Once when I was six years old I saw a
magnificent picture in a book, called True
Stories from Nature, about the primeval forest.
It was a picture of a boa constrictor in the act
of swallowing a beast of prey. Here is a copy of
In the book it said: "Boa constrictors
swallow their prey whole, without chewing it.
After that they are not able to move, and they
sleep through the six months that they need for
I pondered all day long, then, over the
adventures of the jungle. After many attempts I
finally succeeded in making my first drawing
with a colored pencil. My Drawing Number One. It
looked like this:
I showed my masterpiece to the grown-ups, and
whether the drawing frightened them.
They answered: "Why should any one be frightened
by a hat?"
drawing was not a picture of a hat. It was a
picture of a boa constrictor digesting an
elephant. But since the grown-ups were not able
to understand it, I made another drawing. This
time I drew the inside of the boa constrictor,
so that the grown-ups could see it clearly. They
always need to have things explained. My Drawing
Number Two looked like this:
The grown-ups' response, this time, was to
advise me to lay aside my drawings of boa
constrictors, whether from the inside or the
outside, and devote myself instead to geography,
history, arithmetic and grammar. That is why, at
the age of six, I gave up what might have been a
magnificent career as a painter. I had been
disheartened by the failure of my Drawing Number
One and my Drawing Number Two. Grown-ups never
understand anything by themselves, and it is
tiresome for children to be always and forever
explaining things to them.
So then I had to choose another profession, and
learned to pilot airplanes. I have flown a
little over all parts of the world; and it is
true that geography has been very useful to me.
At a glance I can distinguish China from
Arizona. If one gets lost in the night, such
knowledge is valuable.
In the course of this life I have had a great
many encounters with a great many people who
have been concerned with matters of consequence.
I have lived a great deal among grown-ups. I
have seen them intimately, close at hand. And
that hasn't much improved my opinion of them.
Whenever I met one of them who seemed to me at
all clear-sighted, I tried the experiment of
showing him my Drawing Number One, which I have
always kept. I would try to find out, so, if
this was a person of true understanding.But,
whoever it was, he, or she, would invariably
say: "That is a hat."
Then I would never talk to that person about boa
constrictors, or primeval forests, or stars. I
would bring myself down to his level. I would
talk to him about bridge, and golf, and
politics, and neckties. And the grown-up would
be greatly pleased to have met such a sensible