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.”

On the Subject of Truth, Tulips and Happy Endings

  • I’ve been away for a while. I’ve been working on a novel that takes place in Vermont. Anyone who wishes to read it, in progress, is welcome to E-Mail me. The novel will have some poetry in it, some fables and whatever else makes a good story. For lack of anything better, I’ve posted this first fable. I wrote it this morning. Eventually it might make its way into the novel. I’m not an artist, nothing like my wife, but I’ve thrown in my drawings for the fun of it. Edit: I shamed my wife into giving me one quick drawing. Enjoy.

A Fable on the Subject of Truth, Tulips and Happy Endings

There was once a well-respected Soothsayer who lived by a brook. He fished in the brook and every morning returned with something to eat. Every day children, old wives, girls and young men visited him seeking advice and notions of the future. The soothsayer always told the truth and what the soothsayer foretold always came true. As a small matter, fortune telling is an idle thing; but the future is devilish and full of trickery.

Children, among the wisest fortune seekers, forget what they’re told, but the soothsayer’s reputation spread and those with the least forethought were the most eager to foresee. The soothsayer had two visitors. The first was a young man in search of a wife. The second was personage of very great importance.

The young man came to the soothsayer first and was told a very peculiar fortune. The soothsayer said: You must be willing. You must find the tulip that blossoms at the bottom of the lake. You must pay no mind to anything else. You must pull it up by the roots. You must not let go. If you do as I tell you, your wife will fall out of the sky and into your arms.

The young man left as despondent as he came. Such a ridiculous fortune could not possibly come true.

The second visitor was a very important mayor of a very important town. He came to the soothsayer seeking advice. He said to the soothsayer: I am assured that few personages of equal importance have come to you. The Soothsayer, who was fishing at the moment, assured him that no one like the mayor had ever visited. The mayor, who was naturally complimented by the soothsayer’s remark, at once troubled the soothsayer for a fortune.

The soothsayer said: There will be a very great rain storm. The waters will flood your village until only the weathercocks, at the very tops of your houses, stand above water. The portly mayor’s face turned red and his eyes bulged. ‘When,’ he sputtered, ‘when will this terrible storm arrive?’ The soothsayer tossed his hook back into the brook and answered: in four weeks and two days.

The mayor hurried back to his town and, having considered the problem thoroughly, immediately announced that the village, built in a comfortable valley beside a gurgling brook, must be moved to the top of the hill. Now it just so happened that there was already someone living atop the hill – a beautiful girl with a tidy garden.

When the the mayor and the townspeople came to her, she would not let them touch her garden, especially because the garden was where her favorite tulip bloomed every spring. A horrible argument ensued but the girl, hands on her hips, stood her ground. So did the indignant tulip.

This piqued the mayor because the tulip was exactly where he wished to build himself a statue. He decided that once he had saved the townspeople, they would see the wisdom in building him a fine statue. In the meantime the mayor ordered that the town, with its cobblestone streets and crowded little houses built one next to the other so that each leaned on the other, be built around the girl’s shed and garden.

He also order that a great wall be built around the town. By means of the wall, the town would be protected by the great flood. The crafty stone masons built the wall as tightly as the hull of a boat. By the fourth week and the first day, the town was finished and the one gate through the watertight wall was shut. The girl and the tulip paid no mind to any of it.

On the fourth week and the second day, the terrible storm began, but a very strange thing happened. The gurgling brook merrily carried the rain away but, in the town atop the hill, there was nowhere for the water to go. The town, with its high walls, turned into a great big bathtub. Since the wall was just as high as the topmost roof, the town filled with water until only the weathercocks were dry – just as the soothsayer had foretold. Outwitting the future is a devilish and tricky thing.

The tulip thought it a very strange thing to be at the bottom of a lake, but once the sun came out and its light filtered gaily to the very bottom, the tulip blossomed. There is a time for tulips to blossom and the affairs of men and weather are of very little concern to tulips.

It just so happened that the young man, in search of just such a tulip, had come looking for the girl who knew a thing or two about tulips. Imagine his surprise when he found, not a girl, a garden, or a tulip, but the walls of a town. Taking off his boots, he climbed the wall; and imagine his surprise when he saw a lake fall of weathercocks, one after the other, drying in the noonday sun.

Could the girl, the garden, and the tulip be at the bottom of the lake?

