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The gullibility test

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By Ken Begley

I was sitting in front of my computer writing this story when my seven-year-old, Belle, walked by.  

“What’re you doing?” she asked.

“Writing a story about you,”  I replied.

“Don’t write about me.”

“Can you read yet?”

“Yes.”

“O.K. I won’t write about you.”

Now, where was I?  Oh yeah, I was writing this story about Belle.

Anyway, doesn’t everyone really enjoy talking to little ones between the ages of around three to five?   They’ve just learned to talk and are experiencing the world for the first time.  They’re finally able to tell you their understanding of everything around them.  It’s truly like looking at the world with new eyes.

Sometimes adults will have a little fun with these youngsters by telling them some outrageous whopper just to see what their reaction is.  

Come on, admit it!  You’ve done this before!  Everybody has!

You do it just because you enjoy watching how their new minds process some wild information.  You’re hoping for a hilarious result you can tell someone about.  Kids are the most quoted people on earth.  

Be warned, however.  Sometimes those whoppers can backfire on you.  Here’s one that did on me.

The local youth were out “bowling for mailboxes” a few years back on Lincoln Park Road.  They were using pumpkins.  What a novel twist.  I thought you were only allowed to use baseball bats.  

They must have had real skill and dexterity to launch the pumpkin in the air and be able to take down two mailboxes at once.  I thought about this as I observed their handiwork.  Of course, if it had been my mailbox, I would have done a lot less observing and a lot more cussing.

Belle, who was four at the time, saw the mailboxes and said, “What happened to the mailboxes daddy?”

Suddenly, without any prompting on my part, a huge whopper of a story welled up out of me.

“Well, Belle, Papaw was driving his pickup truck down the road and Nana was standing in the truck bed with a baseball bat knocking down mailboxes.”

This story was made up before another daughter pointed out that pumpkins were used.  Still, this wasn’t a political ad where all the details are carefully researched before they are put on the air so the innocent aren’t hurt.  Also, I would have used my own parents in the story, but they don’t own a pickup truck.  

Belle looked up at me and said, “Why did they do that?”

I replied, “I don’t know.  I guess they just get wild every now and then.”

I watched Belle with a straight face.  There was no reaction.  Two seconds later she just toddled off to complete her rounds on her busy day of play.

What a disappointment!  I thought it would be a real hoot while she was deciphering this bit of disturbing information.  I was about to tell her it was a joke when I got distracted.  I eventually forgot the whole incident.  

That is until about two days later.  I walked in on Belle as she was telling someone the story.  It had grown considerably and was much embellished.  Apparently a story can become really polished if you tell it often enough to the interest of several people for two days.  

She supplemented her verbal storytelling with reenactments of the notorious event.  She demonstrated how Papaw was driving the truck, Nana’s batting stance, and ended it with a big swing while telling how far the mailbox sailed through the air.

My gosh, where did she learn to tell whoppers like that?  

I’ll have to end this story by saying two things.  

First, Belle is seven now, but doesn’t read my stories, and I doubt her friends do.  So I’m safe from her.  

Second,  aren’t you glad I’m not your son-in-law?