Point of Discovery/Informant Bio
Dawnetta Mahnken is my mother. She is 42 years old, and has a wicked sense of humor when given the opportunity to show it. She loves to unexpectedly tease her children, joke around, play with us, and have fun, even though she usually is the one who does a lot of the household chores and encourages her children to do the same (under threat of suspended activities, of course). She is a very organized person who loves to read (or listen to audio books), garden, and help her family. She is a wonderful mother, despite having a very hard childhood- I won’t go into detail. Suffice it to say that I am amazed and grateful that she turned into the person she is today. Before she was a mother and had her own family, she had many more opportunities to enact pranks and jokes, and often took advantage of these with gusto.
I was visiting my parents’ home for Sunday dinner, and after the meal I was chatting with my mom on a comfy couch. We were relaxed and full, enjoying each other’s company. As she asked me about recent life, I shared some stress about the collection project and other finals coming up, telling her that I was planning on just collecting some pranks to get the last few bits of folklore I needed. (This was a set-up: my mother was the one I had been planning on asking in the first place.) She told me that she had some pranks, allowed me to pull out my phone to record, then eagerly shared some of her favorite pranks she has pulled.
There’s the typical... make a plate of cookies and then you put either tin foil or saran wrap on them. And then you tie on a fishing wire- the clear fishing wire- and then you tie it to uh, the fishing pole and then you’d go around the corner or wherever. Then you’d have someone go up and knock on the door and then run away. And so then they come up to the door and they’re like, “Ohh!!! Somebody left me a plate of COOKIES!” And then they-! And then they lean over and go to grab it [laughing] and you like… start to reel it in… and then they’re like, “[GASP]…! My cookies!!” [laughing again.] And sometimes they just like, sit there and stare at the cookies… like, you know, thinking “Are they gonna... DO anything…?” But SOME people, like, start to CHASE after it and you’re like reeling it in- [breaks off laughing. Pause.] And at some point you just have to pick up the cookies and then start running, cause at that point they’re mad at you. [Laughing again.]
My mother CLEARLY enjoyed sharing her prank stories with me. She got into the story-telling groove very quickly, and was laughing almost the entire time as she remembered the fun that she had living through these elaborate jokes. If she wasn’t laughing, she was grinning, and at one point she wiped tears from her face from laughing so hard. She used emphatic arm movements while telling the stories, and her eyes were bright. She emphasised words for dramatic effect, making loud sound effects when needed, and overall seemed excited to share these stories with me.
Semester and year
Ledyard, Rayna, "Doorbell Fitching" (2018). USU Student Folklore Fieldwork. Paper 523.