Can You Believe It?
(Based on an American Tall Tale)

by Katherine Phelps
Copyright © 21 August 1994

Mighty strange things happen in this world just because we believe something to be so. Why it's not unheard of that when a man believes he's Hercules, he gets the urge to pick up something large and does it like he never could before. Or maybe a woman believes she's the Queen of Sheba, and all of a sudden she's wiser than an old fox and has the men panting after her in at least six counties. What we believe to be so is powerful magic.

I have in mind one particular story about a particular man and his particular donkey and what happened because of the power of belief. One day Elias (that was the particular man's name) and Ginny (that was the particular donkey's name) had the chore of delivering a heap of corn to some settlers who lived on the other side of a vast and hot desert. "Well, there's no sense in moaning a hard job," thought Elias. "If a job's got to be done, it's got to be done." So he saddled up ole Ginny, covered himself from the sun and started first thing before dawn.

Did I say the desert was vast and hot? The desert was slightly more than a day's journey long. However, it could get so hot that shoe leather turned into broiled steak by the end of a journey. If you were to spill a drop of water from your canteen, it would evaporate before it had fallen an inch. The rocks themselves, upon occasion, would melt into the sand. The day Elias set out wasn't going to be much better.

First of all Elias' and Ginny's eyes kept on drying out and sticking shut. Fortunately, Elias had brought some onions along for his lunch. So, whenever their eyes got particularly sticky, he would take out an onion and start to cut it. At those times Elias would wrap his arm around Ginny's neck and they would both bawl their eyes out. Second of all whenever they felt the "call of nature," they had to find a good shady spot. Otherwise, the resulting steam scalded their privates. Elias' first experiment with this caused him to yelp so loud, coyotes for miles around thought it was time to start their evening howl.

Had this been all the trouble, Elias would have chalked it up to the inconveniences of travel. The last straw came with a small popping sound. Elias dismissed it as the sound of a cricket or some such critter. Then another pop resounded from Ginny's general direction and another pop and another... Pop, pop, pop, the volume increased. Elias turned around and saw the saddle bags on Ginny's back heave and expand like living things. Before he could do anything, they exploded into gales of popping corn.

Now Ginny, as it should be known, was a patient hardworking creature, but true to her species she was also as slow as cold molasses. When Ginny saw that fluffy white corn falling around her, she thought surely it must be snowing out. So she began to shake. And she began to shiver. And the corn started falling thicker and faster. Soon she stopped in her tracks because she believed she was lost in a blizzard.

"Why you stupid donkey!" yelled Elias. "It's well over a hundred degrees out." But pull as he might and yell as he might, Elias couldn't get Ginny to move or to stop her incessent trembling. Before long she lay down in a drift of popped corn awaiting a frozen end. There was nothing for it, but that Elias finish the journey on his own and bring back help. Which he did.

That evening he came back with a cart in which to carry Ginny to town. And of all things, the veterinarian had to treat that donkey for frostbite. Can you believe it?

This story was brought to you by Myers' Gourmet Popcorn.