Friday, June 2, 2017

Chasing Thistledown

Did you ever chase thistledown?

Oh, of course, when you were a child,
but I mean since you have been grown!
Some of us should be chasing thistledown
a good share of the time.

There is an old story, 
for the truth of which I cannot vouch,
which is so good I am going to take
the risk of telling it;
and if any of you have heard it before,
it will do no harm to recall it to your minds.

A woman once confessed to the priest
that she had been gossiping.
To her surprise, the priest instructed her
to go and gather a ripe head of thistle
and scatter the seed on the wind,
then return to him.

This she did, wondering why she had been
told to do so strange a thing;
but her penance was only begun,
for when she returned to the priest,
instead of forgiving her fault, he said:
"The thistledown is scattered as were
your idle words. My daughter, go and 
gather up the thistledown!"

It is so easy to be careless and one is
so prone to be thoughtless in talking,
I told only half of a story the other day
heedlessly overlooking the fact that by
telling only part, I left the listeners with
a wrong impression of some 
very kindly persons.

Fortunately, I saw in time what I had done,
and I pounced on that thistledown before
the wind caught it or else I should
have had a chase.

A newcomer in the neighborhood says,
"I do like Mrs. Smith! She seems such
a fine woman."
"Well, y-e-s," we reply, "I've know her
a long time" and we leave the new acquaintance
wondering what it is we know against Mrs. Smith.
We have said nothing against her, but we have
"damned her with faint praise"
and a thistle seed is sown on the wind.

The noun "gossip" is not of the feminine gender.
No absolutely not!
A man once complained to me some of
the things that had been said about his wife.
"Damn these gossiping women!" he exclaimed.
"They do nothing but talk about their neighbors
who are better than they.
Mrs. Cook spends her time running 
around gossiping when she should be taking
care of her children. Poor things, they never have
enough to eat by their looks. Her housework is
never done, and as for her character,
everybody knows about-"
and he launched into a detailed account
of an occurrence which certainly sounded
very compromising as he told it.
I repeated to myself his first remark with a
word, men, in place of the word, women,
just to see how it would sound.

And so we say harmful things carelessly;
we say unkind things in a spirit of retaliation
or in a measure of self-defense to prove
that we are no worse than others,
and the breeze of idle chatter from
many tongues picks them up,
blows them here and there,
and scatters them to the
four corners of the earth.

What a crop of thistles they raise!

If we were obliged to go gather up the seed
before it had time to grow, as the
woman in the story was told to do,
I am afraid we would be even busier
than we are.

"Chasing Thistledown"
June 1917
By Laura Ingalls Wilder
From the book, "Little House in the Ozarks"
A Laura Ingalls Wilder Sampler
The Rediscovered Writings
Edited by Stephen W. Hines

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