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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Much Ado about Nothing (not about the play) (07/28/11)

TITLE: McQuinn and His Lorry
By Loren T. Lowery


In the Dilly-Dally Pub and Inn of St. Louis,
There was trouble a brewing.
Not so much about politics or religion -
But something more practical had them stewing.
Is was about a professor and a man named McQuinn
That had them in such a fury
And just how the lack of wagon wheels
Let McQuinn start his ferry across the Missouri.

So I’m here to set the record straight;
And, whether you believe it or not,
Is none of my concern.
I only need relate what I’ve heard
And know believing to be a personal thing;
And, some men will always refute the truth,
Even when spelled out in black and white;
Or, proved mathematically by learned men long in tooth

This is a tale, untold yet widely known,
‘Bout a farmer named McQuinn,
And his lorry what lost its wheels.
Four wheels, suddenly gone after words spoken over them.
‘Twas a mathematical formula put to test
By an old professor form a nearby school,
Who’d stopped at a flooded Missouri River bank,
To water his thirsty mule.

McQuinn halted his loaded wagon opposite the man.
Anxious and in haste to cross the swelling river
For it was flooded and flowing mad with torrents,
Carrying Kansas-sluiced land in chunks and slivers.
But soon his wagon got mired in mud.
His team of horses pulling and a straining
Sweat a glistening their hides, boldness in their bellies
But not an inch of purchase their cargo a gaining.

“Sir,” said the old professor,” I think I can help
To free your lorry of its wheels.
It’ll become a barge and free to float
Pulled easy by your team with water washing their heels.”
And McQuinn, sound as any man in likewise respect,
Asked the professor just how that might be;
And then leaned closer toward the learned man
To find out what he could hear and see

“Tis easy,” the professor spoke.
As you see, I’ve no wheels on my person
Zero, zilch,” he opened his vest, “none either in pocket or in possession.
Which now brings me to this mathematical lesson.”
He pointed into the air. “If I take my nothing and multiply
It by your wheels stuck in the mire
Then they will disappear to naught
And if not,” he shrugged, “then laws of science become a liar.”

McQuinn thought and recalled;
And, finally nodded his head,
Having learned in school just what the
The old professor had in truth just said:
That anything multiplied by zero
Always got you nothing
And both were well pleased to know that all McQuinn's past schoolings
Were, at last, finally amounting to something.

So, the two men, proud for what they’d thought,
Readily applied the numerical principle;
And poof, without further ado, the wheels were suddenly gone!
Indeed, it all seemed quite so simple
That is until McQuinn floated to the other side to discover
His wagon remained wheel-less; and being towed by spent horses.
There he learned another lesson he could have known sooner
Had he only taken a few more mathematical courses.

Divide or multiply,
It really makes no difference.
If you got zero, zilch to start with
Your sum will always have naught as its reference.
So McQuinn, not to be undone by this proven axiom.
And not wanting he or his family to live in wheel-less misery
Astutely changed his profession from farmer to boatman.
And that, dear reader, is how came about McQuinn's ferry across the Missouri.

Now many might say the men at the
Dilly-Dally Pub and Inn
Were wasting their time on
Such idle (and “spirited”) considering.
Of how McQuinn got started with his ferry.
Yet consider this too, in any event:
Time to learn truth, no matter how it’s reasoned out,
By word, number, or jabbering, is always time well spent.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Virgil Youngblood 08/04/11
A delightful history lesson and math refresher course. I give it two mules up!
Noel Mitaxa 08/07/11
I won't try to e-mule-ate Virgil, but I also found this a ferry entertaining read.
Linda Goergen08/10/11
Entertaining and quite a tale, and since I am no expert in math or history, I’d have no reason to doubt its probability except it really seems to be much ado about nothing! LOL