Idaho Free Press from Nampa, Idaho on February 27, 1976 · Page 57
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Idaho Free Press from Nampa, Idaho · Page 57

Nampa, Idaho
Issue Date:
Friday, February 27, 1976
Page 57
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C of I professor rtl The Ichho Kree Press. Friday. February 27. 1976- M Local folklore studied By Urrv Gardner As Americans celebrating the ftcwtennial of the American Revolution, we are steeped in memories of the history, the heritage of this nation (he chronicles of the struggle to become for the past 200 years. Appropriate activity for part of those reflections' could be intensified study of how w have grown in'.o the kind of ration wo are. What are some of the folk traditions that have shaped the character of individual Americans' 1 Folklore. . . anything learned and transmuted in a traditional way . . through imitation or language, following oral directions . . . constitutes an important segment of the continuing history of the United Slates. This traditional knowledge differs from formal knowledge that is written or printed in that "folklore requires variations, while formal education demands that thore be no variations." according to local folklorisl Louie \V Attebery Dr. Atlebcry. professor of English at the College of Idaho, became interested in the study of folklore when he realized at a young age while teaching at Nyssa High School that the "way I had grown up. 95 per cent of my growing up. was related to folklore and folk ways of doing things." Atlebcry was born on Monroe Creek near Weiser. a small town in southwestern Idaho about 55 miles northwest of N'ampa. A graduate of Weiser High School and (he College o( Idaho, cum laude. Attebery earned his M A. at the University of Montana. He was graduated from the University of Denver with a Ph.- D in English and a specialization in folklore in 1961, and has been a member of the faculty at C of 1 since then. He described the difference between formal education and folklore: "A matb formula doesn't vary, but how about traditional recipes for making jerky? There are almost as many ways to make jerky as there are people making it." The Caldtvell folklorisl said. "The essence of folklore is the variation which occurs in the mode of transmission, since it is nyKwritten down, whether the fiftklmethod involves directions rdr^ftiakinga'patchwurk quilt or cutting up a chicken." This interesting and important axiom of folklore, according to Attebery. is the "principle of dynamic variation." "The principle of dynamic variation applies to folklore in that every item of folklorid nature will continue to exist only in so far as a new kind of lite and vitality arc engrafted upon it by each teller or doer of it. Each person creates his own little variation within it. upon it. or through it. One of the reasons this is most interesting is because people with "folk skills" believe the way they do it is the ONLY way to da it. "We used to put up long hay with a Jackson fork and a Mormon derrick," Attebery said, piling it into huge slacks. "In the Midwest tNebraska) they would make little doodles all over the field. The first lime I saw il done thai way I made fun of it, because the only way to put up long hay is with a Jackson fork and a .Mormon derrick!" "The teller or singer of a ballad doesn't hand il on exaclly the way he heard it. He somehow iransfuses new life inlo it by the transmission of his variation." Writing down particular versions of a folk song or ballad doesn't slop (his dynamic process, since there are many versions of the same thing being passed along by different folk artists. The ballad already exists in several variant forms. "There are at least 18 different known versions, or variants iprohalily hundreds I of the Scottish ballad, 'Barbara Allen. 1 the earliest of which dates from about 1750," Al- lebcry said as an example. In a digression from the main discussion of folklore. Attebery. replied to a question aboul so- called professional folk singers: "Professional singers singing folk songs may be singers of folk songs, but !hcy ire not folksingers; they are polished, skilled musicians. If Joan Baez or Judy Collins were to sing a lullahyc lo her own baby learned from the singe 1 . 1 's mother then they would be true folksingers." ·H-T There arc many differcnl areas, or "genres" included under the rubric of folklore, and Ihcsi. areas involve- our daily lives more than we tealize. Do you remember the emasculation stories, or the snake eggs in clothingslorcsgoingaround this ar«a a few jcars ago 0 How about (he "The Solid Cement Cadillac" laic, or was it a DeSoto? In any case this particular type of folk tale is called an · "urban belief lale," Allebery describes the car-filled-wilh- cement rumor in an article published in the Journal of American Folklore in 1970 entitled. "Il Was a DeSoto." The cement-'m-tho-car stories, usually an acl of revenge by a wronged husband, even go so far as to a[(»ar authentic by virtue of being