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Every good story begins, 'Once upon a time'

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Once upon a time, there was a little white farmhouse with green blinds, and it stood not far from the road. Blessings on the wise one who observed, once upon a time, that every good story begins, "Once upon a time"! Maybe there are too few good stories these days, and it would be hard to comprehend a story that began with "Once upon a technological tomorrow...." Ah, me!

The little white farmhouse that had green blinds and stood not far from the road was the abode of Uncle Jack and Aunt Deborah, and in that long-lost book of my promising boyhood, every story began with the same words: "Once upon a time there was a little white farmhouse with green blinds and it stood not far from the road." And every story in the book ended like the others: "The oxen went into the barn, their yokes were removed, and they went into their stalls and went to sleep."

Meantime, you can be sure, Uncle Jack, Aunt Deborah, and other members of this enchanted family did something wonderful for a 6-year-old to know about, and thus I came to know a great many things.

Do not show disfavor of the repetition of the doings in the little white farmhouse. "What I tell you three times is true!" – or so Lewis Carroll would have us believe. Don't forget that good Homer told some excellent tales so long ago that rubber-stamped such tiresome ideas as the well-greaved Acheans, the wine-dark sea, and how the prows of the ships grooved the sand. And how many times did Cicero say nihil in his first oration against Cataline?

I cannot say the author's name of my childhood book, and I know not the publisher. It was a retired schoolbook of the town of Fairhaven, Mass., and it had been lifted off the load for the dump by my father's cousin, Mildred Thompson, an "old maid" schoolmarm of that community.

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