The Animal Tales! • The Fourteenth of Several Fables

14. Better Idle
A Fable That Follows: One Part Genius

Fox C ~ Fox Gets the Goose (Block Print)All day, the farmer muttered to himself: “If not this then that, not that then this.” Maybe the fox had the right idea: easier to steal chickens than raise them. “Ol’ Jack Smith took a few unwarranted shots at me!” Then he said to himself: “Jack owes me some chickens for that! Aye!” The farmer went that night and stole four of Jack Smith’s chickens. The next morning he slept late and so didn’t notice when Smith’s wife came for advice as to how foil a fox.

When the farmer returned the next night, he soon heard Jack Smith’s wife at the door of the coop. He leapt onto the nearest shelf. “Well, well, well,” she said, “you all look like chickens but I see that one has lost his feathers. Are you ill?” The wife took the chicken by his nose, squeezed until he opened his mouth and poured some castor oil down his throat. “That will help!” she said. Once she left, the wretched farmer staggered out of the chicken coop, coughing and choking. “Such a racket!” said Jack Smith’s wife and she came out of the farmhouse.

When she saw the fat old chicken doubled over in front of the coop, she took a rug beater from the laundry line. “Can’t stand up straight?” she asked. “You need to improve your circulation!” Then she whacked him on the behind with the rug beater. Off he ran, and old Jack Smith’s wife followed him as far as the barnyard fence. “Now you’ll lay a good egg or two!” she called after him. The next morning the farmer sat uncomfortably on the porch. “Will you be hatching any new plans, husband?” his wife asked sweetly.

“Humph!” he answered irritably. “Better idle than ill-employed.”

The Animal Tales! • The Thirteenth of Several Fables

13. One Part Genius
A Fable that follows: Better Nothing for Thanks

The fox soon ate more chickens. The farmer could not bear it. “Genius is one part inspiration and nine parts perspiration!” he bellowed. “Then you shall sweat yourself out of all nine parts!” his wife shot back. “And we shall see!” answered the farmer. “I’ll have his skin and you shall make me a hat!” Then neither spoke again but ignored each other, like bad neighbors with a good fence.

That evening the farmer went to his neighbor. (If he couldn’t catch a fox, he’d fool his wife, at least.) The farmer thought he’d seen the neighbor’s nose before (a little long) but he said anyway: “I’ve come to buy a fox’s pelt from you.” “I just happen to have one!” answered the neighbor. “What will you want for it?” asked the farmer. “I wouldn’t mind if your wife cooked my six chickens.” “It’s a bargain!” said the farmer. The farmer put on the fox’s pelt and the neighbor took his chickens to be cooked by the farmer’s wife.

After the neighbor ate his chickens and was gone, the farmer burst in. He was sweating from head to foot and pale as a June tomato. “That was the fox you cooked for!” said the farmer. “And where have you been?” asked his wife. “Why I’ll tell you! Jack Smith’s been shooting at me this whole night!” “And why would he do that?” asked his wife. “‘Cause that fox stole Jack’s chickens!” “I swear!” his wife snorted. “And what were you dressed like a fox for?”

Then she said,

“Stupidity is nine parts perspiration and one part inspiration!”

Be it known that this fable is followed by: Better Idle

The Animal Tales! • The Twelfth of Several Fables

12. Better Nothing for Thanks 

A Fable that follows: In the Mouth

Luckily for the fox, he caught the topmost branch of the apple tree. There he hung, the branch between his teeth, his bushy tail whim to the breeze. The geese atop the chicken coop saw where the fox was. They were so overwrought that all they could do was gaggle senselessly and point at the apple tree. “What a racket!” said the farmer testily. “Hush up before I stew the lot of you!”

Humph!” said the geese indignantly. They would be subtler. They waddled through the barnyard. “Bad year!” they said. “Yes Sir! A bad year for apples!” “Very, very bad!” they said. “Such ugly apples!” they said. “Like a corncob with ears!—like potatoes with feet!—like a pumpkin with a nose!” the geese went on yammering.

By day’s end the geese were fed up. They hatched a plan. They took the farmer’s pitch fork, all of them carrying a length of it, then stood each on each others’ shoulders. They poked the fox’s behind with the end of the pitch fork. “Yip!” Down came the fox atop the geese. “Snarl! Snip!” snapped the fox! “Honk! Honk!” honked the geese. When the animals saw what the geese had done they muttered: “A foxed goose or a goosed fox, take your pick.” The geese, having narrowly escaped with their lives, humphed and clicked, grumbling sourly,

“Better nothing for thanks than nothing to be thankful for.”