published in newspapers. And on rare occasions there have been verified examples - three articles in the Denver Posl, were instances given by Attebery in his essay. But people then carry such slories wiih (!em and affix a local stamp lo give them verification, according to Altebery. "The Tr' event is adapted many birds over their limit of pheasants, stuff the overkill evidence inlo their hubcaps, are caughl and found lo have shol magpies... -The bakery that puts em- balmihg fluid into its bread... -Council High School story about a ghost lhal haunls the science lab... Some of the other folklore genre include: --Music, both instrumental and vocal -Beliefs and superstition:,. --Folk poetry -- Oral history, sometimes called folk history, personal narratives or "meirwrals." --Material culture and Iradilions -Dialects. The local area and Idaho, of Louie Attebery, College of Idaho professor, has been interested in the study of folklore since he realized at a young age that 95 per cent of his growing up was related to folklore. and localized thereby becoming the .first, or prototype event.", Atlebery said. Keeping this · concepi in mind, (here is probably an 'Ur' evenl behind (he first version of a folk ballad. For instance, in the C of I folklore archives exist such tales as... --The camper thai pulls up to a stop light and a naked man or woman falls out and the camper just drives on. . . -- California hunters who come to Idaho, shoot and dress oul a mule. . . --City hunters who shool course, arc particularly rich in the area of material culture and 'traditions. Specific ways of : making"lhings handed down' from generation lo generation include the art of making log cabins; the Mormon derrick I mentioned earlier!: patchwork quilting; rawhide braidings and recipes and cooking skills. These are but a few examples. In the genre of dialects and material culture, Attebery referred tn some attitudes that used to exist in Eastern Oregon iMalheur County! and Ihe Owyhees in regard to Ihe Mexican American, or "Vaquero" as he was called when imported from California cattle ranches to leach the Oregon and Idaho ranchers Ihe art of working cattle. Attebery said lhal he believes an in-deplh study of this allitudc change would reveal a "Irame of mind that at one lime had great respect (or Vaqueros, who were often bosses or foremen of cattle outfits. "They were respected. Tlie Anglos look orders, from them and learned from them. The "Hracero" who worked on the ground was greeled wilh n different mind sol," Attebery continued. While the C of I professor cites evidence for this change of altitude, he said he could not rielerminc why it look place without much move investigation. + + + Why should we sludy folklore, particularly when many of us are part of it, when its influence has been considerable in Ihe lives of many of us? The folklorist reminds us that although each folk has developed a unique lore, (here are many aspects of folklore thai appear lo be universal. There arc (wo principal reasons, according to Attebery. "The first is sociological and the second is personal or psychological. "How can we exist peaceably unless we know the tradition anil world views of olhcr people with whom we have social intercourse," Allebery responded. "When we realize Ihe traditional color for mourning in China is white, when we realize that some cultures will not permit their young lo make eye contact with an older person, that in some cultures to praise a child's appearance but not to touch Ihe child is locasl Ihe 'evil eye' on lhal child, il seems lo me we are likely to offend when we do not want to. "II is very difficult to have cross-cullural relationships that xv would like lo have without the knowledge of folklore." Attebery continued. Another aspect of folklore that can prove very valuable lo interpersonal and international relations is the study of "Proxemics," or "what distance tradilion says you must observe between or among people,"-Atlebery said. "What's the proper speaking distance? This varies from culture to culture. Ttiese are matters of folklore as well as sociology and psychology." The former is (he "macroscopic" or world view, while the "microscopic" or personal view is a mailer of personal enrichment. "When we find out more about ourselves, our own backgrounds, we are less likely to be victimized by urban belief talcs, for instance." Clark Theurer Where's your insurance man when you really need him? The AID Man is there to help. Specializing in M l « I V I « S FARMS COMMERCIAL PACKAGES AUTO - MOBILE HOME - HOME OWNER MOTORCYCLE - CAMPERS - TRAILERS BOATS - BONDS - EVEN YOUR LIFE See THEURER (TIRE) for FIRE! Insurance Agency 3 1 2 - 1 3 r h A v e . So. NAMPA Ph. 466-4333 GH MORE FROM EVERY ACRE - PUNT SEEDS FROM NORTHR "Even if Ranger seed were free, I'd still recommend planting 919 BRAND ALFALFA" Higher yields /rom 919 Brand far offset the seed cost! There's an obvious difference in yields between 919 Brand and Ranger. 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