He took off his socks and dove into the water. He swam to the very middle and dove straight downward. He passed the girl who was floating upward, like the townspeople, as surprised as anyone to be at the bottom of a lake. The girl was beautiful but the soothsayer had told him to pay no mind to anything but the tulip. The young man swam to the tulip. He pulled and the harder he pulled, the harder the tulip’s roots clung to the earth.

He pulled and he pulled. One by one the roots let go until, all at once – and all but for one little root with which the indignant tulip refused to let go – the water began to pour out of the hole that was left behind. But this was of little concern to the tulip. A mighty struggle ensued. The tulip clung to its patch of earth with its one root as the young man clung to the tulip for dear life. Down went the water. Down went one townsman after another, then the horses, then the carriages, then houses and all in the great big whoosh of a whirlpool.

The tulip was never so indignant, all the while thinking the young man was trying to pull it up. But all he was trying to do was save himself.

Finally, everything but the town’s walls and the girl had been swept into the hole. At the last minute, the young man put the tulip back into the hole, like a cork in the drain of a tub, and caught the girl just before she also fell into the hole. It was as if she had fallen out of the sky for, indeed, she had been floating above him the whole time. The girl looked at the young man and the young man looked at the girl, and they fell in love, and in just a little while they were married. The young man decided that as long as one is willing, wonderful things can happen in the most unexpected ways.

He and his wife took down the walls. They made a fence around the tulip – who had entirely forgotten the whole affair – and lived happily in their shed next to the garden.

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 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!

The Animal Tales! • The Fourth of Several Fables

4.  A Pig out of the Mud

A fable that follows: One Bad Apple!

“Sad!” said the duck to the cow, “a very sad story! Why, if we were pigs, we’d be living in mud!” They decided the pig deserved better, and so they pushed some apple crates together and made a little parlor. Woodcut Pumpkin (Color Corrected)It was clean and tidy. They brought straw for bedding, made a pillow of leaves and decorated the walls with flowers. The animals congratulated themselves on their kindness and generosity.

The farmer and his wife returned from church. As soon as the mare was unhitched from the carriage and saw the pig’s new parlor she pricked her ears and stomped her hooves. “Why don’t we live in places like that?” she snorted. “All I have is a stall!” “Why should a pig? — a pig! — of all animals! — have its own house?” “You?” said the goose. “Why not me? Those are my feathers in the farmer’s pillow!” “Outrageous!” crowed the rooster. “Shouldn’t we all live like pigs!”

They marched that night into the farmer’s house. “What the heck!” the farmer cried and fired his gun. The animals fled but once they’d gathered their wits they went straight to the pig’s parlor. His straw was trampled, he had eaten the flowers and the leaves were scattered hither and anon. He had made his parlor into a pig’s sty. “Snort,” he said happily. Maybe the animals didn’t want to live like pigs after all.  “You can take the pig out of the mud,” they all said, “but—”

“You can’t take the mud out of a pig.”

Be it known that this fable is followed by: The Best Advice: The Fifth of Several Fables!

The Animal Tales! • The Third of Several Fables

3. One Bad Apple

A fable that follows: Where Luck Goes!

Turnips“Disgusting!” said the Magpie, riding atop the pig’s back. “Why would anyone want to eat chicken!” “Snort,” answered the pig. “Why,” said the Magpie, “if I weren’t so smart, I’d be a chicken too. Barbaric! Imagine eating me! And look at you eating those muddy apples! Who wants a muddy apple? Yuck!” And that was when the magpie pointed to all the shiny red apples at the top of the nearby apple tree. “Look!” said the magpie. “All you have to do is walk onto the roof of that shed and you can have as many shiny apples as you want!”

“Snort!” It was true! The pig wanted those apples! The pig climbed the barrels stacked next to the shed but with his very first cloven step on the tin roof, down he slid! Just as the pig was about tumble from the roof to the ground, he wrapped his tail round the lowest apple branch. And there he hung and hung. The animals came and went. “Such an ugly apple!” they said. “Like a peach with hooves!” said others. “It shall not be a good year for apples,” said the farmer’s wife. “Snort! Squeal! Snort!” squealed the pig. At last the branch broke and the pig landed on its nose, flat from that day forth; and its poor tail never uncurled. The lesson was all too clear.

“You can always shine a muddy apple.”

Be it known that this fable is followed by: A Pig Out of Mud: The Fourth of Several Fables!