DARE Fieldwork: The Adventure Begins – Reino Maki’s Story

By Reino Maki

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Reino Maki’s Story

Reino Maki



    How did DARE fieldworker Reino Maki end up under cannon fire? It all started in Wisconsin…

    I never figured studying American dialects would be as dangerous as THIS!


  • In early Sept. 1965, Reino Maki, a graduate student from the University of Massachusetts, became part of the DARE project at DARE’s new headquarters at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The DARE researchers would travel to various parts of the U.S. to gather information about the way people spoke in those areas. They would take notes on the accents, vocabulary, and expressions from each region they visited. The notes would be compiled into what would become the Dictionary of American Regional English.

    Proffessor Cassidy: Welcome to Madison, gentlemen – let me introduce us all. I’m Professor Fred Cassidy, and you two are Reino Maki from Massachusetts and Ben Crane from Alabama. The DARE office asked me to tell you that the Word Wagons will be ready in a few weeks.


    RM addresses SHIRLEY as they stand outside the Word Wagon. SHIRLEY holds their 3-yr.-old daughter CARINA. RM wears work-stained clothes and wipes his hands on a cloth. A car-top carrier has been added to the van. Tools lie on the ground nearby.

    The DARE researchers traveled in refurbished mid-1960s Dodge vans that they dubbed “Word Wagons.” In the Makis’ van, the dinette table and seats would convert to a double bed. Their young daughter Carina’s bed attached above the front seats. The van contained a hand-pump sink, icebox, portable stove, and white-gas catalytic heater.

    RM: I’ve added a carrier on top of our Word Wagon van, so that we can stow our luggage and spare tire there.

    SHIR: It’s a good thing our folks are willing to look after baby Rick for a while – it looks like even just the three of us will be cramped.


  • Bird’s eye view of a V of geese flying in formation south, with compass rose in center of V. At bottom, outline maps of Florida, Alabama, and Oklahoma.

    As the geese flew south for the winter, the DARE Word Wagons followed them, one on its way to Florida, one to Alabama, and the one carrying the Makis to Oklahoma.

    I have to admit I’m a little concerned – coming into a strange town, finding suitable residents for the field study, convincing them to spend hours answering my questions….


  • From here on, Reino Maki will tell the story himself from time to time: “I had good luck in finding an excellent first informant, a retired coal miner.”

    ILL: RM and MINER sit on a house porch as RM uses a tape recorder for interview. In the yard, SHIRLEY and MINER’S WIFE sit chatting as Carina and Miner’s grandchildren run around playing.

    Maki would interview his informants using a reel-to-reel tape recorder and he would make notes on a long questionnaire. Since his informants were all volunteers, he would repay them by doing favors such as assisting with household chores, car repairs, or shopping.

    RM: So you call the Osage orange a “bodark*…”

    MINER’S WIFE: Our grandchildren enjoy meeting new people from other places…

     *Editor’s note: This word is from the French bois d’arc – “wood of the bow.”

  • RM speaks with 2 or 3 INTERVIEWEES, at least one of whom is puzzled.

    Reino Maki: “During the early interviews, I also learned to revise my own regional speech habits.”

    RM: So how big is the bahn on youah fahm?

    INTERVIEWEE 1: “Bahn”? “Fahm”?

    INTERVIEWEE 2: I reckon he means “barn” and “farm,” Jake.

  • ILL: Canada lynx, flanked by portraits of James Fenimore Cooper and Henry David Thoreau. 

    Reino Maki: “[On another trip], in … Maine, I [heard] the Canada lynx called a ‘lucifee’. Informants sometimes associated this word with Lucifer, but it derives from the old French term for lynx, loup cervier. James Fenimore Cooper and Henry David Thoreau were familiar with the loup cervier.”

  • RM overhears a conversation. 

    Reino Maki: “… I was sometimes taken aback by [unfamiliar] grammatical usage…. [For instance], I would never think of using the word ‘anymore’ except in a negative phrase.”

    SPEAKER 1: So you’ve stopped using your well?

    SPEAKER 2: Yep, we have town water anymore.

    RM: Now, why does that sound so wrong to me?


  • RM drives Word Wagon onto garage lift as mechanic directs and points.

    MECH: Cut your wheels a little to the west.

  • During the first few months of fieldwork, mechanical problems were a common nuisance. The most frequent source of trouble was the … reel-to-reel tape recorder….

