Tag Archives: horse

The Melbourne Cup

“The Melbourne Cup is the first Tuesday of November. It’s a public holiday. That shows how important it is to Australians. It’s a horse race. I don’t know how it became big or why it became big, but like it’s genuinely observed across Australia. It’s like a series of races that take place all week. They’re just horse races of different heats, of different… Just horse races! Horses from all over the world come to Australia to race in Melbourne Cup. The reason why it’s so big is that… So it’s a series of races, and the biggest race is the Melbourne Cup, and it’s quite long, and only the best horses compete in it. The reason why it’s so big is because people… It’s like a festival, I guess. It’s fashion and food, and it’s more about like the people, I guess? It’s like the Oscars or Grammys where, like, you’re like, ‘What’s she wearing?’ It’s kind of like that. When it comes time to the actual Melbourne Cup race itself, people put bets on which horse is gonna win. And that’s part of the tradition. Even if you aren’t normally a betting person most people in Australia will go put a dollar, two dollars, five dollars, ten dollars, probably not extreme amounts, but people will go and put money on a horse. The newspaper has a centerfold with like all the horses and their statistics and the jockey and their experiences and where the horses have won before. I pick #12 because that’s my lucky number, I just trust that number. And then you go to the tab and you put a bet on. You can do it from anywhere in the country, not just in Victoria where the cup is. The Melbourne Cup is the one day a year where the tab is full, it’s like bursting. It’s usually just a couple men, like the serial gamblers. It’s hectic on that day. I get excited. It’s the one day a year where I actually get excited about a horse race. I think you can tell that everyone else cares, too. It’s all people talk about in like the days leading up. Three o’clock on the dot is when the race starts. When I was in high school, school finished at ten minutes to three. And there was no way I was gonna get home in time or anyone was gonna get home in time for the race. So school ends classes like half an hour early on Melbourne Cup day so we can all get home in order to watch the race. My brother and I would get off the bus, and we’d race home, and we’d drop our bags and everybody would be in front of the TV. I don’t even know why it was a family affair, but it was. I can’t explain the excitement when the race started. It was kind of like everything stopped. And the tag line for the Melbourne Cup is like, ‘The race that stops the nation.’ And it genuinely is. Like, traffic stops. People park their cars and like listen to it on the radio. Everybody stops for like two or three minutes just to listen to this race. Unless you win, though, you don’t get anything out of it. You don’t get any like satisfaction or money, just nothing. It can be kind of anticlimactic. When it’s over, people kind of just go back to their lives. Some people will like watch the after ceremony where they like crown the jockey and like give him money and stuff. They interview the owner of the horse, and they put a little sash on the horse to say that he won. It’s just the one day where everyone in Australia kind of stops. It’s kind of become an Australian tradition just to watch.”


I could tell this was a very exciting experience for the source to relate. It’s certainly outside of her usual interest, but like the rest of Australia, it seems not to matter whether horse racing is in your interests or not. Because it’s not a horse racing thing. It’s an Australian thing. It’s part of their identity. It’s very much like our Super Bowl. Everybody watches the Super Bowl, everybody knows who’s in the Super Bowl. The whole nation stops on Super Bowl Sunday. That’s what the Melbourne Cup is for Australians. However, it seems they have a lot more invested in it what with all the betting and whatnot. Americans, however, experience it longer. Whereas no one researches before the Melbourne Cup, it seems, and not too many people continue watching after it’s done, the Super Bowl is savored for every minute of it, including the aftermath. And everybody is prepping from the week before.

“Heard it from the horse’s mouth”

I was talking with my friend and I said that I needed to hear a fact straight from the person who said it, and then she said something like, “yeah, you have to hear it from the horse’s mouth.” I inquired what she meant by this, where she had heard it from, etc. This is what she told me.

Informant: “My mom says, ‘I heard it straight from the horse’s mouth’ and that means that you heard it from the person who said it, so it’s authentic.”

Collector: “Do you know why it’s specifically a horse?”

Informant: “I don’t know, but she did grow up around a lot of horses. She grew up on a cattle ranch. And they all rode horses around.”

Collector: “So do you think this is specific to farmer culture or rancher people, rather than city folk?”

Informant: “I think so because you tend to… your language is dependent on your surroundings. You use analogies based on where you live, or on the things that you know”

The informant didn’t know much more about the origins of the proverb, but after some basic online search, I found that thefreedictionary.com offers the following explanation: “this expression alludes to examining a horse’s teeth todetermine its age and hence its worth. [1920s]” As my informant mentioned, this expression probably originated from a culture that was accustomed to being around horses, so its relevance in the future might be questionable. 

Run, it’s Mr. Tolstoy!

The informant grew up in Alta Loma, California before moving to Boring, Oregon to live with her father during her high school years. While in Alta Loma, her family owned horse property and owned horses throughout her life that she would often ride for fun as she grew up. She was allowed to ride around her neighborhood and the surrounding area without adult supervision. Because the area was not as developed as it is today, there were many more trails that horses were allowed on than there are today.

When asked if she had any contemporary legend to share, she immediately launched into a description of one of these horse paths. There was a one-way street in front of house that someone named Mr. Tolstoy lived in. She would ride by this part of the neighborhood frequently as she lived nearby. Her friends and her had heard that Mr. Tolstoy would shoot at kids as they rode by on their horses. While she does not remember exactly when she heard this, but she was in elementary school in the 1970’s while she had these horses. There was never an event where she actually saw or heard Mr. Tolstoy shooting at someone, but she would canter more quickly by his house every time she went by. Additionally, she never heard of an actual case of this occurring even after she was adult either. Though her friends and her all believed in the danger presented by Mr. Tolstoy, she has seen other people mention this in a Facebook group that is centered around living in Rancho Cucamonga, which includes Alta Loma. While she does not necessarily believe the legend regarding Mr. Tolstoy, she does reference it every once and a while to her children and sister.

This local urban legend capitalizes on the fear of strangers that is often instilled in children, whether it was created by the adults or the children. In addition, the continuance of this theme hints at the annoyance of older people with the younger generation. The reason this legend was scary to my informant when she was a child was because it was possible that an adult disliked children so much that he would risk being arrested to scare them off of a public street in front of his property.


Lawson Franklin Echols-Richter

Houston, Texas

April 9, 2012

Folklore Type: Riddle

Informant Bio: Lawson is my youngest cousin. He is eleven years old. He is from Frisco, Texas and has lived there his whole life. Lawson is the younger of two boys, and both of his parents are Methodist Pastors. He enjoys video games and showing off his skills of dancing and flipping a fedora onto his head. I call him The Dude.

Context: I saw Lawson briefly with his father when my grandfather (not ours) passed away. I asked him what were some jokes he had been learning at school. He said he could not remember any jokes, but he knew a few riddles.

Item: A couple rode into town on Friday. They stayed for three days, and then rode back on Friday. How? The couple’s horse was named Friday.

Informant Analysis: He said sarcasm than anything else, and I would actually say kinda funny.

Analysis: Even though I heard this riddle when I was a child, it took me a moment to get it because I forgot that they rode in on a horse and not a car. Albeit that is part of the riddle, however, it is also something a southerner might get a bit faster than people from big cities or places up north that do not ride horses. Not all Texans ride horses, but they are around. This riddle is an example of a child playing with words and leaving out certain details because he never mentioned what exactly the couple rode into town on. I also think there is a bit of country cultural flare because country people are more likely to figure out Friday is a horse because they are around them more often.

Alex Williams

Los Angeles, California

University of Southern California

ANTH 333m   Spring 2012