Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

English

First Advisor

Lynne McNeill

Abstract

Among the participants of the outdoor recreation folk group, or people who participate regularly in human-powered outdoor recreation as a lifestyle, personal narratives are an integral and integrated part of interaction. This group is particularly rife with stories, because in the natural order of their lifestyle they regularly engage in activities filled with adventure and challenge. As members of this folk group engage in recreation together they share their personal narratives because it is the common tie between them, not only in interest, but in current participation and thus natural conversation. This common and simple tie sets the stage perfectly for the sharing of personal experiences, but more than that, within this folk group, the stories serve other crucial functions that play a role in the perpetuation of group dynamics, community development, community involvement, and social sorting within the group. This thesis discusses the findings of an analysis of 15 personal narratives, collected in natural context, and determined to play the primary roles of establishing or maintaining face, social sorting, and community building.

I find myself at the top of a zip-line at the Olympic Park in Park City, Utah, waiting with a friend and my son for our race to the bottom of the mountain. I’m teasing my son about the fact that his excuse for losing the last zip-line race is that a “branch hit him” during the first phase of the race and slowed him down. My friend J.G. begins to tell a story, and because I have my phone with me I record his narrative.

J.G.: Well speaking of branches, I was in Maui and we were mountain biking, actually we were on the island of Molaki, it’s on the desert side and we were descending down to the ocean. So, you’d be in these big areas that you just kind of roll over, and it was kind of single track that would weave through these meadows. And my buddy stopped and goes “Oh, I gotta remind you of something. Don’t…don’t run into those bushes. He said, you’re gonna see these bushes, they don’t look harmful, but they are really going to hurt. And I’m goin and I see one that looks really painful and I’m like, “Oh, I’m going to avoid that.” and then I run into the one doesn’t look painful.

L.J. And it was?

J.G.: And it was like this shhhh, it literally grabbed me like hooks and shredded my arm.

L.J. Really?

J.G.: And I remember, I pull up and my buddy stops and he goes, “Oh, you got it, didn’t Yeah ?” And I was literally bleeding. And I still have scars, here and here (points to arm) just two lines that go like this (shows how long the cuts were). Because it just went shhhh. And it just …

L.J. How did it do that?

J.G.: It was just like……but it’s funny, because if you bumped into it, it wouldn’t do anything, but because you’re moving it grabs you. It was just like shhhh.

L.J. What kind of plant was it?

J.G.: I don’t know. Some tropical monster.

L.J. Huh!

J.G.: But Yeah know…talk about plants grabbing you! It slowed me down. I mean it grabbed me so much it almost ripped me off my bike. And I was just bleeding.

L.J. Where was it at? Hawaii?

J.G.: Maui, no, not Maui, it was Molaki.

At the end of his story we progress through the line and load up in our zip line chairs, egging each other on, and the conversation takes off in a different vein. This story, casually shared among friends, was told as a way to tie into a conversation that was already taking place, to validate another person in the party (my son), and to establish and maintain J.G’s “face” as a recreationalist who is serious enough about his sports to participate in them while on vacation and in lands unfamiliar to him.

In this thesis I will explore 15 personal narratives within the outdoor recreation folk group, the functional roles the narratives play, and what these functions tell us about what the members of the outdoor recreation folk group value and the role the personal narrative plays in the social navigation of the group.

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