Most of us know less than we think we do. That’s not always our fault. Some of what we believe to be fact has been passed down from our relatives and mentors. Many of those bits of wisdom the “old-timers” handed down were based on their own — sometimes incomplete — observations, or something an “older-timer” had told them.

Most of us know less than we think we do.

That’s not always our fault. Some of what we believe to be fact has been passed down from our relatives and mentors. Many of those bits of wisdom the “old-timers” handed down were based on their own — sometimes incomplete — observations, or something an “older-timer” had told them.

People born in a different century frequently failed to footnote the difference between folklore and fact. Credibility was never questioned. I believed everything my Uncle Stanley told me, because he could always tell it with a straight face.

With the resources available on the Internet, it’s getting harder to make up stuff. Not only that, we can find out in a New York minute what is true and false. We can even find out how fast a New York minute really is.

Moss doesn’t always grow on the north side of trees. In a mature forest where it’s shady and moist, moss can grow on any, or all, sides of a tree. You can’t count on the moss directional beacon to get your bearings. It is still true, however, that a rolling stone gathers no moss — at least until it stops rolling.

You don’t need to boil drinking water for 10 minutes to kill all the harmful organisms swimming around in it. It is true you need to boil the water, but you don’t need to go that far. Heating water to a rolling boil is all it takes to purify it. After that, you’re creating steam from water that you could be drinking.

Playing dead can save you during a bear attack, but it depends on the bear. An attacking grizzly bear is usually defending its territory. Play dead and it might go away. A black bear attack is usually predatory. Playing dead could make you table fare. If you have time for proper bear identification, fight off the black ones.

Finding an arrowhead has always been a big deal to me. Dad and I used to speculate on how it ended up where I found it and how long it took the original owner to make it. We agreed that it would have taken several days, chipping away with stone tools, to achieve that degree of workmanship and balance.

While it did require dexterity, skill and craftsmanship, knapping an arrowhead wasn’t necessarily time consuming. In 1890, U.S. Army Capt. John Bourke timed a member of the Apache tribe who made arrowheads. Start to finish, the Apache made four of them in 26 minutes. That’s one every six and a half minutes — nowhere near the vast amount of time Dad and I convinced ourselves and any eager listeners that it took to make only one. That’s less time than it takes many a modern bow hunter to sharpen a broad head.

I’m not sure that having so many facts at my disposal is necessarily good. It’s possible to be over-informed. Ignorance might not always be blissful, but coupled with an active imagination, it can make a better story.

George Little can be reached at ccmglobal@aol.com.