Dre and a reference to the participant’s Jewish faith.


Dookie Prada-G

The second part of the name a reference towards rappers’ tendencies to reference high-end clothing brands in their music in public image, itself a play on the word ‘prodigy’ despite Trevor’s complete lack of a musical background.


The other names of MC Betty, The Mist, and Boogiewitz 3000 are intentionally nonsensical, unrelated to the participant’s real names in any way. Thus, their humor is derived from this very nature of having no connection whatsoever to their makers.






Finland Lunch Cookout Setup

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Finnish
Age: 32
Occupation: Dog Sled Guide
Residence: Kittila, Finland
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/14/18
Primary Language: Finnish
Other Language(s): English

The following is a recorded observation centering on a local guide’s preparation of a lunch area/cooking of said lunch while on a weeklong dog sledding excursion in the northern Finnish wilderness, an area known as Lapland.


To provide context, in the late winter months of Lapland, the snow can reach depths of up to five feet, unable to melt and having compiled for many months before. It is not uncommon anywhere in this area that one can take a single step off of a packed, stable path and immediately sink waist deep into the snow.


After anchoring our dog sleds and unboxing containers of food, the guide took four sizable branches from a nearby shrub and sharpened a single end of each branch to a point with his knife.


These four branches were left to the side as the guide then stepped into the deep snow and began to dig an eating area with his hands. This proceeded for the better part of twenty minutes. When finished, the hole was about eight feet across and four feet deep. Considerably flat on the bottom as to allow for a fire, the sloped sides of the hole allowed for comfortable seating at a safe distance from any burning wood.


Firewood kindling was then gathered from the adjacent birch forest from whatever available wood could be found. Primary logs, previously cut at the cabin we had left that morning, were then assembled into a square, three-tiered stack. Using the kindling to help foster the ignition of the larger logs, the guide sparked the blunt metallic end of his knife against a flint and subsequently lit the fire.


The two of us then took the sharpened sticks and skewered sausages onto the pointed ends, roasting them over the fire until ready to eat.


After the course of eating, the heat of the fire had allowed the wood to sink considerably into the snow, allowing any remaining burning logs to be covered with ease with only a kick of snow.


What stood out in this entire situation to me is the inherent making use of one’s surroundings for the sake of providing supplemental comforts alongside necessary functions, such as eating. While it would have been easy enough to simply start the fire on the tightly packed dog sled path, the seating would not be nearly as comfortable as a padded slope against which to lean, made possible by digging the hole. It is also important to note that following 20-30km of captaining a dog sled team over rough terrain make any such indulgences worthwhile expenditures of energy. The cooking of the sausages goes the same way in terms of making use of one’s environment, turning a simple tree branch into a useful tool without which roasting a sausage would not be practically possible. The rooting in practicality and makings of any available comfort reflected to me an overall Lappish spirit of a similar nature.

Yiddish Prayer for the Dead

--Informant Info--
Nationality: USA
Age: 73
Occupation: Architect
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/24/18
Primary Language: Yiddish
Other Language(s): English

The following is a prayer, the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead, as given by my godfather on the birthday of my late brother.


As he explained, the prayer is usually reserved for the day of the deceased’s passing. However, given that my late brother’s passing came only two weeks after his birthday, and the fact that my godfather and I would not be able to see each other on that date, he opted for conducting the prayer on the birthday night instead.


The same prayer was given a number of weeks the year prior after my brother’s actual passing. Although my godfather gave the prayer in the presence of his own family on that day, he repeated it during a visit on my behalf.


Given before seating at dinner, the prayer is repeated each consecutive year onward. However, it is reserved for kin, not given for friends and familiar faces.


Standing at the dinner table with our food before us, my godfather proceeded to recite the prayer (from memory), in its original Yiddish, which is also his first language:


Yitgaddal veyitqaddash shmeh rabba. Be’alma di vra khir’uteh. Veyamlikh malkhuteh, behayekhon uvyomekhon uvhaye dekhol bet Yisrael, be’agala uvizman qariv. Ve’imru: Amen.


Yehe shmeh rabba mevarakh le’alam ul’alme ‘almaya.


