Sarah Todd: Now hear this: authority and wise words from over the water

MY sister-in-law in America is forever sending irritating e-mails. It drives me nuts, all the twaddle she sends bungs up the computer.

Anyway, credit where it’s due, two of her messages were – for the first time in about five years – read the other day. And they were both well worth sharing.

The timing of one was especially good, as I’d just told some children off at hometime for barging into me on the school path. Just feeling that way out really. But no-one actually roosts children any more, they’ve evolved into a kind of super-race that can get away with everything. Our daughter was incredibly embarrassed.

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“Please be quiet mummy and just keep walking to the car,” she urged.

Her instructions were followed, apart from me urging two little girls to “chop, chop and stop dawdling – think about people walking behind – you’ll trip them up”.

It’s the sort of thing my mother would have said, leaving me wishing the earth would open up.

But back to those emails. It seems that Number 14 on the excruciatingly American-sounding Words for Women to Live By is the following:

“By the time a woman realises her mother was right, she has a daughter who thinks she’s wrong”.

This is just so true. As we’ve been out and about trying different ponies, my mother’s words from childhood have again come to mind.

She used to go on about “sitting tight” and “don’t go galloping off on a strange pony” and yours truly would ignore her. Now, I’m the one left worrying on the ground as yet another set of hooves disappear into the distance.

The next message from across the Atlantic needs a little translating but, entitled The Arrogance of Authority, will strike a chord.

An official told an old rancher: “I need to inspect your ranch.”

The rancher replies, “Okay, but don’t go in that field over there...”

The official exploded, “Mister, I have the authority of the Federal Government with me. See this badge? This badge means I am allowed to go wherever I wish. On any land. No questions asked or answers given. Have I made myself clear? Do you understand?” The rancher nodded and went about his chores. A short time later, the old rancher heard screams, looked up, and saw the officer running for his life from a big bull.

With every step the bull was gaining ground on the officer, and it seemed likely that he’d get gored before he reached safety.  The rancher threw down his tools, ran to the fence and yelled at the top of his lungs:

“Your badge, show him your BADGE…”