The Lion’s Watch Repair Business

This is a very nice companion piece to the previous tale, The Rabbit, the Fox, and the Wolf.

My source for this tale, Margaret Fleck’s website, says, “The origin of these tales is unclear. The first, at least, has been circulated among science students for some years. The plot for the second, clearly its mate, I got from Charles Frohman, who got it from his brother. There is a rumor that they may be old and come from China, though I cannot confirm this.”


It’s a crisp, sunny fall day. Lion is strolling through the forest enjoying the fall foliage, when he sees Fox walking towards him down the path, head drooping down.


“Hello, Fox. Why are you looking so gloomy?”


“It’s been like this all week. First my cub got sick, then the car started making a funny noise, and last night I accidently put my watch through the washing machine and it quit working.”


“Well, I can’t do much about the child or the car, but I can fix your watch for you.”


“That’ll be the day. You with your big claws? You would have trouble picking up the watch, let alone fixing the insides. You’ll just break it even worse than it already is. I’d better take it into town.”


“Let me take it into my den for a couple minutes. You’ll be surprized.”

So he disappears into his den with the watch. A few minutes later he returns: the watch is fixed.

Later in the week, Lion is sitting in the warm sun by the river, when Wolf comes running by, looking flustered.


“Wolf, why are you headed into town? I thought you wanted to work on your grant proposal?”


“The hard-drive on my laptop crashed last night, so I can’t get anything done until I get it fixed.”


“I can fix that for you real quick: there’s no need to walk all the way into town.”


“What? You? The lion whose paws are too big to even type on my keyboard? The one who left great blue smears on the trees when he tried to paint his front door? I don’t think so.”


“You’d be surprized: just let me give it a try.”

So the Lion takes the laptop into his den. In a few minutes, he returns with the laptop, now working fine.

Scene (inside the lion’s den):

In one corner, next to the coffee machine, is a smug-looking lion lying on a couch cleaning his fur. In a second corner, there are piles of IEEE Computer, Byte Magazines, and Viz Comics reaching up to the ceiling. In the final corner, there are seven industrious rabbits surrounded by tiny parts and precision tools.


It doesn’t matter whether you can write working programs, or prove theorems, or get grants funded.

It doesn’t matter whether you can do a slick demo or generate pretty pictures.

What really matters is whether your graduate students can.

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