Tag Archives: American folklore

Euchre – Midwestern Card Game

Informant’s Background:

My informant, JA, is a undergraduate student at the University of Southern California. He moved from his family home in Arizona to attend college in Los Angeles. His family is of German ancestry.


I (AT) am a close friend of JA, and he comes over to hang out at my apartment often. I asked him if he had any folklore he could share and telling me about this game that I had never heard of was his response.


JA: “So anyways Euchre is a card game that I think is relatively popular throughout the Midwest, but it’s a card game that is typically is played with four players, but it can be scaled up and down, where players take tricks based on suits and everyone is divided into two teams and every hand in the basic four-player variant you play with your partner across from you, and a trump suit is decided by dealing out 5 cards to each player. It’s only the cards nine, ten, jack, queen, king, and ace are the only cards in each suit in the game, uh, five cards are dealt to each player and four are set aside, and the top is turned over which determines the trump suit. Then its played like a typical trick taking game where high cards take tricks, unless the trump suit is played in which case those cards take the trick, but in Euchre, uhm, the highest card of the trump suits are the jacks instead of the aces, so if heart is trump then jack of hearts is the highest, while the other colors spade and clubs in that hand would have the normal order. And you play enough rounds until one team gets ten points. I dunno, it’s just a very easy game to teach people, you can get into it very quickly, and I play it a lot with my parents and my grandparents, especially when they’re around, because it’s just… the primary activity that we do together, it’s kind of a tradition we do it a lot after meals, family meals, with big gatherings like that. It’s… I dunno I guess the primary tradition we have on that side of the family – it’s very casual, it’s a good time.”

AT: “Who taught you the game?”

JA: “I think my mom had to have taught me the game first, uhm, but she might have taught it in conjunction with my grandparents, I’m not sure.”

AT: “But they all already knew it? Do you know where they learned it from?”

JA: “I mean my mom learned it from my grandparents, beyond that, I don’t know.”


I don’t have much to add to this one, other than that I think it’s interesting that a specific card game can become such a tradition in someone’s family, with the rules being passed on through generations. I had also never heard of the game itself, so I thought it was worth documenting here. 

Knocking on Wood

Main Content:

M= Me, I= Informant

M: So you said you grew up with a lot of fairy folklore?

I:  Yeah, um, you know like the knock on wood, that’s the most common one.

M: so what’s… what’s the background behind that? What happens if you don’t knock on wood? You know, why is it knock on wood?

I: Well knock on wood, uh you do it when you say something like that might not happen. Like uh  let’s so you want to get a good grade on a test and you are like “I.. I’m pretty confident, like, I’m gonna ace this test,” then you knock on wood. *knocks on wood* Sorry I shouldn’t have done it. *both laugh* You knock on wood because fairies live in the wood

M: Uh-huh (In agreement)

I: And if they hear you saying something that you want to happen, they’re gonna make it not happen.

M: Ohhhhhh, okay. That’s cool.

I: ‘Cause like fairies used to live in trees and stuff, so you would like, so it would… it would be like outside kinda stuff. 

M: Yeah

I: But since we don’t see trees *laughs* a lot anymore. It’s just become any wood. 

Context: Her parents passed this folk practice to her by simply doing it around her and when she asked why, they told her it so that the fairies don’t stop good things from happening. She was very little when she first learned this so she did believe in this initially. But even though she continued the practice as she grew up, she did not continue truly believing that the fairies were responsible.

Analysis: Given how prevalent fairies are in Scottish and Irish, it makes sense how her parents would pass down this practice to her. This is quite a common practice in the US and even if people don’t fully believe in it, they may do it in order to ‘not risk it’ or even to comfort others fears who do believe in it. This is common with many superstitions as while there may not be scientific evidence to support a superstitions, people still ‘believe’ in them or ‘don’t want to risk it’ because we learn beliefs from those around us. This practice is also consistent with other/earlier portrayals of fairies as they are often portrayed as mischievous creatures in lore and not the sweet and fragile creatures that has been popularized by the media, particularly by Disney.

Eyes of Texas- UT Austin Anthem

Main Content:

I: Informant, M: Me

I: So the Longhorns [University of Texas Austin] founded in 1881, have a song called the Eyes of Texas which was originally more of a baudry song sang by crooners and country folk. We adopted that and we sing that at the end of every game [football]. Win or Lose, when everybody is exiting the stadium the Longhorns put their horns up, this is the symbol for the horns [I love you in American Sign Language but thumb is wrapped in on top of ring and middle finger-in order to make the horns of a Longhorn] and we sing “The eyes of Texas are upon you, all the live long day” and at the end of it, it says “the eyes of Texas are upon you, til Gabriel blows his horn” 

M: Uh-huh

I: Gabriel is the angel in heaven and is the god of war, the angel of war. So we chant that at the end of every game to send everybody off the field. There is a whole tradition behind that, that is carried only by the Texas Longhorns

Context: My informant went to the University of Texas Austin and was a proud Longhorns fan and football supporter. Thus, he went to many games and participated in this custom.

