Come clean, you dirty rat.
The phony story of a Mexican pet from years ago is still with us today in an epidemic of new rumors, fibs and misinformation that now flood your email and mine like a river of sludge.
My first encounter with the strange pet occurred when some friends asked if I had heard about the woman in our city who had smuggled an odd pet out of Mexico.
They said she had gone to Mexico on vacation where she found a sweet little dog outside her motel door. She fed it and petted it and was soon letting it sleep with her. So of course, when her vacation ended, she stuffed it into her large purse and took it on the airplane.
Shortly after she returned home, her cat suffered strange bite wounds. She took the cat to the vet. He said he had never encountered such injuries. He asked to see the dog.
The vet’s diagnosis was instant. “Madam,” he said, “this is no dog. This is a large rat.”
I told my friends the story was ridiculous on the face of it. Even if there might be an outside possibility of someone that dumb in our city. It is unlikely that a tourist could succeed in turning a large rat into an overnight pet, let alone keep it stuffed into a purse on an airplane.
My friends protested my skepticism. They named the veterinarian “right here in this town” who had identified the rat.
So I called him. Nothing of the sort had ever happened to him.
Dr. Jan Harold Brunvand of the University of Utah (and the University of Idaho before that), who has a doctorate in “folklore,” wrote a book of urban legends called “The Mexican Pet.” He has written several books debunking myths that anyone with an ounce of skepticism would have seen through.
The Mexican rat/pet myth is a common tale that has been eagerly spread over the years by gullible people who believed it happened in their town.
Today, I see the same kind of rumors in chain emails. They feature political rats who spread fibs about candidates in opposition political parties. A person reads something that sounds outrageous and unjust in an email. So he stupidly forwards the email to his friends.
Then those friends, who can’t spot a myth if they trip over it, forward the fib to their friends. Such false stories can only be stopped by people who have enough common sense to realize the story is bunk on the face of it.
For instance, I have received chain emails telling me Obamacare requires that Americans be implanted with microchips revealing their health history and personal information.
Another chain email warned me that no one over 75 can have a major medical procedure without the approval of a hospital panel.
Baloney. I am past my 75th birthday, and neither of those alleged requirements is true.
One of the most chronic fibs in politics is that Sarah Palin, the 2004 GOP vice presidential nominee once said, “I can see Russia from my house.”
What she actually said of Russia is: “They’re our (Alaska’s) next-door neighbors, and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska.”
When you receive a chain email that makes some dubious charge, before passing the story on to your victims/friends, use your common sense. Consider the possibility you’re being deceived. Go to the Snopes.com website that debunks or confirms common rumors and accusations.
Don’t be such a pushover. Ask yourself if the report is ridiculous on the face of it. Ask if the charge is true or if it’s just another dirty rat messing with your mind.Contact columnist Bill Hall at email@example.com or 1012 Prospect Ave., Lewiston, ID 83501.