    RM grumbles over malfunctioning tape recorder as INTERVIEWEE reads “Arthur the Rat.”

    INTERVIEWEE: [reads “Arthur the Rat”] SFX (tape recorder): SCREECH! RM: Oh, no! Not again! And this is my spare one!


    Sunset in snowed-in country. The Word Wagon drives along a road. An open gate in a fence has a paved, plowed road leading into it. Sign at gate reads “Fort Sill.” Local terrain is wooded and hilly.

    Maki’s wife Shirley went home with their daughter Carina in mid-December of 1965, because it was too cold for them in the Word Wagon. Traveling alone, Maki would make use of roadside rest areas or secluded parking spots for sleeping. Sometimes, however, his choice of an alternative campsite was not always fortunate, as he discovered at Fort Sill….

    RM: Finally, a plowed road! I know, I know – I shouldn’t camp on an Army base, but I’m too exhausted to keep going, and it’s getting dark….

  •  POV – over RM’s shoulder, looking out Wagon window at sign “Artillery Impact Area – DO NOT ENTER” illuminated by headlights. Darkness beyond headlight range.

    I drove on … watching for a side road …. Then … a fixed sign warned that I was entering an artillery impact area. I thought, ‘Holy cow! Let me outta here, now! I’ll go back to the fork and take the other road!’

  • Wagon pulls into a small yard fringed by mesquite trees; bales of hay are stacked up.

    That hay must be fodder for elk and buffalo – this’ll be a good place to park for the night….


    Just as I was ready to give up….

  • RM in sleeping bag in bed inside Wagon, awake and propped on his elbows.

    Reino Maki: Early the next morning … I awoke to the booming of artillery.
    Hmm – artillery practice! Well, I got out of the practice range last night – still, I’d better eat and get out of here before I get nabbed for trespassing…

  • A sawhorse sits on the road with the back of the sign visible.

    Reino Maki: “After breakfast … I started back. A mile or so away, a sawhorse blocked the road. A sign was attached to it, facing in the opposite direction. I walked out to read it….”



  • (Gulp!) Omigod!

    POV looking over RM’s shoulder at sign, which reads “Artillery Impact Area – DO NOT ENTER.”

    Reino Maki: “They were using a different target range that morning, and I had been camping in it!”

  • Long shot. Word Wagon speeds away from sawhorse and hay bales.

    Reino Maki: “I moved that sawhorse aside and got out of Fort Sill as fast as the Word Wagon was able.”

    Maki’s research next took him to New Mexico. When his informants learned that he was traveling alone, they felt sorry for him, and would often offer him home-cooked meals, which Maki would readily accept.

  • Reino Maki: “My traveling alone … inspired sympathy from my informants. When one suggested that I stay for a meal, I was always ready to oblige.”

    In a small New Mexico town, an elderly woman invites RM to have lunch.

    WOMAN: Well, if you’re having supper with someone else, why not come have lunch with me tomorrow? RM: I’ll do that – I’d like a good, hot Mexican meal. Lots of times back home I’d have myself a spicy bowl of chili….


  • RM, seated at a table, gulps down a glass of water, a hunk of bread in one hand. A steaming plate of enchiladas sits in front of him as the elderly lady spoons on more sauce.

    “The next day, she served enchiladas with chili sauce. I quickly learned that ‘hot’ meant much more in New Mexico than it did in New England.”

    RM: (GASP!)

    WOMAN: Here you go – have some more chili sauce.


  • Map of USA, tracing RM’s route from New Mexico to Madison, WI, to the SE tip of Maine.

    In 1966, Reino Maki finished his fieldwork in New Mexico, rejoined his family at DARE headquarters in Wisconsin, then headed to his next assignment in Maine.


  • RM is in a lobster boat, hauling a lobster pot aboard; the fisherman is at the wheel of the boat.

    Reino Maki: “On Beal’s Island, interviewing a lobster fisherman, I made my standard offer to assist with chores in return for his help…. I spent Saturday morning offshore in his lobster boat, hauling traps and baiting pockets.”

  • Reino Maki: “When my fieldwork was over, Shirley and I were sad to say goodbye to the Word Wagon. It had brought us to many memorable places and let us come to know many delightful people.”

    From RM’s and SHIRLEY’s POV, looking at the Word Wagon.

    SHIRLEY: I never thought I’d say this, but I’m going to miss it….
    RM: Tell you what – someday we’ll get our own camper and revisit some of my DARE communities….