“We must have hit something, Sancho, the dogs are barking.”
Miguel Cervantes, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha.
Theodore “Ted” Boneworthy was a bachelor farmer who had eked out a living on the rocky soil of his hard scrabble acreage by working hard and learning all he could from agricultural extension agents. Then one day Ted ploughed up a very large gem quality garnet and became a wealthy man. Folks in his district had always thought of Ted as an odd duck, but they figured that if he was lucky, he might also be smart, so they elected him to the State House of Representatives.
During his time as a state legislator, Ted Boneworthy worked unsuccessfully to pass laws that he thought society needed to be right and proper. He sponsored a bill that made it illegal to recite nursery rhymes backwards. He tried to make it a misdemeanor to swat flies with ones bare hand. And he sought legislation that would punish people for sticking chewing gum under counters and tabletops in restaurants. Understandably, none of these bills were ever voted on by the House.
Ted chocked up to his colleagues’ not supporting his legislation to their being a bunch of small town bozos.
So he ran for the U.S. House of Representatives. His opponents ridiculed the national chewing gum initiative. Men’s groups called his stand on bare handed fly swatting “sissified,” and teachers’ organizations claimed that putting in practice his ideas on nursery rhyme recitation would stifle creativity.
The mass media were another problem. Radio, television and newspaper reporters mispronounced and misspelled Ted’s name. More often than not they called him Sid Stoneweary or Rich Blatherly instead of Ted Boneworthy.
He lost the election by a historic margin.
Ted had been an only child. His mother and father were arch fundamentalists. The farm couple in Grant Woods’ painting, “American Gothic” look positively jolly by comparison. For Ma Boneworthy everything in society was wicked and sinful or nasty and vile.
After being ridiculed in the state legislature and losing his campaign for the U. S. House, Ted abandoned politics and entered what he called “the real world” to launch his biggest, weirdest project ever.
Ted urged Americans to stop letting animals run around naked.
Ted hired a New York law firm at twice its normal fee to form an organization called “The League to Clothe Naked Animals,” with him as the league’s sole officer. Then he hired a top flight national advertising agency to buy full page ads in leading newspapers throughout the country. The ads called on the nation’s fair-minded citizens to “stand up and fight the scourge of animal nakedness.”
The public reaction was volcanic. From the posh penthouses of America’s great cities to the humble lunch counters of its smallest villages, people took up the cause. They inundated radio and television talk shows. Everyone wanted to be heard on the topic of naked animals.
Less than 24 hours after Ted’s ads were published, nearly all the enormous public reaction could be put into six categories:
A. “Stand up for dignity. We MUST clothe naked animals.”
B. “Animals are born naked. Leave them alone.”
C. “It’s a government power grab.”
D. “It’s a Wall Street power grab.”
E. “It’s a communist conspiracy.”
F. “Clothe Naked Animals, are you kidding me? Where’s the hidden camera?”
Within 48 hours of the launch of what Ted thought would be an anonymous campaign, reporters from all over the world converged at his farm. They scared his livestock. They trampled his crops. They harassed folks for miles around asking questions about him.
Then just 72 hours after the first “Clothe Naked Animals,” ads appeared in U.S. newspapers, the issue was dead. The mass media had identified another “big story.” Coverage switched from the controversy about naked animals to news of a married couple in Salt Lake City who had won $588 million in the national lottery and had announced that they intended to give all the money to the United Nations.
Dr. Larry day is a retired J-School professor turned humor writer. His book, Day Dreaming: Tales From the Fourth Dementia is available for purchase via his website: http://www.daydreaming.co