Once upon a time . . .

August 18, 2006 by barbara

by barbara

A friend of mine was traveling with her granddaughter last weekend when the bomb plot was busted in Britain.

As a way to pass time while they waited at the airport, my friend decided to share an old, favorite story with her grand.

And so she began:

Once upon a time, in a far-away place, a young shepherd was tending his flock of sheep, over the hilltops, away from the village.

(Gramma, is this the Christmas story?)

No, dear. Just listen. The shepherd boy was seated on a boulder, twiddling his thumbs. He was very bored. Tending sheep is not exciting for the shepherd or for the sheep.

(He could have played leap-sheep, couldn't he?)

He could have. But he didn't. He decided he needed to generate some action. So he stood up on the boulder and at the top of his lungs, he screamed, "Wolf! Wolf! A wolf has made off with my sheep."

(But Gramma, that wasn't true.)

I know, dear. But the point is that the villagers believed him, and so they grabbed their rakes and hoes and ran as fast as they could, up over the hilltop to where the shepherd stood waiting for them with a cocky little smirk on his face. The villagers looked all around. Counted the sheep. Finally, one of them said, "Where is the wolf, boy?" The shepherd threw back his head and laughed a merry little laugh. "Gosh, he was here a minute ago!" he said.

(Well, that was tacky.)

You're right, it was. The villagers were annoyed and they told the shepherd boy it was a very bad trick he had played on them. Then they trudged back down the hillside to the village. Before long, the shepherd boy was feeling bored again. And he was kind of jazzed about his ability to jerk the chain of the villagers.

(Oh, c'mon, Gramma. He didn't!)

He did. Up onto the rock he climbed, and he began yelling, "Wolf! Wolf! A wolf has made off with my sheep!" The villagers heard him. They looked at each other and rolled their eyes. But on the off-chance that their sheep were in danger, they grabbed their implements and scurried back up the hillside again.

(They were pretty gullible, weren't they?)

So some would say. Seeing no wolf, they turned their steely gaze on the shepherd boy, who shrugged his shoulders and pretended to be puzzled. He doffed his Stetson and fanned himself with it.

(Shepherds don't wear Stetsons, Gramma.)

This one did, dear. The villagers were pretty steamed. They knew they'd been had again. Some of them were all for smacking the crap out of that little creep . . .

(Gramma!)

. . . but cooler heads prevailed, and they returned to the village yet again. The sun sank lower in the sky, moving toward the horizon. Soon it would be dark. And so the shepherd boy gathered up his sheep to take them down the hillside, back toward the village. But a snarly old wolf leaped out of the shadows and began to chase after the lambs.

(Ah! A pascal metaphor.)

{Pause} Anyway, the shepherd boy was scared witless, and with good reason. He climbed onto his rock and cried, "Wolf! Wolf! Help me! I really mean it this time, you guys! Wolf! Wolf!"

(Gramma, could you keep it down?)

Mmmmm. So what do you suppose happened next?

(Uh, nothing?)

Exactly! The villagers looked up into the hills, turned their backs and ignored the shepherd's increasingly anguished cries. The thing is, the kid had cried wolf too many times, and no one believed him any more. He'd used up his shepherding capital. The villagers pretty much figured that whatever came out of his mouth was a lie. A big, fat, stinking lie. A gross deception . . .

(Gramma?)

. . . of the first water. A manipulative, selfish, mean-spirited . . .

(Gramma! Please sit down!)

Oh. Sorry. These old morality tales are pretty exciting. Here's the moral of this story. "There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again."

(Okay. Well, I think I heard them call our flight.)

Fine, dear, let's go. Here, take my hand.

(Gramma, I'm 27 years old.)

Right. Well, then, ditch your gel bra, honey. We're going for a ride.

NOTE: On the TV series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Cardassian Garak has a different understanding of (this) story, suggesting that its message is "Never tell the same lie twice." (Source: Wikipedia)

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Comments

Anonymous (not verified) | August 18, 2006 - 3:46pm

Beautiful tale.

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cpeace (not verified) | August 18, 2006 - 4:09pm

Fairy Tales can come true if it happens to you... so Barb, young at heart? Wise tales, tell all ... thank you... But my heart is breaking these days. Its so hard to stay positive..my hope is for the change that can happen in November begining of the end to this present U.S. regime.

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BJM (not verified) | August 18, 2006 - 9:38pm

But as rich as we are, it's much better by far . . . yes, young at heart, what's left of it. Like you, I'm finding hope in short supply. Still, if one believes in polls and Santa Claus, maybe, just maybe . . . Work hard, Cpeace. Help make it happen. And thanks for writing.

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