Rattlesnake: A Conga Line Game

Background: The informant is a woman in her late fifties who grew up in downstate New York in Queens and on Long Island before moving to upstate New York for college. In her mid 20s, she moved out to Southern California and she had lived there ever since. She comes from a large family of Catholic Irish-Americans. She attended public grade schools.

Main Text:

“There was one that I loved! And it was…think of a conga line but it wasn’t really a conga line. It would be kids in this long line and they would do these intricate back-and-forth kinds of movements, yknow we would all move together. And it was [singing] “R-A-T-T-L-E-S-N-A-K-E spells rattlesnake” and we just did that over and over again while we did this little…I loved that game! I don’t know why, but it was just…but we did all these intricate, back-and-forth pattersn and it was all these kids in a line.”

Context: The informant specified that this game was performed on the playground during recess and at lunch, mostly during the earlier half of elemenatary school. It was not organized by teachers, and it involved large groups of children—around a class size or more, so twenty kids and up.

Thoughts: I’d never heard of this game before, but I’m familiar enough with a conga line to get the gist of what the informant was playing. It was probably a combination of the movement and accompanying song that made the game so compelling to TR as a young child. I do think it’s funny how they referred to it as a nearly hypnotic-experience, and I’m impressed that such a large group of young children organized themselves well enough to execute this game on a daily basis, not to mention their ability to transcend friend groups.