One year ago, readers of this column participated in the first annual Thanksgiving Legend Count. And with the holiday coming around again next week, this nationwide one-day collecting project now becomes an official modern folk tradition.
Yes folks, it's time for (drum roll) the second annual Thanksgiving Legend Count!
To participate, you merely have to send me one good story that is told at your Thanksgiving dinner table. Don't be overly concerned about whether it's really an urban legend; just pick a good one, jot it on a postcard or sheet of paper, and mail it in.
I'd appreciate it if the person at your table with the best handwriting would volunteer to be the official legend scribe. Also, please try not to spill cranberry sauce or gravy on your notes.
The premise of my annual Thanksgiving Legend Count is that most people tell stories around the holiday table anyway, so we might as well sample them in a simple survey.
The model for the Legend Count is the National Audubon Society's annual Christmas bird count, now in its 91st year. We legend fanciers can't match the birdwatchers' numbers yet - more than 40,000 strong last year - but I'll bet we hear better stories than the birders do.
The annual Christmas bird count helps to compile valuable ornithological data on species' populations and migrations.
Hopefully, legend counters will help me record the hottest "true" stories currently circulating.
Last year, although the actual number of responses was somewhat underwhelming, I heard from readers of every newspaper where this column appears, and I got many fascinating stories.
People were telling urban legends like "The Death Car" and "The Poisoned Pussycat at the Party" while filling up on turkey and all the trimmings. Less-gruesome legends collected in the 1989 survey were "The Elevator Incident" and "The Dog and the Nude Man."
I hope the legend count will grow to become the biggest change in our Thanksgiving traditions since the self-basting turkey and instant replay.
As I wrote last year, for a folklorist, this is a rare chance to collect some of the favorite stories being told simultaneously around the nation.
Since Thanksgiving is a time when families gather for the main purpose of eating and socializing anyway, it isn't too far-fetched to ask legend fans to send me a story.
Surely a student back home from college or Aunt Harriet come to visit or your goofy brother (or brother-in-law) has a story to tell that could be contributed to my survey.
Last year I left the subject matter wide open, but this Thanksgiving I'll suggest some topics that might inspire someone to remember and repeat a story they've heard. Do "spiders" or "babies" or "fax machines" remind you of any possible legends?
Or how about a story concerning professional sports, since half the crowd will probably be watching football games on TV half the day anyway?
Was there a story going around among the water-cooler crowd at work last week that you could send? Did you hear any odd stories recently from your car pool, aerobics class or coffee klatch?
Honestly folks, any story on any topic will do as long as the tale is one you've heard from someone else. If another person at the table knows a different version, all the better! Let me know about both of them.
As I requested last year, to speed the process, please mail your responses directly to me this time instead of forwarding them through your local paper. I promise to report the results of the project in a column released before Easter.
The address is: Prof. Jan H. Brunvand, Department of English, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112.
Happy Thanksgiving, readers; bon appetit, and don't forget to take part in the 1990 legend count!