Monday, October 24, 2011

CHILDHOOD BETS

When you are very young, the world is full of unproven theories that sometimes require that they be proven out.  My little brother and myself went through several theories while we were growing up to find out how the world works.  To make it more interesting, we would make a bet on the outcome.  The bets were not for a large amount as neither of us were old enough to possess a large amount of money, but a penny or nickel bet would more than suffice to make the experiment more intriguing.

There are three bets that stand out in my mind that we happened across through inquisitive thinking.  Looking back, they were pretty simple experiments with the outcome already proven through centuries of experimentation by those that came before us.  When you are young and have a mind full of questions about the world, it is best to see the results in person.

The first bet or experiment that I recall involved my oldest sister's cat.  We had been told by numerous sources that a cat always land on their feet no matter what.  We had our doubts about this and felt that we could surely get a cat, given the right circumstance, to miss a clean landing on it's feet.  We tested this theory by taking said cat up to the hallway that overlooked the living room.  The first time we simply tried to hold the cat upside down and drop it down to the living room.  The result was just as it was predicted t be, the cat landed on it's feet no worse for the fall.   We went down and gathered up the cat and took it upstairs again.  This time we held it upside down and threw it out into the living room, thinking the extra distance may throw it's timing off.  Once again the cat successfully landed on it's feet and ran to hide under the stairs.

After we dragged the cat out from under the stairs, we decided perhaps the cat had too much time to right itself before landing.  To compensate for this we held the cant upside down and kind of increased the speed which it would meet the floor in the living room.  Just like the tries before, the cat landed on it's feet.  It seemed there was a truth to this theory of a cat always landing on it's feet.  We ran through a few more experiments before giving and and filing away in our minds that cats do indeed always land on their feet.  When I was older I learned the hows and why's of this by watching a documentary on physical attributes of different animals, one being why cats always land on their feet.  Apparently in their brain there is a little thing that acts like a gyroscope that keeps them up right at all times.  At the time I saw this television show, I owned a gyroscope that my parents had given me for Christmas and so in my mind, inside this little cats head, was a bright red and silver gyroscope forever spinning and staying upright no mater how you tried to turn it.  Sometimes that image still creeps into my brain even though I now know that it is not an actual gyroscope that cats carry around with them.

The experiment with the cat led us to question whether a dog would have the same capabilities of always landing on it's feet.  My other sister had a dog that wasn't quite full grown that I could pick up without too much effort.  We had never heard a myth about a dog landing on it's feet so we decided to play it safe and not drop the dog from the upstairs hallway since the dog wasn't allowed int he house anyway.  I held the dog about three feet off the ground right side up and gently dropped it.  He landed on his feet perfectly.  The next part of the test was to hold him upside down from the same height and see what happened.  The test was not as successful as the cat test was.  The poor dog landed on his back and rolled over thinking we were playing a new game with him.  He was not the brightest dog around.  We tried just a couple of more times with the result being the same and with the dog thinking it was a new game.  What we surmised from this experiment was that dogs do not have a red and silver gyroscope in their brains to keep them upright.  They just fall.  Now I want to be clear about this right now.  Looking back on this experiment I know it was a cruel thing to do to that dog.  In my defense I was young with a very questioning mind and I never held the dog up very high before dropping him.  I would never do that again after the theory that a dog can always land on its feet had been disproved.  I love dogs and would never intentionally hurt one.  I feel I must ask forgiveness for my actions on this matter as a young child.

The third bet involved one of the kids my mom was baby sitting one summer.  There is some contradiction as to which kid it actually was so I will leave Troy's name out of this.  He was about a year old, maybe a little less.  He stayed in the playpen most of the day as my mom went about her chore of directing us kids in our chores.  One day we were playing with Troy and I got an idea.  I bet my little brother that I could pick Troy up by the head without the head popping off.  After discussing details of how the lifting by the head would be executed a bet was finalized.  Troy stood there looking at me with very trust full eyes as I placed a hand over each of his ears.  I was not going to do a quick jerk when I picked him up.  It was to my best interest that his head stay attached.  I slowly lifted him and his feet came off the ground.  He didn't seem to mind much.  He was only off the ground for less than a second.  We decided that it wasn't enough time to accurately prove that his head would stay attached and so I began to prepare to lift him again, for a longer period of time this go around.

I carefully placed my hands over his ears and lifted.  He was content for the first ten seconds or so but after about thirty seconds, the little boy began to panic and wiggle his feet a bit.  It was about at this juncture in the experiment that my fortune took a turn for the worse.  My mother looked into the living room from the kitchen to see what was upsetting Troy and saw me hold him about six inches off the ground by his head.  Obviously my mother did not have the scientific mind of proving theories that I had.  She yelled to put the kid down and then came in and checked on him.  Of course he was okay.  Everything was still intact.  The head, shoulders ears, everything was still where they were supposed to be.  That didn't stop me from getting a lecture though.

My little brother had seen mom coming in and was safely upstairs in the bedroom while I was counting off the seconds that Troy was staying in one piece.   After being questioned as to why I was doing what I was doing and then lectured on why it wasn't such a good idea to run such experiments I thought about what she would have thought about if she had know of the previous experiments that had been run on the cat and the dog.  By the time the lecture was over I was totally glad that those previous tests had not come to her knowledge.

When she was done lecturing me and exclaiming how she couldn't believe that I had done this experiment the final punishment was given to me.  I was lucky I wasn't turned in as a possible serial killer.  All I had to do was go and sit on the bottom step until Dad got home.

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