The big news this week was that President Obama returned Denali to its original native name, dropping the stage name “Cougar” for good. The Mount Formerly Known as McKinley sparked all kinds of political controversy, such as who exactly McKinley was, and how much more he represents America than Lincoln, Washington, and hot dogs combined.
Controversy aside, I think that returning original names to great landmarks is an effective and creative way to preserve our national heritage. After all, so many moral problems would have been averted if Miley Cyrus had simply remained Hannah Montana.
But to restore traditional monikers, we must first understand our ancient heritage. To learn more, I turned to my little sister, who is currently studying claymation at the University of New Mexico. Somehow, this relates to folk tales.
She offered me plenty of examples of New Mexico folklore. These include stories like “Coyote Sleeps with His Own Daughters” and “The Toothed Vagina.” While these tales promise rich clues to the origins of place names, they might prove difficult to garner popular support for a renaming effort. This mission requires legends with all three of staying power, general appeal, and evocative imagery.
Thank goodness my little sister also shared the tale of “Monster Skunk Farting Everyone to Death.” This story is really real, or else a convincing forgery elaborated by third graders. The title says it all. Even so, it is worth retelling, because it is in the public domain. Here goes:
MONSTER SKUNK FARTING EVERYONE TO DEATH, FOOL’S GOLD REPRISE
Monster Skunk was killing everyone by farting on them. After cooking them in his Dutch oven, he ate them.
This one whole village, which should probably be renamed for these events, freaked out because Monster Skunk was coming right for them. They ran around like it was Black Friday, and only the first twenty customers could buy survival.
So after a series of committee meetings, Bobcat and Coyote decided they would kill Monster Skunk, who was as big as Godzilla only instead of knocking down buildings he basically only farted a lot.
Meanwhile, the people listening to this story around the campfire wanted to hear more about Monster Skunk before he died. So, using the storytelling rule of threes, Monster Skunk encountered three men on the road.
The first man was afraid of Monster Skunk farting, so Monster Skunk farted him to death. The second man was afraid of Monster Skunk defecating, so Monster Skunk defecated him to death. And the third one built his house of bricks, but Monster Skunk blew it down anyway with his spray and he skunked the man to death.
Then Monster Skunk chased a woman who was really interested in providing landmarks to be named after this folktale. She turned her possessions into a forest, a mountain, and most impressively of all, a hedge. But Monster Skunk farted right through these obstacles, and then he—seriously, it’s in the story—farted the woman to pieces.
Then the storyteller really wanted to prove to me how much valuable traditional knowledge my public school education lacked. A grandmother and her granddaughter played dead to fool Monster Skunk. Monster Skunk bought their act, but only because he mistook their genitalia for knife wounds. Monster Skunk tested the “wounds” in ways that would get him fired as Subway’s spokesskunk, despite his effective use of the slogan “Eat Fresh.”
Finally, Monster Skunk stumbles upon Bobcat’s and Coyote’s ambush. Lo—they cannot kill the Monster Skunk! Then Coyote remembers the successful conclusion of the Death Star battle in Star Wars. Monster Skunk’s thermal exhaust port is only two meters wide, but Coyote is clever enough to turn off her targeting computer. Using the Force, she jams a boulder up Monster Skunk’s port.
Coyote and Bobcat book it. The village is in Monster Skunk’s firing range, but he’s completely backed up. He grunts, and he groans, and he clenches, and at the final desperate moment he explodes. He literally farts himself to death.
The villagepeople hold a celebratory feast, at which they decide the main course should be hunks of farting skunk, because this reciprocal act will hold great symbolic meaning for future anthropologists. They gift Bobcat and Coyote the best parts, which in my mind would be two tickets out of town.
And now I don’t have any idea what the original point of this column was. But I hope that someone will take swift action to address it.
This Fool’s Gold originally appeared in The KC Post.