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A Fairytale

 

© 1977 by Kathlyn Ericksen

No portion of this article may be reproduced without permission of the copyright holder. Reprinted with permission from by Kathlyn Ericksen.

Once upon a time, a long, long, time ago in a far away country called Tarryland, there were two country folk called Pat and Mike. Now it was the custom for Pat and Mike to go to the local pub each day for a glass of ale. Although, Pat and Mike said that they did not like each other, and in truth, they did not, every day they would meet and begin a game called "mine is better than yours". This was not a game like checkers or pool that some of the people who went to the pub played to pass the time while they were drinking. Pat and Mike saw their game as very serious and important. They would argue in loud and angry tones and finally leave the pub in a huff, each proclaiming that "if it weren't for people like Pat --or Mike -- it would be a far better world".

On some days Pat and Mike would argue about religion, each would tell the other why his religion was better, although it didn't do much good because neither listened when the other was talking. Some days they would argue about politics, each being certain that he was right and the other was wrong. Each of them had been taught since childhood to know "right" from "wrong" and their families and friends, who believed as they did, always supported them in their beliefs - that if it weren't for people like Pat -- or Mike -- this would certainly be a far better world.

Some days Pat and Mike would tire of arguing about religion and politics and vow not to discuss the subjects again. Instead they would argue about who had the better house, or who were the most intelligent, people who had blue eyes and blond hair like those in Pat's family, or people who had blue eyes and dark brown hair, like those in Mike's family.

Sometimes, they agreed not to argue at all, on those days Pat would jokingly ridicule Mike and tease him about his family: and Mike would tell Pat, in the interest of friendship, all the local gossip about Pat and his family that was mean or petty. On these days they did not shout and stomp out of the pub in a huff because it all had been so friendly, but still they each felt angry.

Now it happened that both Pat and Mike owned dogs. These were the ordinary kind of dogs that most of the people in Tarryland owned. One day Pat and Mike met by accident in a field. Pat had his dog, Woof, and Mike had his dog, Wag. As usual they began their "game of mine is better than yours". On this same day a sod merchant by the name of Moss, who was from a town twenty miles away, passed the field and he heard the discussion. Now sod merchants were considered to be dirty people and were held in low esteem by everyone, but Moss had found that any man twenty miles from home could be considered to be an expert. So to build his self esteem and to make himself more important in the eyes of others he frequently set himself up as an expert.

Moss quickly recognized that Pat and Mike's argument over which was the best dog was a great opportunity for him to be an authority. He went over to Pat and Mike and introduced himself, saying that in the place that he was from people had standards which they used to judge which dogs were the best. He said he was an authority on these standards and could tell Pat and Mike which was the better dog. At first Pat and Mike were a little doubtful. They did not believe anyone would bother to have standards to decide whether one dog was better than another. After all, no matter what the standard was it was, it would still just be the opinion of whoever wrote it. For once in their lives they both agreed that if someone was happy with the dog he had that was all that was important. Moss was a skillful salesman though, and it was not long before he had persuaded both Pat and Mike that people who were sophisticated about dogs always used standards. Since neither Pat nor Mike wanted to appear unsophisticated they agreed to let Moss judge their two dogs based on the standard.

Now Moss was also something of a showman. He enjoyed his important role of being judge and so he spent a long time going over each dog with his hands. He looked at the dogs teeth and his eyes, ran his hands down his back, and pushed up and down on his rear. He stood back and looked at each dog for a long time with a very critical and judgmental frown upon his face. He asked Pat and Mike to walk their dogs up and down and around in a circle. He told Pat and Mike to get down one their hands and knees in the mud and to pose their dogs by pulling up on their necks and tails. He said it would make the dog look good. He told Pat and Mike to get up and run in a circle with their dogs. All the while Moss looked very serious, but actually he was having a wonderful time. Pat had a big belly from drinking so much ale and when he ran it bobbed up and down. Mike's extra calories had deposited themselves on his posterior and he was also bow legged which caused his large behind to sway from side to side when he ran. Moss could barely keep from laughing as Pat and Mike ran around, huffing and puffing, each trying to prove to him that his was the better dog. Finally, Pat and Mike began to tire and Moss decided it was time to make a decision. With a flourish he pointed one finger at Wags and two fingers at Woof. It was an easy decision; he had always had a personal preference for waggy dogs.

Mike was elated, he had not only won and argument with Pat, he had an expert to back him up. He had the best dog and he hurried off to tell everyone that an expert on dogs had declared his dog to be the best. He felt a wonderful sense of happiness as if he, not his dog had been judged to be the best.

Pat, on the other hand, began to question Moss. He wanted to see the standard that Moss had used to judge the dogs and he asked Moss many questions about where he had received his training to judge and how much experience he had. Moss, ever skillful, placated Pat by dodging most of his questions and offering to send him a copy of The Official Standard. He told Pat he would show him how to judge dogs with the standard and that when he was not visiting the town, Pat would be the authority to whom people turned. Pat was still a bit skeptical but he liked the idea of being an authority. He also considered the possibility of a rematch with Mike's dog after he had seen the standard. He was sure with a bath and a little judicious clipping and combing he could make his dog look more like the standard than Mike's dog.

Moss was an honest scoundrel and so, true to his word, he went home and wrote a standard for judging dogs. To be absolutely certain it looked authentic he had it illustrated and printed with a gold seal - similar to the one used by Betty Crocker many generations later.

It was not long before all of the dog owners in Tarryland had a copy of the standard and they would all come together and have a wonderful time playing "Mine is Better Than Yours". Because they had a written standard it was obvious to all which dogs were the best and they never became angry about the outcome of the judging. Instead they all showed their dogs happily ever after.

That is why this is called a fairy tale.

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