Remember those big shredded wheat biscuits? You just couldn't put one in a bowl, pour milk on it and eat it. You had to grip both ends of it, split it, tear it apart and shred it. Delicious, but messy and inconvenient. Then some genius came up with the common sense idea to make a shredded wheat bite size -- about one teaspoonful. Today there are bite size cereals of all grains, flavors and varieties -- wheat, oats, rice, flax, frosted, cinnamon flavored, etc., etc.
The idea of making something bite size works well beyond the world of cereal. For example, we have planted 35 trees since we've been at our present address. One died after a courageous battle with Dutch elm disease, one suffered accidental death just last week, and one is on life support. Of the 32 remaining specimens, at least 25 need some serious pruning and trimming. On top of that there are rotten railroad ties around here that need to be replaced. For a lazy, slow moving yard man all that would take 40 hours if he never watered the lawn and flowers, mowed or rested. The overall task is like a barrel full of shredded wheat biscuits. It's more than a spoonful. So how does a lazy, slow moving yard man tackle that assignment? Sometimes a job can look so big you just get intimidated and never begin. But, it's undertaken one branch and one bite size tree at a time, it gets finished. If this one gets done, that's how it will happen. Sometimes a deadline helps, so we'll make that deadline December 31st.
After trimming trees, a gardener may wish to relax by doing a little reading. There's a ridiculous new movie out now about Abraham Lincoln the vampire hunter. But if you want to read the entire story of the real Abraham Lincoln, you might be interested in the Carl Sandberg books. Sandberg, the great American poet from Illinois, wrote six volumes about Abraham Lincoln: THE PRAIRIE YEARS I, THE PRAIRIE YEARS II, THE WAR YEARS I, THE WAR YEARS II, THE WAR YEARS III and THE WAR YEARS IV.
The entire study consists of 3,029 pages broken down into 244 chapters. That's a truckload of shredded wheat biscuits. Too intimidating to start? Not really -- the chapters average only 12.4 pages apiece. That's bite size. If you read two chapters every evening, you'll be done in less than 10 months and you'll know more about Abraham Lincoln than 95 percent of all adults in America who know how to read. But if you play Solitaire or video games for 9 months, then 95 percent of reading adults in America will know more than you. Let me be honest about this. I haven't read the 3,029 pages by Sandberg. I read one volume called ABRAHAM LINCOLN, THE PRAIRIE YEARS AND THE WAR YEARS ("the definitive one-volume biography") -- only 742 pages. Now I know more about Lincoln than about 51 percent of reading Americans.
You get the picture -- big jobs are usually accomplished in bite sizes -- a little bit at a time. If the Twins play their way out of the cellar, they'll have to do it (as the sports cliché goes) "one game at a time." And if an ambitious young go-getter wants to make a million, he or she will probably build a fortune block upon block -- in bite sizes. The hustler who wants to make a million overnight is the guy you want to avoid at all costs. If you don't, the cost will probably be yours.
The moral of the story is this: you can probably eat an entire elephant if you don't bite off more than you can chew.