A little boy called Sam was playing in the yard behind his house. During his pretended fighting game, he knocked over the outhouse. Sam was worried and scared that he would get into trouble so he ran into the woods. He didn’t come out until after it was totally dark. When he arrived back home, his father was waiting for him. He asked suspiciously, “Son, did you knock over the outhouse this afternoon?”
“No, dad,” Sam lied.
“Well, let me tell you a story,” said the father. “Once, not that long ago, Lincoln received a shiny new axe from his father. Excited, he tried it out on a tree, swiftly cutting it down. But as he looked at the tree, to his horror he realized that it was his mother’s favorite cherry tree.” His father paused, and continued, “Just like you, he ran into the woods. When he returned, his father asked, ‘Abraham, did you cut down the cherry tree?’ Abraham answered, ‘Father, I cannot tell a lie. I did, indeed, chop down the tree.’ Then his father said, ‘Well, since you were honest with me, you are spared from punishment. I hope you have learned your lesson, though.’
Then Sam’s father asked again, “Did you knock down the outhouse?”
“Father, I cannot lie anymore,” said the little boy. “I did, indeed, knock down the outhouse.”
Then his father spanked him red, white, and blue. The boy whimpered, “Dad, I told you the truth! Why did you spank me?”
His father answered, “That’s because Abraham Lincoln’s father wasn’t in the tree when he chopped it down!”