Be it known that this fable is followed by: One Part Genius

The Animal Tales! • The Eleventh of Several Fables

11. In the Mouth

A fable that follows: The Higher the Horse

Fox & the FarmGirl“You shouldn’t have got out that cider,” said the farmer’s wife. “That horse shouldn’t have drunk it,” the farmer answered. “You’ll regret selling her,” she said. That evening, a neighbor stopped by having a very long snout. (The fox meant to get rid of that horse.) “Hello, Farmer,” he said, “I’ll take that horse off your hands for six chickens!”

“You will not!” interrupted the farmer’s wife. “Sold!” insisted the farmer, and he gave the fox six chickens and the horse. “A bargain if there ever was one!” said the farmer. The fox was no fool, though. He sniffed at the horse’s mouth just to be sure she hadn’t been drinking that cider! All the while, that horse knew perfectly well it was the fox.

As soon as the fox climbed atop her she reared and ran round and around the barn. The fox let go of the chickens one by one. Then she ran faster and faster until the fox’s hat blew off, followed by his petticoat, his breaches and his socks until his bushy tail all but gave him away. The horse kicked and the fox tumbled into the air. The farmer’s wife smiled archly.

“Never look a miffed horse in the mouth!”

Be it known that this fable is followed by: Better Nothing for Thanks

The Animal Tales! • The Tenth of Several Fables

10. The Higher the Horse

A fable that follows: No Death Worse

Fox & Hunter“Fox, fox fox!” said the farmer, disgusted.  “I’ll chase him down!”  Out he went one day and bought the fastest race horse he could find. The farmer’s wife doted on the horse, feeding her apples and cabbage. The very next day, and the day after that, the farmer almost caught the fox. “Ha!” said the farmer. “I have outwitted that fox! Me! Don’t talk to me about how to catch a fox!”

The farmer was so pleased with himself that he pulled out two barrels of old cider to celebrate. The fox was in no mood to celebrate. A week without chickens! He knocked over the two barrels when the farmer wasn’t looking and the horse drank every last drop.  Never did a horse have such a head-ache! And that night, when the farmer leapt atop her, bellowing for her to chase the fox, she gave such a kick that she sent the farmer straight through the barn roof.

As luck would have it, the seat of the farmer’s pants caught the topmost branch of the apple tree.  The animals came and went the next morning. “Such an ugly apple,” they said. “Like a pear with pants.” “It will be a bad year for apples,” said the farmer’s wife. “Don’t you think so, husband?” The animals saw the lesson a little more clearly.

“The higher your horse, the harder its kick.”

Be it known that this fable is followed by: In the Mouth

The Animal Tales! • The Ninth of Several Fables

9. No Death Worse

A fable that follows: What’s Sweetest

Fox & Cooked GooseThe wolf paced atop the hill. “Why should the fox eat well and not me?” After some thought he went to the magpie with a plan. The magpie would distract the farmer’s wife with talk while the wolf ate chickens. “What should I say?” the magpie wondered, trying one subject after another. The wolf answered: “That would do…” or “Yes, that will work…” or “That’s a very good subject…”; but ideas, for the magpie, were like fish out of water, impossible to hold.

The farmer’s wife heard the magpie halfway to the farmyard and well warned, she planned a little surprise. “I think I shall smoke ham today!” When the magpie arrived later, she found the farmer’s wife at laundry. She straightaway struck up a conversation with the woman as the wolf snuck into the coop.

Ham hung from the ceiling! The wolf jumped and jumped and jumped! The ham was strung too high and worse!—the coop was filling with smoke and worse!—the door had locked behind him! When the magpie finally returned to coop, she gabbed and gabbed about her gab with the farmer’s wife. How the wolf sweat! All night long he sweat and sweat as the magpie gabbed and gabbed! And the next morning, when the magpie finally thought to open the door, half the wolf had been smoked away! The animals shook their heads and said,

“No death worse than talked to death!”

Be it known that this fable is followed by: The Higher the Horse

The Animal Tales! • The Eighth of Several Fables

8. What’s Sweetest

A fable that follows: Cooked Goose

Juniper's Dog“I’m fed up!” said the goat. “Why should a horse get oat and barley? Clearly” he said to the dog, “the horse eats best.”

“Well… to every path its puddle,” answered the dog, speaking from experience. “Humph!” said the goat dismissively.

“Advice from a dog!” And so, that night, the goat snuck into the mare’s stall.  Before sunrise  (before there was enough light to know better) the farmer’s wife came out to feed and hitch the mare to the wagon.

“You feel thin, Bessy!” she said and she poured out a can of oat and barley. The goat ate several cans that way. But fortune frowned on the goat. The harness came next! “Why Bessy!” she said, tightening the harness, “you’re thin as a goat!” “Oof!” said the goat. Not until they were before the church did the first light of day reveal the poor goat!

