Photo by Weaselmcfee
Has your family adjusted to the shorter days and longer evenings of this season? Dark and chilly evenings serve as perfect backdrops for family storytelling time. Today, Robin inspires all of us with the true story of B-I-N-G-O:
There was a farmer who had a dog
And Bingo was his name-o.
Yes, Bingo was his name-o.
The farm where everybody in town went to pick strawberries and asparagus in the spring and pumpkins and apples in the fall also had activities that were open all year long. There were hay piles to climb and tractor rides to enjoy and corn mazes once the grains grew tall enough. But everybody’s favorite part of the farm was none of those things: it was the petting zoo.
One day the farmer posted a large sign on the old tractor: New Puppy At The Petting Zoo! Contest! Name Our Puppy!
Immediately, groups of kids began gathering around the fence by the new puppy and his mama. For days, kids came to see the puppy and think about his ideal name. Weeks passed. The puppy grew and the name contest deadline approached. The puppy grew stronger and bigger and didn’t always stay right near his mama anymore. He began to approach the fence, listening to all the kids and their ideas. It was almost as if he could understand them. Of course, dogs don’t talk. He couldn’t really understand, could he?
The day came that the farmer stood in the front of the dog yard to collect the kids’ contest entries for the new puppy’s name. A group of boys stood on the right side of the fence and a group of girls stood on the left side of the fence and they all shouted names at the farmer. Several names stood out, and as kids sometimes do, they began narrowing down their own favorites. The boys had one idea and the girls had another idea. The farmer listened to the two groups of kids yell at each other. So did the puppy.
Then the arguing got even worse. The boys couldn’t decide how to spell their name and the girls kept changing their minds about which name they liked best. The farmer stood in the middle of the dog yard, frustrated and unsure of what to do next. He had wanted the contest to be fun for the kids who loved his farm. He wanted the arguing and yelling to stop.
So did the little dog. He ran back and forth on his tiny legs between the two groups, growing more and more distressed.
The girls were yelling names and the boys were yelling letters as they worked out spellings and the little dog ran back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. The farmer tried several times to get the kids’ attention. He couldn’t, and he stood there, angry and unsure of what to do.
The little dog took charge. With every shout from a child, he yapped. The girls began to yell a name and he yapped. The boys yelled a letter and he yapped. He yapped with each sound they spoke until they realized they couldn’t hear themselves, they could only hear the little dog. And finally, the kids grew quiet.
The dog looked at them.
The kids looked at the dog.
And then one boy tried again. “How about B- ?” The dog yapped. Nobody heard what he said.
The girls tried to use the quiet to push one of their choices forward. “We think it should be P- .” The little dog yapped loudly. He didn’t let the kids speak again until they began speaking to each other.
“He won’t let us talk! Farmer, the doggie won’t let us talk! He’s too loud!”
The farmer looked at the puppy and half-smiling, he shrugged. “Maybe he wants you to work together.”
After a little bit of grumbling and arguing, the boys and the girls moved together into one group to talk. As long as they were working agreeably, the puppy stayed quiet. But as soon as any arguing began, the puppy yapped so loudly that the kids could only hear him and not themselves. Certainly the puppy didn’t like their arguing, but it almost seemed as if he wanted to speak himself, like he wanted to help them.
As the kids worked out their choice of name, the dog yapped encouragingly. As they made their decisions, each letter moving forward, each argument erased, the little dog yapped in support. The kids finally realized they had all agreed on a name and a spelling, and that according to the rhythmic ‘yap! yap! yap-yap-yap!’ of the puppy, he liked it, too.
They realized how he had helped them, and what he had taught them.
“The dog and the other animals – they can’t even talk! We should use our ability to talk to work together, not to argue.”
The puppy didn’t move. He waited.
“Letters have strength. They form and fly and make our words, tell our stories.”
The puppy stared at them encouragingly.
“Words have even more strength. They can go anywhere, say anything.”
A very relieved farmer opened the gate to the yard. The small dog ran to the line of children and nuzzled each of their legs.
One of the taller boys asked out loud: “So do we all agree? His name will be Bingo?” Quietly, happily, the kids nodded and murmured yes.
“So let’s try it out. Spell it with me! B! I! N! G! O!” The kids chanted and cheered and the little dog ran circles around them, drawing them tightly into a cluster. They fell quiet, looking at each other and at the little dog with the big ideas.
Without words, the kids and the puppy locked eyes. They understood each other. They knew they had learned what the puppy wanted them to realize; they knew that he was happy with them and with their choice.
The kids grew excited again. They cheered and high-fived and hugged. “So it’s Bingo! Your name will be Bingo!”
Bingo yapped approvingly.
Robin blogs about satisfying the curiosities of her inquisitive family at Not-Ever-Still Life with Girls.