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.