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The encyclopaedia salesman wasn’t having much luck. No one in central New South Wales seemed all that interested in the 24-volume Britannica with year books and the little ‘assemble-it-yourself’ bookstand. Not when it cost a couple of thousand bucks.

One Friday night saw him sitting sadly in a country pub, nursing a beer. He realised he was down to his last $50. That was that. After spending that, he’d be flat broke. Then, glancing around at the other blokes in the bar, who looked inbred and stupid, inspiration struck.

“My set of encyclopaedias is worth a couple of grand retail,” he said. “But if any of you blokes can answer three questions that I select from the information therein, I’ll give the whole bloody set to you for a hundred bucks. And if you can’t answer all three questions, it’s a hundred bucks to me. What do you reckon?”

There was movement amongst the gathering and a few mumbled exchanges. Finally a big, slow-moving bloke moved toward the salesman. “I’ll have a go,” he said. There were any number of approving ‘Goodonyas.’ And he slapped a $100 bill down on the bar.

This will be money for jam, thought the salesman. “First question: What is the capital of Liberia?”

The farmer put a finger in his ear, studied the ceiling, frowned for a few moments and, finally, said, “Monrovia”. The salesman winced. Reassuring himself it was a lucky shot – perhaps the bloke had been watching Sale of the Century – he asked the second question. “Who was Malaysia’s third Prime Minister?”

The young farmer frowned, looked at the barmaid, looked at his mates and, finally said, “Jeez, I think it was Tun Hussein Onn.” The salesman was astonished and leafed desperately through the pages of his encyclopaedia.

“All right, here’s question three. How many people attended the closing ceremony of the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne and what were their names and addresses?”

The farmer hitched up his trousers, drank a beer, took a deep breath and said, “Sixty-eight thousand, nine hundred and twenty-two, not including the sheila who had to leave early to have a baby.” Whereupon he began to chant a list of names and addresses.

It took him nearly four days to get to the end of his answer. By then the salesman was devastated. “How the hell do you know all this stuff?”

“Well,” said the farmer, “I take smart pills.”

The salesman realised that these must be miraculous preparations. He’d be better off flogging them than encyclopaedias.

“Where can I get some of these smart pills?” he asked.

The farmer scratched his crotch and said, “Me dad makes them, but he reckons I’m not allowed to tell anyone the recipe. The ingredients are a family secret.”

“But he didn’t say you couldn’t sell them, did he?” asked the salesman.

The farmer thought for a moment and finally said, “I suppose it would be okay if I charged you $50 and you swallowed a couple here and now.”

The salesman eagerly handed over his last $50 bill and watched as the farmer produced a matchbox from his back pocket. “Take them all now with a nidi of beer,” he instructed.

The salesman looked apprehensively at the pills but then, one by one, swallowed them. A look of disgust appeared on his face. “Christ, these pills taste like sheep shit.”

“See,” said the farmer. “You are getting smarter already.”
 
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