In my closing issue a couple of weeks ago I made the promise that if my health continued to hold I would, on occasion, publish some of my favorite stories taken from old issues of MOSTLY MEMORIES. The following article then is the first of these occasions with, hopefully, many more to follow:
Some weeks ago I told you my "lead goat" story. The story of how mankind just like sheep will follow a "Judas goat", as some call it, into hell or high water just as it has been doing for thousands of years and will, no doubt, continue to do so into infinity.
In my previous story which I called "Precedent, the lead goat of mankind"I told how man in his eagerness to follow a leader oft times establishes. a precedent, foolish though it may be, that he will most likely pursue throughout his lifetime. In this story I quoted a portion of a very old poem and today I am using the entire poem to tell about the foolishness of some of those man made precedents.This old poem came to my attention some 70 years ago and to me it is not so much a poem as it is the story about the price man sometimes has to pay for his lack of lack of foresight and his inane desire to "follow the leader".
This poem, as I found it, had no title and listed no author and while I will not claim authorship of the poem I have given it a title of my own which I think is quite fitting, so read ye now this very old story like poem which I call:
THE FOLLY OF PRECEDENT
"One day, through the primeval wood,
a calf walked home, as good calves should,
and made a trail all bent askew,
a crooked trail, as all calves do.
And then a wise bell-weather sheep
pursued that trail o’er vale and steep,
and drew the flock behind him, too,
as good bell-weathers always do.
"Since then three hundred years have fled
and I infer the calf is dead,
but from that day, through dale and glade,
in that old wood a path was made
where many men wore in and out,
and dodged, and turned, and bent about,
and uttered words of righteous wrath,
because ’twas such a crooked path.
"That forest path became a lane
that turned, and bent, and turned again.
The crooked lane became a road
where many a poor horse, with his load,
toiled on beneath the burning sun
and traveled some three miles in one.
"The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
the road became a village street,
and this before men were aware,
a city’s crowded thoroughfare.
And soon a central street was this
of a renowned metropolis,
where men, two centuries and a half,
trod in the footsteps of that calf.
"Each day a hundred thousand rout
followed that zigzag calf about,
and o’er that crooked journey went
the traffic of a continent.
A hundred thousand men were led
by one calf, near a century dead.
They follow still that crooked way
and lose a hundred years per day;
such is the reverence that’s lent
to well established precedent.
"For men are prone to go it blind
along the calf-paths of the mind,
and labor on from sun to sun,
to do what other men have done.
They follow in the beaten track
now out, now in, now forth, now back,
and still their devious course pursue,
to trod the paths that others do.
But—how the old wood gods must laugh,
who saw the foot prints of that calf,
Ah; many things this tale might teach
if I were called upon to preach
( Author Unknown)
To give more length to this column I am am adding the following story taken from the days of my youth:
HAND ME THAT HAMMER
Papa had a terrible temper and when angry he was much rougher on we children than he intended. While we loved him in his good moods he scared the living hell out of us when he was angry. We were raised by that old axiom "spare not the rod and spoil not the child" and when Papa used that rod he fairly tore our little fannies up one side and down the other. Thus the fear of the rod made us live in fear of Papa.
I realized later in life that Mama was as much responsible for our fear of Papa because she would threaten us by saying "I’m going to tell Papa on you". She found that this threat worked better than the spankings she gave us. Oh, it wasn’t that we were bad children we were mischievous and not being afraid of Mama we did not always mind her and consequently received many of her spankings, or switchings as she called them.
My younger brother and I learned how to cut down on the length of Mama’s spankings—as soon as she would get the paddle or switch out and grab hold of us we would start screaming before she ever hit us, and thinking she was killing us her spankings did not last long. But gad, what a difference it was when she told Papa what we had done and then said "now you punish that child". He did, and how!
I know now that the reason his punishment was much harsher than Mama’s was because he had been gone all day and it made him angry to have punish us and in his anger he hit harder than Mama. (I found this to be true after I had a child of my own and my wife used Mama’s tactics).
So through the years this fear of Papa built up in me to the point that when he yelled at me I would literally go blind. One of the last occasions I remember this happening to me was when I was a senior in high school. I was helping him do something and he hollered "Bill hand me that hammer"(he didn’t ask, he hollered), I looked around but could not see the hammer. He got impatient and yelled, "Bill hand me the damned hammer, it’s right there at your feet".
Well, naturally I went blind, I couldn’t see that hammer, and he, not realizing that in my terror I couldn’t see, grabbed me, turned me around, kicked me in the butt, then reached down at my feet and picked up the hammer. (Now don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to say that Papa was mean, he was just easily irritated and his irritation turned into slaps and kicks that scared more than hurt).
It was not until I was grown and had a family of my own that I found Papa to be the kind and gentle man Mama had always claimed him to be.