Yeah, I'm not sure there's anything in TMOST. As I say, I think
I could pinpoint the first time I happen to remember her talking about it as 1972-73. I could have the timing off or out of order.
This whole story is one of those really fascinating things to me, looking back on it from damned near half a century later. It's not that Nichols herself is much to blame. Yes, she's changed the story a bit -- but the fans were doing it right along with her. They might even have preceded her a couple of times and Nichols' alterations were just keeping up with them.
It's one of those weird stories that tends to make me ask, "Where do certain jokes come from?" There are jokes, anecdotes, old wives' tales that've been around in some form for centuries
. Where do they come from? Sometimes there's no answer.
This is one of those stories, where I actually watched -- and unwittingly participated -- in its alteration over the years. It is a serious head trip to see almost half a century's progress on what is basically a word-of-mouth story. Having seen this story change in the telling in only fifty years is one of the reasons I don't take ancient holy books that have been repeatedly transcribed terribly seriously ...
I suspect the number of times Nichols has even told the story over the years is pretty limited. Fans have told it hundreds of times more. It is just a very weird animal.