My Second Annual Thanksgiving Day Legend Count was nearly as underwhelming, in terms of number of responses, as the first. But Rome wasn't built in a day, and some of the stories I received from readers were great.
How can I fail to be thankful to the readers who sent me stories I had never heard before like "The Bart Simpson Killer Slap Bracelet," "The Show Dog With Three Testicles" and "The Lady Who Ate Her Christmas Pet"? I'll have more to say about these stories in future columns, if I locate variations.Just as in 1989 when I first suggested that readers send me one legend each from their Thanksgiving dinner conversations, I warned our mail room personnel to be ready for a flood of replies.
But following Thanksgiving 1990, just as before, the number of responses was moderate - only about double my weekly average of 50 to 60 cards and letters. Not overwhelming in terms of quantity, but very impressive as to quality.
Oh, sure, I heard about many familiar legends that continue to circulate after years of popularity - stories like "The Hook," "The Exploding Toilet," "The Killer in the Back Seat" and "Blue Star Acid." But such reports of old favorites help to establish which stories are current.
Also, as with the first Legend Count, several readers sent me factual family anecdotes - interesting stories but not actual legends. Maybe I should move the count to April Fools' Day or Halloween.
A couple of the best letters I received were confessions, so I'd better not give any clues about who wrote them.
One was from a father who one Thanksgiving Day made up a story to tell his young son about a valuable baseball card he had supposedly lost in his parents' attic. Every Thanksgiving thereafter the father has repeated the tale, and each year his sons, although they now doubt his story, troop up to Grandma's attic searching for the misplaced card.
Another person wrote to tell me about a story he made up and sold to Reader's Digest as a supposedly true incident. It was published in the Digest's "Life in These United States" section. Ten years later, the story's creator heard it repeated with a slight variation as if it were true.
Two of my favorite new stories had to do with vehicle accidents. They're both a bit grisly, but that doesn't seem to be unusual among Thanksgiving Day stories. Maybe it has something to do with all the football games on television.
A woman in the Midwest sent me the story about a woman who was trapped in her car when a spring from the seat popped up and corkscrewed its way into her posterior. The woman had to drive to a hospital emergency room and have the paramedics unscrew her from the seat.
That one reminds me of the legend about the baby sitter stuck on the freshly painted toilet seat.
A man from the West sent me a story about a motorcyclist who was stopped by a highway patrolman for carrying his crash helmet strapped to his right knee instead of on his head as the state law required. The cyclist argued that the law only required wearing a helmet, without stating where it was to be worn.
But the patrolman insisted that he don the helmet before proceeding, and the cyclist had to comply. When he angrily pulled into traffic without looking first, he crashed into a car and broke his right knee.
The Turkey Day winner was a story that came from a man in California who had heard about an American who tried to figure out the rules of cricket while watching some Englishmen play the game.
After an hour of puzzlement, the American turned to a white-clad man standing next to him and asked, "Could you please explain this game to me?"
"I'd be happy to," the man replied, "but not right now, since I'm busy playing."- "Curses! Broiled Again," Jan Harold Brunvand's fourth collection of urban legends, is now available in paperback from Norton. Send your questions and urban legends to him in care of this newspaper.