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Published February 27, 2011, 12:00 AM

Swift: Twisted tales of a tattler

"Don’t be a tattletale,” Mom used to tell me. In kid law, tattletaledom was a grave sin, up there with sticking gum under the church pews and stealing change from your sister’s piggy bank. And yet I couldn’t help it. Even at a young age, I already saw the many grave injustices of my world.

"Don’t be a tattletale,” Mom used to tell me.

In kid law, tattletaledom was a grave sin, up there with sticking gum under the church pews and stealing change from your sister’s piggy bank.

And yet I couldn’t help it. Even at a young age, I already saw the many grave injustices of my world. Should my obviously older and larger sister get away with pinning me down so she could spit on me? I think not. Should all family members be blamed if I knew which sister stole the 5th Avenue candy bars from Dad’s sock drawer? Certainly not.

I believed these infractions needed to be reported immediately to the authorities in my jurisdiction (better known as the parents in my house).

And so I felt a small pang of betrayal whenever my mother turned on me in my hour of squealing. Didn’t she realize I was making a citizen’s arrest? Couldn’t she see that without the eagle-eyed observations of a Simon LeSnitch or Monica Mole on the inside, complete anarchy would prevail?

Even when I didn’t mean to, I would sometimes accidentally spill the beans of truth. This, along with my early commitment to rattery, earned me the nicknames of Tammy Talks-A-Lot, Jabber-Jaw and the Tattler, to name a few.

I foolishly would report these nicknames to my mother – “Mom! Verbena called me the Tattler!” – which only fueled a vicious cycle.

By the time I was 8 or so, I had become acutely aware of my reputation as a narc. But even when I tried to control my loose lips, I failed miserably.

Case in point: My parents decided to surprise my horse-crazy sister, Mabel, with a Shetland pony for her birthday.

I was warned over and over again not to say a word. I inwardly squealed in anticipation as we went to Stockmen’s Supply to buy a saddle and later picked up the stocky little mare.

My parents planned an elaborate unveiling, which would center around Mabel opening a large box to find a saddle inside.

She would then be directed outside, where the pony would be revealed.

Unfortunately, my sisters were on to me. They knew Achilles had a heel, and it was a large and squeaky one.

So they started to badger me. “What did Mabel get? I know you know. What’s inside that big present? C’mon. Just tell us.”

I smiled and shook my head, proud of my new Clint Eastwood reputation.

“Just give us a hint,” they continued. “Just tell us one little thing.”

The words shot out of my mouth before I could take them back: “It’s brown and it goes on a horse.”

I was greeted by a moment of stunned silence. Then all hell broke loose. “Why did you tell us?” they yelled. “You ruined Mabel’s birthday. Tattletale, tattletale!”

And so we all learned an important lesson that day.

You can’t lead a horse to Tammy, ’cuz she might be a fink.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Tammy Swift at (701) 241-5525

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