When my dad and uncles would meet, a common greeting would be ‘Who carried the mail through Death Valley?’
Since I’m working from home today, I have the TV on in the background. The Rifleman episode ‘The Most Amazing Man’ is playing. Lucas is reading a letter that starts out ‘Who [did something amazing in Montana]? Who killed two rattlesnakes with one shot?’ etc.
I’m guessing that this was a familiar meme in the '50s and '60s, so it probably originated earlier.
As someone who was a kid in the 50’s, this all reminds me of the “Who’s your friend?” deal. If my sister was going to share her candy with me, she might ask, “Who’s your friend?” and if I didn’t answer, “You!” then I didn’t get the candy. Or a bully might start torturing you and ask, Who’s your friend?" and if you didn’t answer, “You!” then the pain would continue. So the whole “Who” thing is just a setup for a pre-packaged answer.
So the only reason to ask the “Who” question is to elicit the expected answer, whatever that may be. “Who’s the best shot?” Why the Rifleman is, of course. “Who carried the mail through Death Valley?” Some bad-ass cowboys, I’d say… it really doesn’t matter what the answer is as long as everyone asking and answering knows the drill.
Please note that in the General Questions forum, you should hold off on the less serious answers until the question has been addressed factually. I know you are all having fun, but let’s try to get at least one factual answer in here before we continue on with the jokes.
Dad and the uncles only used one, or maybe two questions. But I think the… schtick? involves a series of extraordinary claims. On the TV show today, there were at least three or four. (I was working, so I wasn’t really paying attention.) Just making things up, ‘Who carried the mail through Death Valley? Who dug the Grand Canyon? Who charmed a bear out of his skin and et him for dinner and wore the skin as a robe? Who packed all the snow up into the Rockies? Me!’
I’ve seen variations on the theme in mountain man movies, but usually those are declaratives instead of questions.