My Informant, a student filmmaker and a very funny person, was very eager to share his favorite jokes from his childhood. When asked about other folklore, he couldn’t remember games, riddles, or sayings, but jokes immediately popped into his head. I thought that this was an interesting character trait, what folklore stays with people. These jokes were important to my Informant because of where he heard them and who he then shared them with: he learned the jokes from his cousins, and then shared them with his friends at school and at camp. Jokes clearly were important to his memory because of how well they were received. He reflected that some of them may have been inappropriate, but due to his locations (the American Southwest and Northwest) it made sense that such jokes talking about neighboring states and countries would have been told.
Informant: I told you an anecdote about the wrong joke! The Montana cousin thing was another joke!
Author: Okay, well tell me that joke!
Informant: I don’t remember that joke.
Author: Okay, well.
Informant: It’s a very similar structure. I think this structure. It was a very similar structure, and this was a much earlier joke, so I think this led the way to the Canadian Toilet Joke.
Informant: So there’s a…. North Dakotan, a Coloradan, I don’t know these words, but I think they’re right, and a Montanan.
Informant: Spies. All of them spies.
Informant: And they were captured by the enemy spies. And they were tied up to a tree and they were going to get murdered.
Author: [Fake gasp]
Informant: They were going to get assassinated.
Author: Oh no!
Informant: They were going to face a firing squad. And so. First. The. The Coloradan goes up. And and. They point the gun at him and they say: Any last words? And he points off in the distance and yells [mimicking the action] Avalanche! And they look and he runs.
Informant: And they say Darn! And so they tie up the Montanan. And they say: Alright, any last words? And the Montanan points and yells, Flood, and he runs away. So they tie up the North Dakotan, and they say: Alright, it’s our policy, otherwise, we wouldn’t, but any last words? And he says FIRE! And they shoot him.
Author: [Big Laughs]
Informant: [Shy Laughs]
Author: Did you ever do accents for that one at all?
Informant: Um. I don’t think I did.
Author: Okay, but other people did?
Informant: I could see my, my cousins having told me the joke having done like a [North Dakotan accent] a North Dakotan, but I don’t remember.
Author: Alright, I can imagine that got big laughs. Do people not like North Dakotans in Montana or?
Informant: My family’s from North Dakota, so.
Author: Oh okay, cool, so that got even bigger laughs I bet.
Informant: And I can tell you, it was never the same three states. It was always, like, upper, northern, western states, but it wasn’t always North Dakota, Montana, Colorado.
Author: Yeah ’cause that joke would work well for like. All of California.
Informant: Right, but I’m pretty sure North Dakota was usually the punchline when I told it. Cause I’m pretty sure that was the original one. But I might have changed that. Depending on company.