Tag Archives: American

The Rodeo Queen


The interviewee is one of my housemates and we often engage in conversation about our different hometowns. This folklore about a festival comes from a dinner where the house was sharing various stories from our childhood.



The following is transcribed from the story told by the interviewee.

“In my hometown, we had a frolic and rodeo. There were lasso cows and ride bucking broncos and barrel racing. And at the Rodeo, they would select a Rodeo Queen that will represent the rodeo until the next year. And there is always a parade right before the rodeo of all the log trucks in my hometown that would drive down the main street. And you get to eat carnival food and do the classic carnival things”



Carnivals are fairly common around America. What I found unique about his story were the log trucks that were paraded around. This is very specific to his hometown of Philomath where logging is the main source of income for the people that live there. Putting log trucks on display and parading them around shows how the people recognize the importance of that industry and how they celebrate it. It is meant to reinforce and instill a sense of pride in people of the industry that their town relies on. While it can seem like a festival about fun and games, it is very much about building a spirit of community and getting everyone to gather around a single and common idea. To have a Rodeo Queen is an example of creating a symbol is which people can rally around. And while America is clearly not a monarchy anymore, the concept of it is used in order to build a sense of hometown belonging.

Med Student’s First Coat

Main Description:

RA: “One of the most exciting, I remember, things in medical school, other than graduation, is getting the white coat and stethoscope before beginning clinical rotations, the first time we’re allowed, as med students, to start practicing basic techniques on living people. These weren’t the long coats that go down to your feet, but shorter ones that only went down to your waist. They were embroidered, of course. They came with the schools embroidered, but we would also get our names if we could afford it. I don’t remember if I got mine embroidered or not, but I probably did. We would wear them everywhere, so everyone knew you were a med student. We wore them on our clinical rotations, obviously, but we also would sometimes wear them out to bars and pubs so everyone would know we’re real med students. They got dirt super quickly of course, because their white, and I remember washing mine all the time so I could wear it. Eventually when we got our scrubs, once we’ve made more progress with our rotation, we didn’t wear the white coats as much. White is a really bad color for doctors, really, because it shows stains, especially blood, really well. It’s funny, we get another white coat (the foot length one) when we graduate, also embroidered, but we rarely wear it because it’s white. That coat’s much less exciting to get. We also got tools with our first coat. We would get the basic tools used at checkups, like the reflex hammer, the thing you use to look in people’s eyes and ears and throat (can’t remember what it’s called), tongue thermometers, and really whatever else we could afford. We didn’t need them, because tools are usually provided to you during the rotation, but they were fun to practice with on ourselves and each other. They were also fun to show off to our friends and family. I definitely don’t have my tools any more, they all broke or I lost them or gave them away. I still have my first coat, though of course I don’t wear it anymore because it’s kind of ratty looking, but I used in a Halloween costume as a mad scientist once.

Informant’s opinion:

AB: “Why were the initial white coats and tools so exciting? Why did you wear them so often?

RA: “We wore them everywhere because they were the first things we had that really showed we were med students. I don’t know why they were white, but there was something so exciting about having something to show to my parents that I’m really becoming a doctor.”

Personal interpretation:

The white coat seems to mark an important rite of passage for medical students. Being able to work with live patients, usually about two years in, is wear students first begin to practice being doctors. For the first time, the students’ actions will have consequences on living people instead of anatomical dummies, so the coat allows students to celebrate the greater degree of responsibility they’ve taken as growing physicians. Tellingly, the coats are primarily for social performance, and not intended for use during actual work with patients due to their color.

The Baby that lives in the Operating Room

RA: “Lots of hospitals have ghost stories about the people who have passed away in the operating rooms. When I worked at Ben Taub hospital in Houston, there were so many because it was such a big trauma hospital. I can’t remember them now, partially because there were so many, but there were lots of stories of dead patients lingering in the rooms where they died, especially if it was an especially difficult case. One that I remember from my time at Children’s… well, it’s a little creepy. I don’t know if you want to hear it.”

AB: “Creepy is good!”

RA: “Well, there was a baby that passed away in one the cardiac operating rooms, which is rare because we usually don’t have babies in there. One of my colleagues was in charge of that case and was really broken up about it. Ever since then you could hear a faint baby’s crying or laughter in that operating room. We knew it was the baby, and that she had stayed in the operating rooms as her final resting place. We could hear her from some of the nearby rooms, and the crying usually seemed to come from within the walls. Me and my friends, especially Erika, and some of the nurses would sometimes go to the room just to talk to the baby. We would usually just read stories, sing lullabies, and talk about our cases with it. She seemed to listen, and the crying always seemed to disappear after we talked to her. Sometimes, when I had little kids as my patients, I would take them to that room if it wasn’t being used so they could talk to the baby. They all got a kick out of it, and the kids that knew about the baby would even ask if they could play with her. Looking back, I’m sure it was something weird happening with the vents. There were lots of weird noises all over that hospital, and it usually had to do with fans and vents and wind blowing around in an old building, but everyone could tell that it was a baby laughing in that room.”