Yitbarakh veyishtabbah veyitpaar veyitromam veyitnasse veyithaddar veyit’alleh veyithallal shmeh dequdsha berikh hu. Le’ella min kol birkhata veshiratea tushbehata venehemata daamiran be’alma. Ve’imru: Amen.


Titqabbal tzelotehon uva’utehon d’khol bet Yisrael qodam avuhon di bishmayya. Ve’imru: Amen.


Yehe shelama rabba min shemayya, vehayyim ‘alainu v’al kol Yisrael. Ve’imru: Amen.


O’she shalom bimromav, hu ya’ase shalom ‘alenu, v’al kol Yisra’el. Ve’imru: Amen.


After this point, he took out a small candle and lit it, explaining that after the prayer, the candle is allowed to burn for 24 hours, and then extinguished.


The candle was then set in the center of the dining table. However, he explained, tradition does not call for the candle to be placed anywhere in particular. Given that the prayer is said before seating for the dinner meal, it is most often placed among where the meal is being eaten as a matter of simple convenience.


Following the recitation of the prayer and the lighting of the candle, we sat and ate.

At the same time next year, it will be done once more.


The English translation of the prayer has been included:


Exalted and hallowed be His great Name.


Throughout the world which He has created according to His Will. May He establish His kingship, bring forth His redemption and hasten the coming of His Moshiach.


In your lifetime and in your days and in the lifetime of the entire House of Israel, sword, famine and death shall cease from us and from the entire Jewish nation, speedily and soon, and say, Amen.


May His great Name be blessed forever and to all eternity. Blessed and praised, glorified, exalted, and extolled, honored, adored and lauded be the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He.


Beyond all the blessings, hymns, praises and consolations that are uttered in the world, and say, Amen.


Upon Israel, and upon our sages, and upon their disciples, and upon all the disciples of their disciples, and upon all those who occupy themselves with the Torah, here or in any other place, upon them and upon you, may there be abundant peace, grace, kindness, compassion, long life, ample sustenance and deliverance, from their Father in heaven; and say, Amen.


May there be abundant peace from heaven, and a good life for us and for all Israel; and say, Amen.


He who makes peace in His heavens, may He make peace for us and for all Israel, and say, Amen.”



What is interesting to note about the prayer itself is that it does not acknowledge the dead at all and is instead entirely an exaltation towards God. The significance of the prayer is undeniable given its exclusive reservation for family members, but to not mention death at all might prompt a double glance.


My uncle explained this as an almost humorous consideration, but elaborated that the absence of mentioning death in a prayer whose very purpose centers on it is that remembrance is almost implied, and that a reminder of the person’s passing is not necessary. I found it noteworthy, then, that the traditional prayer for the dead draws the entirety of its significance in the symbolism of its name and subsequent use, with the actual components of the prayer itself important to a lesser degree.


A topic that is often joked upon between my godfather and me is the fact that I am an Episcopalian Christian, and he a Russian Orthodox Jew. It is interesting to consider, then that such a highly specialized and ritualistic prayer may be conducted between members of two religions with a distinct barrier between them. In this case, circumstances of love supersede those of preconceived notions of theological leanings.

Bible Study Prayer

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Nicaraguan
Age: 22
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/12/18
Primary Language: Spanish
Other Language(s): English

Each Wednesday, I meet with a small group of fellow university students for a peer-led Bible study at the USC Catholic Center. Each week has a similar layout in terms of procedure, although in this particular meeting, the primary topic was centered and prayer for the recent passing of a close friend and classmate. Because her death greatly affected many of my fellow classmates (and needless to say, her family, who I also knew), much of the prayers given were subsequently aimed in consideration of these others.


The following frames the course of a typical Bible-study meeting procedure, although in the case of an exceptional incident:


The same eight members of the study meet in the same room, a quiet second-floor conference area, each week beginning at 6:50 p.m., and lasting for around 45 minutes to an hour. Our study’s leader, Javier, had brought me into the group the preceding year. He starts the session having already brought a dealing of snack foods (Oreos, chips & dip, etc.), seating the members around a circular table.


The meeting is formally started with the members bowing their heads, crossing their hearts, and reciting in unison the ‘Hail Mary’ traditional catholic prayer, which goes as follows:


Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.