Analysis: An important distinction to make here is that the song, “The Eyes of Texas” is not the folklore here. That song is copyrighted ‘authored literature.’ What is folklore however is the practice of using that song along with hand gestures at the very end of each football game. The performance of the song with the Longhorns ‘sign’ and rest of the supporters is the actual piece of folklore. This displays how authored literature can be taken and made a part of folklore. This performance allows for a display of pride in their identity as Longhorns, especially that this is done no matter if they win or lose to send their players off the fields. It’s as if to say, we support you and are proud no matter what.

Fairy Circles

Main Content:

M= Me. I= informant

I: And then fairy circles. As a kid I was never allowed to walk in fairy circles.

M: I don’t know what a fairy circle is. What is that? 

I: Yeah, so you know, um when you see like those rings of mushrooms

M: Uh-huh (in agreement)

I: Or just like a patch of grass that’s dead in a circle

M: Yeah

I: Like those are called fairy circles. And um, I don’t know a lot about the background, but my parents always said like if you stepped in one then fairies would come and like replace you with a fairy

M: Ohhhhhhh, okay. Like a changling?

I: Kind of, yeah.

M: Okay

I: Or, or they just kidnap you. In general. Not even…

M: Okay, not even changed, just take you away *laughing*

I: Yeah

M:Do you think it came from you mom’s side? The fairy stuff? Or from a mix of the two

I: Um, I think *sighs* I think it was a mix of the two. The Germanic stuff was always scarier stuff

Context: She said that it was a mix of both her parents who passed this down to her, which makes sense given that her mother’s Scottish side has a strong history of fairies, while her father’s side has a history of scarier child tales or teachings(German) thus fairy circles would be a good mix of the two. While she no longer believes in them today, she still avoids what are deemed ‘fairy circles’ out of habit, for entertainment, and as a reminder of her parents.

Analysis: This depiction of fairies is consistent with the other lore I’ve read about fairies wherein they are mischievous creatures that will take power if given the opportunity. In this instance, by stepping into the fairy’s territory, you are giving over dominion by being on their ‘turf’ and thus they can snatch you. Additionally, with many other pedagogical teachings in folklore this has the consistent theme of kidnapping, which we have seen used throughout various cultures to steer children away from doing certain things or going to particular places.

Arizona Bigfoot

Informant’s Background:

My informant, JA, is a undergraduate student at the University of Southern California. He moved from his family home in Arizona to attend college in Los Angeles. His family is of German ancestry.


I (AT) am a close friend of JA, and he comes over to hang out at my apartment often. I asked him if he had any folklore he could share and this story was his response.


JA: “So anyways I’m in my psych class, professor to be left unnamed for confidentiality reasons, err, and he’s been like a perfectly good professor the whole semester, like very informative, very smart well-informed guy, older guy, and then he’s like-this last class he’s like yeah I went hiking and I saw bigfoot one-hundred-percent and I’m one-hundred-percent confident in this.”

AT: “What was the story exactly?”

JA: “Uhm… The story was, I’m trying to remember all of the details, but mostly that he was hiking in the woods in like a relatively uhm… popular-not even relatively popular, just like a-some place in Arizona like a wooded area that the guy hikes a lot etc and he was just like yeah I saw him there and he was bigfoot, and he was like eight feet tall and yeah, I’m like a hundred percent certain of what I saw.”

Informant’s Thoughts:

JA: “That was all the detail he really gave on the story. I wasn’t really sure if he was shitting us, but he seemed to believe it and he waited to tell it to us at the end of the year and then that was the last class I had with him and then I haven’t spoken to that professor like since so it wasn’t like a gotcha or anything.”


Stories of Bigfoot are fairly common throughout the United States and Canada. I think this example is interesting because of the context in which the story is presented, and more specifically, the way in which it is presented. In my analysis of this performance, I thought a lot about the lack of information given by my informant. It seems to me that the informant had a very skeptical attitude towards the narrative his teacher was presenting, and framed the whole re-telling of that narrative in a way that implied that the teacher’s story was not to be believed, or that he was crazy, that he broke off from the normal at the last day of class. It occurred to me the link between the negative viewing of the original storyteller’s narrative by our informant and the lack of the actual ability to recount much of the original storyteller’s (the professor) narrative. To put it simply: the informant did not care about the bigfoot story. To the informant, the story was that the teacher was crazy, or weird, and that he presented this narrative on the last day of class, and how crazy that was. But what is lost is much of the original storyteller’s bigfoot tale. I think it’s very interesting how much a narrative can change depending on who is telling it, as in this case the entire narrative is reframed from what was originally intended by the professor’s telling of the story.