“Now that’s another one.” Will, my cousin, said, with a know-it-all-grin,
“I think I will put that in the ‘aggressive’ column.”
Jake squished me again, hard, as he leaned over—this time to grab Will.
“That’s enough, kids,” my dad said calmly.
Jake settled back into his seat, his face bright red, while Will quietly
marked another tally in Jake’s ‘aggressive’ column. We tried to hide our
The four of us were bumping down a dirt road on our way to check the
irrigation. We spent many hours like this–driving in the old pickup with
my Dad. Will and I had wanted a new way to pass the time. We also wanted a
way to irritate my older brother. We were habitually unkind to him and
incited his temper often. We had not taken to heart that it is wrong to
provoke someone to anger. Instead of taking fault ourselves we always
blamed him for being “mean.”
“He’s such a bully!” Will said one day, in frustration.
“And he’s disgusting!” I added, thinking of the way he always grossed us
out with his body odor.
“Let’s think of a way to aggravate him and the other older kids.” Will
suggested, “Let’s prove how horrible they are.”
“How are we going to do that?” I asked. Will was usually the one to have
the most imaginative ideas.
“I know! I have this little notebook we can bring along to keep a tally of
all the bad things they do!”
“That sounds good!” I said, “We should give the notebook a name.”
Will sat in silence for a moment, “Hmmmm, maybe ‘Their Book of Bad
“No. How about ‘The Bully Tally Book’?”
“I like that better, but it still needs something a little more catchy.”
We took sticks and drew in the dirt for a while, trying to think of a
Will jumped up, “I know, how about ‘The Dilly-Dally Tally Book’?”
We had heard that expression, ‘dilly-dally’, from my dad many times:
“We need to get out to the Pine Creek pasture, don’t dilly-dally.”
“Your parents are coming soon to get you Will, don’t dilly-dally.”
We liked the way it sounded and “The Dilly-Dally Tally Book” would be the
perfect way to annoy all of the big kids.
Will found the notebook and wrote the title on the cover. Then he drew
columns inside for all of our names. He even put down my dad’s name and the
dog’s name. We thought of categories for both good and bad behavior. For
Jake we made sure there was a ‘body odor’ category and an ‘aggressive’
category. We couldn’t wait to try out the book.
One morning, soon after, my dad said, “I need to drive out to the desert to
check the fences. Would you like to invite Will along?”
“Yes! Thanks, Dad. I’ll give him a call.”
I heard my brother grumbling in his bedroom.
I dialed Will’s number. He answered and I said, “Would you like to drive
out to the desert with us today?”
“Oh, I don’t know. That’s such a long drive.”
“But we could try out ‘The Dilly-Dally Tally Book’!”
“Oh yeah, ok. I’ll double check with my parents.”
“Don’t forget the book!” I yelled into the phone before hanging up.
Soon we had it all worked out. Dad, his hired hand, Sam, Jake, Will and I
all piled into the old truck. Will quickly wrote Sam’s name in the book and
we grinned at each other. We drove over the steep pass between towns and
then made our descent into what seemed like endless desert.
At first we were quiet about our tally marks and nobody knew what we were
up to. I grabbed the book and marked one down for Jake when he grabbed the
comics section of the newspaper just as I went for it. Will took the book
and marked down a tally for my dad when he told us he only brought plain
cheese sandwiches for the day. No fun snacks meant an even more tedious
Sam was driving with his right arm resting on the back of the seat. Will
sat in between Sam and Dad. The steady bumping of the truck on the gravel
road, and the warm interior, soon had Will nodding off. Jake reached over
the seat and grabbed the book.
“What’s this?” He started to leaf through it before I managed to snatch it
“You two are such a pain!” He sighed.
“I’ll mark one down for you for name calling,” I answered.
Jake reached over and pinched me and so he got another tally. I made sure
to mark a few down for Will’s and my good behavior. Jake gave my ponytail a
tug and I let out a little squeal.
Our commotion woke Will who had fallen asleep right in Sam’s sweaty armpit.
“Eeewww,” he groaned.
Everyone laughed. Will took the book and gave Sam a negative tally.
The book entertained us in this manner for a large part of that summer.
Soon the columns inside were full of tidy tally marks. Will and I only had
a few negative ones apiece, just in the rare moments when we got sick of
each other. Jake and the older kids all had very full negative columns. You
won’t be surprised to hear that Will and I were not very popular that
summer. In fact, the bullying was getting even worse.
The bible is clear, in 1 Corinthians 13, to not keep a record of
iniquities, or to “rejoice in iniquity.” We were literally doing that very
thing. We were keeping track of everyone’s wrongdoings and then announcing
them to anyone who would listen! We were provoking the older kids and our
relationship with them was even worse than before. We were constantly
hearing the older kids say things like:
“Whoever can lose Kate and Will for the day will get a prize.” Or,
“Let’s find that book and burn it.” Or,
“Someone grab them so the rest of us can tackle them.”
If we wanted the older kids to like us we were going about it the wrong
way. We were exactly what they called us…“annoying!”
There is another thing about keeping track of other’s bad behavior; you
don’t keep an honest account of your own. Will and I were exaggerating
everyone else’s wrongs and not trying to fix our own. Job 13:23 says, “How
many are my iniquities and sins? Make me know my transgression and my sin.”
A better use of our time would be to work on our own behaviors and
We eventually put our book away and it was long forgotten. The older kids
evened out in their aggressiveness toward us, and Will and I evened out in
our bratty behavior toward them. There were plenty of fun times that
All of this helped me to keep a tighter rein on my tongue. Because, once in
a while, crammed in the hot pickup, bumping down those dirt roads, I just
wanted to cry or whine about Jake. But instead– if Jake let out a loud,
smelly burp or elbowed me in the side, I would mark off a silent tally—but
only in my mind!