Each member then goes one-by-one relaying their personal ‘highs and lows’ since the last meeting, followed by an ‘coming to God moment,’ meant to illustrate an incidence or realization of spirituality and faith.


At this point in the meeting, the leader then transitions to a pre-selected lesson, involving the reading of a particular passage of scripture that exemplifies the day’s lesson, followed by a group discussion of what in the passage stood out during the reading, what conclusions they have drawn, or otherwise. This day’s topic involved a passage from the book of Philippians (2: 5-8),  that highlights the humbled passage of Jesus through the realm of man by taking on the form of a man himself.


Two smaller, supplementary readings are typically held that reinforce the day’s lesson. However, the leader took the opportunity to discuss the topic of my passed friend, which I had disclosed to him earlier. The group then held a loose discussion of life and death from their various points of view.


Each meeting is subsequently closed with an extended prayer from the leader himself. He took the opportunity to center it exclusively on the topic of the passed friend.


While the circumstances did not figure appropriate to record the prayer in its entirety, the leader’s points of acknowledgment and hearkening to God included my own emotional health, that of the deceased parents and her friends/classmates at school, as well as for potential victims of suicide (given that these were the circumstances under which she passed).


Perhaps the most important aspect of this particular meeting to analyze is the adaptation of a group’s normal schedule to briefly accommodate and address a member’s trying circumstances. In this case, it was to provide a sense of comfort and counsel by means of spirituality, along with the personalization of holding it among people familiar with each other.


The leader’s extended prayer stood out to me the most, for unlike the established prayer recited at the start of each meeting, this prayer was devised entirely in the moment, lasting for a total of five uninterrupted minutes devoid of ‘ums’ or silences in thought.


A small, but important point that can also be acknowledged in the general scheme of the meetings is the inclusion of snacks as an attracting factor. By providing food, the study leader is able to provide an incentive for members to arrive and enjoy treats, but also to keep hands and minds from wandering or growing idle during/in between each topic of study.

Dropping the Baton sports belief

--Informant Info--
Nationality: USA
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/27/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s):

The following interaction illustrates a folk belief relating to a former student-athlete in high-school track & field relating coach/student view that dropping a relay baton during practice will bode ill for the actual race.


For convenience, the interviewee has been marked as ‘A’, and the documenter has been marked as ‘Q.’ The interaction proceeded as such:


A., I don’t know if this is true for every track and field team, but if you drop the baton like if you were on the relay team and you dropped it any time during the week before the track meets, during practice. Then you’d have to run a mile, because then for sure if you drop the baton during practice then for sure you were gonna drop the baton during the actual race.


My coach really believed it, and she would get like severely distraught any time someone dropped the baton, because it was…sacred.


I also dropped the baton and had to run a mile.

Actually, I dropped the baton multiple times. People really shame you for that.

Q. You learned all this from your coach?

A. Yeah.

Q. What does it mean to your coach?

A. What does it mean to my coach? It means we’ve just lost.


I thought it was just that particular coach, too. But we had 3 different coaches in 4 years when I was there, and all of them were like ‘you drop the baton, you go run a mile.


And I’m like, what? There’s no correlation.

I get the whole ‘practice the way you perform’ thing, but I also think that just because you drop the baton during practice that doesn’t mean you’re gonna drop it during the race.


The caution surrounding and seemingly arbitrary enforcement of a folk belief on the part of the coaches illustrated here pulls back the deep-seeded roots of those that inhabit the field of sports, in which the beliefs can take a limitless amount of forms.


As indicated here, most of them center on the matter of luck and future implications of success/victory/winning, along with their mirror image counterparts. The matter of keeping the baton in one’s hand does not determine whether one will win, but dropping it will certainly determine if the team should lose.


The most interesting aspect is the enforcement of the belief from multiple coaches throughout the years who, presumably, would not have colluded with each other for something so trivial. However, such consistency across rotation highlights the strength of certain sports beliefs no matter who or where.

Demon Dog story

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Mexican-American
Age: 18
Occupation: Student
Residence: Los Angeles
Date of Performance/Collection: 3/27/18
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish

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).