What’s the best thing that your Dad taught you?
Most kids need to learn honesty from their parents, because to a child dishonesty seems to offer the best advantage, and I was among those. Dad believed in honesty, and mostly taught it by example.
Dad once used the occasion of selling a group of ewes as an object lesson in honesty. He had selected ewes from his flock and trucked them to the Douglas County Livestock auction. Sheep have a short lifespan and age is an important determinant of their value. Dad took the trouble to catch each ewe, open her mouth and count the teeth. Since sheep gain an additional row of teeth each year, he could work out the number of 2-, 3-, and 4-year-olds.
When we reached the auction, Dad made a point of reporting his counts to the person who received the animals. The auctioneer reported the tally of ages to the crowd. A heckler in the crowd shouted “how do you know the ages, did you count them?”
The auctioneer replied, “they don’t lie to me.”
When dad explained this interaction to me, I was proud of his reputation for honesty and wanted to have a similar reputation. I was able to develop a reputation for always telling the truth to my teachers … even when telling the truth was self-incriminating.
In the third grade, something possessed me to toss a rubber eraser to a classmate who sat near the front of the class. The eraser overshot and hit the teacher’s desk with a thump. My teacher looked up and asked, “Who threw that?”
I heard Miss Premazzi say, “report to the Principal now.”
I went to the Office and waited a long time for the Principal. When he finally called me in, I told my story and he chose to be lenient because I had admitted my guilt. I was relieved that my punishment didn’t include a paddling, which was still practiced at my school in those days.