Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Legend: Calamity ensues when a dim-witted lad tries to hoist a barrel of bricks to the top of a building.
Example: [Collected on the Internet, 1997]
Origins: Viewers of television's Saturday Night Live on 23 October 2004 saw the comedy program present one of its typical political sketches, this
What Saturday Night Live had incorporated into its presidential spoof was a century-old urban legend. One of its earliest sightings appears in the 1902 book At Home With the Jardines, where it appears as "A Letter From Jimmie." However, even that is handily predated by this sighting of the tale in an 1895 newspaper.
The law of the attraction of gravitation was well illustrated on Cedar Street the other day. A man stood holding a rope which ran over a pulley and into a second story window, where it was attached to a barrel containing aboutAdding yet another sighting of this well-loved and incredibly old tale to the many documented throughout the years, I offer the following from the 1951 autography of a renowned old salt. If we believe Rear Admiral Gallery, he told this story to his crew in either 1943 or 1944, while he was captain of the
Then, to complicate matters, the barrel struck the ground so hard that the bottom fell out, the contents following, of course. And again the gravity was demonstrated, for this made the barrel lighter than the man, and down he came with a thump, and the barrel went up.
Then he made the mistake of his life by letting go of the rope, that he might feel his bruises, for the barrel, being heavier than the loose end of the rope, dropped swiftly downward and struck him fairly, just as he was struggling to his feet, again vindicating the attraction of gravity.
But the spectators failed to realize the gravity of the situation.
One night at the movies I told the crew the story about the sailor on the Saratoga who requested an extension of leave in the following air mail letter:Another take on this legend comes from Why Paddy's Not at Work Today (or "The Bricklayer's Song"), a spoken version of "The Bricklayer's Lament" tale performed by Gerard Hoffnung at the Oxford Union,
C.O., U.S.S. Saratoga
When I got home I found that my father's brick silo had been struck by lightning, knocking some of the bricks off at the top. I decided to fix the silo, and so I rigged up a beam, with a pulley and whip at the top of the silo, and hoisted a couple of barrels full of bricks to the top. When I got through fixing the silo there were a lot of bricks left over.
I hoisted the barrel back up again, secured the line at the bottom, and then went up and filled the barrel with extra bricks. Then I went down to the bottom and cast off the line.
Unfortunately, the barrel of bricks was heavier than I was and before I knew what was happening, the barrel started down and jerked me off the ground. I decided to hang on, and halfway up I met the barrel coming down and received a severe blow on the shoulder. I then continued on up to the top, banging my head against the beam and getting my fingers jammed in the pulley.
When the barrel hit the ground it busted the bottom, allowing all the bricks to spill out. I was now heavier than the barrel and so started down again at high speed. Halfway down I again met the barrel and received severe injuries to my shins. When I hit the ground I landed on the bricks, getting numerous painful cuts from the sharp edges.
At this point I must have lost my presence of mind because I let go of the rope. The barrel then came down and struck me another heavy blow on the head, putting me in the hospital for three days.
Respectfully request five days extension of leave.
I told the boys that unless they could top that one, they would just be wasting their time and mine trying to alibi being overleave.
Barbara "just another brick in the fall" Mikkelson
Sightings: Look for this legend in the 1996 novel Infinite Jest. For a really old occurrence of it, hunt up a copy of the 1937 Laurel & Hardy film Way Out West. Recent sightings of the hilarious accident can be found in the 1998 film Babe: Pig in the City and is acted out in the Beta Band's 2001 video for the song "Squares."
Last updated: 23 March 2008
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