Informant’s interpretation:

AB: “Do you think the ghost of the baby really lived in that room?”

RA: “Well, in this case, that baby was just born. The only rooms it ever knew were in that hospital, and it probably spent most of its life in the operating room. She passed away peacefully, so I think she stayed in that room because it felt like her home. There was no sense that the ghost was evil or scary or anything, so I really think, the baby just chose to stay in space where it felt comfortable.”

Personal interpretation:

Ghosts often inhabit liminal spaces, and indeed, the operating room is a quintessential liminal space. Patients only enter this room during an operation, thus this room stands between sickness, pre-operation, and recovery, post-operation. When a newborn that has spent no time outside of a hospital dies in this space, doctors may perpetuate the life of the baby as a ghost that watches over a space that stands between life and death. The informant emphasized that the spirit was not malicious, and that she and her colleagues would often discuss difficult cases with the baby, so the ghost may even act as a kind of guardian of the operating room, protecting future patients and doctors.

Find a Penny, Pick It Up and All Day You’ll Have Good Luck

Main Content:

M: Me I: Informant

I: It’s like Find a penny pick it up and all day you’ll have good luck. Is that like folklore?

M: Yup that’s good!

I: I did that constantly.

M: Now was that something that you learned from other kids or did that come from um your family?

I: Um definitely my family, my parents. They’d be like “Op, penny!” Sometimes my dad would drop pennies just so I could pick them up and have good luck. I loved it.

M: That’s so cute! Um is there, does the penny, I think I remember, the penny has be head up, right?

I: Oh there’s something like that, but I never cared *laughs*

M: *laughs*

I: Free money!

Context: This is something that she learned from her father. Everytime she sees a penny she still picks it up and feels as though it brings her luck. It also is a sweet reminder of her dad. This phrase though is very American in its ideals. Rhyming sayings like this are funny for people to learn/ regurgitate and lift spirits.

Analysis: Rhyming sayings, otherwise known as proverbs, like this are a good means of transferring ideas as the rhyming device makes it easy to remember and delivers the thought eloquently. I stated earlier that I thought that this speech was innately American and I even conferred with my Norwegian friend who agreed that while finding money on the ground is considered lucky- it’s considered lucky because you found money, not so much for any other purpose. Whereas with this saying, we have to recognize the focus on “free money!” And how reflective that is of the values of the United States. Traditionally the American view is that you work and struggle to earn your money and that is something that is difficult, but people that pride in that. Additionally, we know that this phrase goes beyond simply luck because they found money on the floor as the penny is relatively worthless and literally cost more to produce than its worth.

American Wedding Pranks

I: Informant, M: Me

I: A common tradition amongst most groomsmen, is to goof on the groomsmen [correction: meant groom]. To do some kind of practical joke. It’s usually done  the night before, sometimes its during the reception, sometimes its done right before they get married. Like when I married [name blanked for privacy]

M: yeah

I: [name blanked for privacy] My best man and I drank two very large tequila shots together toasting the end of my single life and beginning of my new wonderful life and he asked me as we did the shot are you sure you want to get married *laughs*.

…. What we did for [blanked name- will use Pedro] was unusual. Pedro, the night before I got ahold of his shoes. And when you go infringe of a Catholic Church to get married sometimes you face with the priest in between you.

….. So I was sitting next to [bride’s] grandparents who were extremely, extremely conservative and we are in the front row, the second row watching them get married. Now normally they sit like this. But what Pedro and [Bride] were doing is the were walking up to the alter and getting on their knee in front of G-d and in front of the priest and when he got on his knees, his shoes, his heels would be up and the bottoms of his shoes would be showing and of course the shoes are brand new. So I wrote in black permanent marker on the bottom of his shoes, HELP on the left shoe and ME on the right shoe and it was witnessed for all to see. Pedro thought it was funny as hell. I assure you that the bride’s parents thought it was anything but.

Context: This informant has not only been married and experienced the wedding pranks/jokes, but has also participated in creating one when he was a groomsman.

Analysis: The wedding in America represents the transition from childhood and adulthood. Thus, while in the midst of the ceremony or right before, the ‘groom/bride’ is in this liminal place where he/she isn’t quite married, but isn’t quite just an engaged couple anymore. They are in the process of taking on a new identity as married adults. Pranks/joke/riddles and various other traditions are common in other liminal states and serve to test you, prepare you, and help you transition into ease your new identity, married adulthood in this case. Typically pranks/jokes have to be done by somebody close to the person being pranked or else it is no longer considered well-intended and all in good fun, but can be upsetting and discomforting if someone you aren’t close with pranks/jokes you. It’s as if they haven’t earned the right to set things slightly awry. That’s why, it makes perfect sense that the groomsmen would play pranks/jokes on the groom given those are typically some of the closest guys to him in his life.