Ivan Ivanovich

This is by “Paul Otto” who says, “My Dad’s been telling me shaggy dog stories for years and just told me about your site. I haven’t looked through it all, but a brief search did not turn up one in the way I heard it (from someone other than my Dad), and I thought I’d share it with you.”

This is the story of Ivan Ivanovich who lived in Russia before the Communist Revolution.

Ivan and his wife of many years eked out a living on the Siberian frontier. Every winter they survived the cold because Ivan was hardy enough to chop a fair supply of wood. In fact, he was particularly rugged. He loved his wife and was always able to provide for her and when she worried about how they would get by or if he could provide, he would tell her that he was rough and tough and able to stand up to any hardship.

Well, it just so happened that the czar laid claim to all the land around their dwelling and he decided that no more wood could be chopped out of the forest. Ivan’s wife was quite worried but he told her not to fear, that he would take care of them, that nothing would stand in the way of his providing for her and protecting her, and that he was rough and tough and able to stand up to any hardship.

Shortly after the czar’s decree, Russia began to experience its worst winter ever. Ivan’s supply of wood would not last the spring and he had no option but to go out and cut wood illegally. He did so and re-supplied his home, but shortly after returning form the forest, his house was surrounded by the secret police. They arrested him and dragged him off amid his wife’s pleas and crying. “Don’t worry,” he shouted to her, “I’ll be back! Remember, I’m rough and tough and able to stand up to any hardship.”

Sure enough, after five years, he had survived prison and had returned to his wife. While she had managed to survive with the help of the village, etc., she was glad for the return of her beloved husband, Ivan. As it turns out, however, shortly after his return from prison, a late winter storm broke upon the Siberian plains. The storm showed no sign of relenting after several days and they needed wood, so despite the extant law prohibiting chopping wood, Ivan went out again. It was this or starve.

Well, as expected, he was again arrested and dragged off, this time for a ten year sentence, but as he was dragged away, he again promised to return, saying “don’t worry, I’m rough and tough and able to stand up to any hardship.”

When he finally returned home, a similar chain of events occurred [its more tedious to write these things than it is to tell them], but this time Ivan wasn’t sent to prison, but shipped off for life service in the czar’s navy.

In the navy, Ivan distinguished himself for his bravery, endurance, and loyalty. He still nurtured hopes of somehow returning home, but, as he reminded his fellow sailors, who were often surprised by his character, he proclaimed himself to be rough and tough and able to stand up to any hardship.

On night, at sea, it was particularly stormy, and the rigging was getting fouled. The ship was being blown this way and that. The sails needed to be furled or all would die. Many of the terrified men, however, refused to climb the rigging because the ship was being tossed about so. Finally Ivan volunteered to do the job. He clambered up the main mast and got to work on the sail, but suddenly a great gust of wind blew him off the rigging and down to the ship’s deck where he landed with a thud. The men all ran out to him, sure he was dead, but before they even reached him, he jumped up, ready to climb the rigging again. “How did you survive?” they all asked him.

“I’ve told you all along, haven’t I, that I am rough and tough and able to stand up to any hardship.”

Lowrie Beacham complains, “Contrived; one might even say, rigged.”

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