The neighbors laughed themselves crooked. Church was canceled, the pastor saying: “There shall be no mirth before God!” The farmer and his wife dutifully frowned all the way home. The parched goat drank the farmyard dry and the barley in his belly plumped like a balloon. For two days that goat lay on his side. His rightward hooves pointed to heaven, the other hooves to the other place. His belly bloated for all the world between! “Ha!” said the other animals, “the lesson’s clear.

“What’s sweetest is soonest bitter!”

Be it known that this fable is followed by: What’s Sweetest

The blockprint is by my daughter Juniper, Age 8.

The Animal Tales • The Seventh of Several Fables

7. Cooked Goose

A fable that follows: Greener Grass

The dog smarted from the fox’s tricks. So the dog spent the day studying the lives of the other animals and after much hind- and little fore-thought, he decided the goose led the best life. Fox & Cooked GooseIt did not wallow in mud. It did not have to pull the plow or the carriage. And it did not eat trash like the goat. And so the dog curled up with the geese that night, the same night the farmer’s wife thought her pillow seemed thin.

“I’ll be going to get some feathers tonight,” she said. “Nah,” said the farmer, “we’ll cook a goose tomorrow.” “I’ll just take a wingtip feather,” she answered, and out she went. She felt, in the dark for the softest feather.“Now that’s the feather!” she said when she found the dog’s tail. She yanked hard and merrily. “YELP!”  The dog took flight! “Humph! What an odd goose!” said the farmer’s wife and returned to bed.
As luck would have it, the dog leapt into the apple tree and  hung there by his mouth, afraid to let go. The animals came and went the next morning. “Such an ugly apple!” they said. “Like a plum with teeth!” said others. “Didn’t I say it would be a bad year for apples?” asked the farmer’s wife as she plucked a goose for cooking. When anyone came near, the dog abruptly wagged his tail (to keep it from being plucked again!) and does so to this day! Finally the dog tumbled out of the tree.

“Humph!” said he. “Better a dirty dog than a cooked goose!”

Be it known that this fable is followed by: What’s Sweetest: The Eighth of Several Fables!

The Animal Tales! • The Sixth of Several Fables

6. Greener Grass

A fable that follows: The Best Advice

“I’ve had enough of that bull’s temper!” said the farmer. “What will you do?” his wife asked. “I’ll buy an ox,” the farmer answered.  Sprouts Adjusted (Cropped)“Maybe an ox’s good temper will rub off on that bull.” And so that day he went to a neighbor’s auction and bought the sweetest tempered ox he could find.

Once home, the farmer pastured the ox in the field next to the bull’s. The bull paced back and forth, back and forth. ‘The grass is greener in that field!’ the old bull thought to himself. Why should he get the greener grass? By the end of the week he was stomping, snorting and pawing the ground. Still the ox paid no attention to the bull, making the old bull hotter and hotter.

All the while, with all his stomping on the grass, the old bull’s field was getting thinner and thinner. And having nothing to eat, the old bull himself grew as thin as his field. There was almost nothing left to him as well! “Well now,” said the farmer to the bony old bull, “you don’t look so mean any more. I’ll tell you the moral to this story!” he said. “No matter how green the grass next door,

“Envy won’t make your own grass grow.”

Be it known that this fable is followed by: Cooked Goose: The Seventh of Several Fables!

The Animal Tales! • The Fifth of Several Fables

5. The Best Advice

A fable that follows: A Pig out of Mud!

Woodcut Full Fox Print (Color Corrected)The farmer was plum out of ideas. He needed advice as to how to catch a fox. “And who will you ask?” his wife demanded. “It won’t be you!” answered the farmer irritably. “Sure as I know a thing or two,” she said, “an ounce of doing cures a pound of talk. You’ll see how far advice gets you!” “And I will!” retorted the farmer. Off he went! One neighbor told him one way, another neighbor told him another. And some said the opposite.

Late afternoon the farmer met a neighbor with a very long snout. “I know just how to catch a fox!” said this neighbor. “And how would that be?” asked the farmer. “I will tell you for the price of a chicken,” said the neighbor. So the farmer gave his long-snouted neighbor one chicken. That night the farmer tied some twine to a chicken’s toe and the other end to his own toe. That way, the neighbor had told him, you will know when the fox is stealing the chickens.

In the middle of the night, the fox retied that twine round a sleeping bull’s tale and bit the bull darn hard on its behind. Off the charged the bull and out came the farmer, bed and all, dragged behind him by the big toe! When the bedraggled farmer finally returned, days later, his wife said sweetly: “You know…”

“The best advice comes with no strings attached.”

Be it known that this fable is followed by: Greener Grass: The Sixth of Several Fables!