The Public Eye

printed 09/24/2021

As we all now know some people will believe anything if it comes from what they consider to be a reliable source. The problem, as we also now know, is that thinking a source is reliable doesn’t make it so.

I learned that fairly early on when I accepted as fact that the Italian song, Volare, which topped the charts in the late 1950s, was not Italian but French, and was not about man expressing his great love, but was instead about a poor farmer who had to sell his pig to save the family farm.

I believed that, because my father “translated” the lyrics for me when I was eight or nine years old. And I would have kept on believing it had I not reported on it in fourth grade during a session about things we had learned from our parents.

“... and then the poor French farmer had to sell his favorite pig because ...”

“Ha! Whoops, sorry,” said Mrs. Jones, my teacher. “Hmmm. Hahahaha! Hahahahahahahaha! Wheeeze. Hooooo. Can’t breathe!”

Later that day, my father confessed that he had made it up and that he was sorry Mrs. Jones had to be put on oxygen.

That was my first lesson about not believing everything you read, hear or even see. My second and final lesson occurred much later when I was working in Colorado and wrote for a little entertainment flyer we put out in addition to the paper.

The back page of the flyer was reserved for whatever nonsense another writer and I could come up with after the regular paper was out and we settled in with a case of beer and a dissipating sense of purpose.

Our entries over that period included “Quasimotown, the Hunchback of Detroit,” “Spam Army Tank OK’d by Pentagon,” “Freddie the Ratboy Found in New York Sewer,” and “The Surgery Handbook for Hobbyists.”

These were so absurd and, occasionally, incoherent, that we knew everyone would realize we were making up this stuff. That held true until we ran, “Venomous Doe-Buck Discovered in Forest.”

The premise was this: a creature that looked like Bambi with fangs had been spotted in the White River National Forest. It could spit poison 30 feet and then eat you. It was called a Doe-Buck because it was both at the same time, thus giving it a bad attitude.

We wrote it, ran it and went on. But on the following day, my phone rang.

“Mr. Dobson, this is Ranger So-and-So from the White River National Forest. We have a bit of a situation. I have a husband and wife here who are getting into a squabble about going in the park. He’s angry because she refuses to go anywhere that the Doe-Bucks might get her.”

“Heh, heh. You’re joking, right?”

“No, Mr. Dobson, I am not. You caused this problem, so you have to fix it.”

“Okay, put her on ... Hello, Mrs. Brown? My name is ... Yes, I wrote the Doe-Buck story ... No, it isn’t true. I made it all up. That’s right. No fangs, no poison. No, not two sets of ... What’s that, Mrs. Brown? I’m a big what? Yes, I have been told that before, but it’s not ... Mrs. Brown? Mrs. Brown? I heard you the first time. Can I say something? Yes? Thanks. I just wanted to tell you to be on the lookout for the Giant Foaming Badgers.

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