THE FARM AND THE FOREST (PART II)

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~2~

Discussing the Way Forward

Now see here, dog. I know very well the Rules of the Farm. What is more, I know why we have these rules. But this is the modern age, and in these times we must consider carefully this issue before us, no matter how strange it may seem.”

After the officious pig finished, the young hound lowered his head and went back to his station with the other dogs standing guard in front of the animals assembled in the clearing before the big barn.

Now, young master goose, tell me again why you believe this foreigner should be welcomed into our midst…”

A rat crouched quietly next to the pig, idly preening her wiry whiskers.

Mr. P-p-pig, I just think that if maybe we had an exotic goose of his stature and smarts it would only improve the lot of the Farm geese. We are smart and strong, but he is smarter and stronger!”

The assembled animals talked with their kin in low murmurs. At these meetings there was a natural segregation of the farm animals; like stood with like. The geese raised a clatter of support with much honking and flapping. Cries of “Bigger!”, “Exotic!”, and, “More smarterer!” rang out from their assembled flock.

Calm and silence will be had! Settle yourselves, animals of the Farm.”

The matronly German Shepherd slowly swung her snout back and forth after speaking, surveying the assembled animals, her low and steady growl paring the susurrus to silence. She had deep misgivings about this whole affair, and her heart of hearts urged her to quell this silliness immediately, maybe even going as far as wringing the neck of the big foreigner until he was dead, if she could catch him. But she knew her station and respected the law. When order was restored, show bowed her head in respect to the pig, who continued:

Young master goose, have you any more to say?”

The pig was stern, but there was no malice in his grunt. The young goose lowered his head, signaling that he had said his portion.

Very well. Go about your day, animals of this great and good Farm. We of the leadership shall deliberate for a time, then we will reconvene later. Go on then. Young pups, escort everyone back to their rightful places, please.”

The younger dogs sprang into action, yipping as they nudged the animals away from the clearing in front of the big barn. Soon, the only farm animals left were the chief three of the pigs, the dogs, the horses, and the rats.

I think… we should move to… The Porch.”

The workhorse was by far the largest creature on the Farm. His word carried immense weight, not only because of his labor, but because he was a wizened old hoof and had seen many years on the land. Nonetheless, this suggestion caused a small stir.

Would that be… acceptable to you… dog of the Farm?”

The matronly German Shepherd had a primal fear of a creature so large, but she was smart enough to bury that emotion.

Yes, oh lord of labor. I think the Porch is exactly where we should go. This is a matter of the greatest import. The all seeing eyes of the Farmer will be a blessing on this process.”

The rats rolled their eyes at the invocation of the Farmer, and one of the pigs went as far as to make a ill suppressed snort, but they all trooped over to the L shaped plank board porch and took their places. The horses stood nearby, idly cropping the tender shoots of shadow grass growing around the Porch. The rats made to creep up to the windowsill, but after a low growl from one of the dogs, they changed their course and gathered together on an old end table and preened each other’s fur, casting quick, malevolent glances at the three dogs now splayed and panting on the rug in front of the door. Once the pigs had clattered into place and knelt down on their hocks, the discussion began anew. The youngest of the three pigs started:

Well, I for one think this is an opportunity to bring the Farm even further into the future. It is no secret that the farm geese are… well… well they aren’t the sweetest slop in the trough. It seems to me that introducing some wild down into the flock would only add good things to the Farm.”

The rats squeaked their agreement, whispering to each other quickly. Another of the pigs nodded slowly and spoke.

That may be so, but it is still an unprecedented idea. In fact, one could even say it is a bit of a violation…”

It is a direct contravention of the Rules of the Farm,” snorted the female horse that had lifted her head as the first pig was speaking. After swinging her gaze from each of the assembled farm animals, she continued.

I do not say it is a definite bad thing, for I know very little of the idle labors of thinking, and I do not understand many of the Rules, but I do know that obeying the Rules has brought the Farm to where it is, and if the Rules say no outsiders, well, I am for the Rules. This I say for me, and all the other horses. We are agreed.”

By the time she had finished speaking, the other horses had raised their heads and ceased their cud chewing. Their large eyes were cold and certain. The matronly German Shepherd spoke next.

It is customary for we, the dogs, to not vote. It is for us to protect and to serve and to slay as the Rules and the animals of the Farm require. But I feel the need to say that this is not just a contravention of the Rules. It is a perversion of the ways of our beloved Farm. We should not, we cannot, allow outsiders such as these foreign geese into our midst. They do not know the Rules. They have no sense of our customs, and I feel it in my paws that they will cause disruption amongst the flocks. This is what my heart tells me. Regardless, we dogs abstain, as is customary and proper.”

The chief dog laid her head on her paws and waited to hear what the others would say in response to her admonition. Her two grown pups whined softly and nibbled at her scruff, a sign of adoration and respect in the manner of their kind. The second pig to speak nodded graciously at the matronly German Shepherd.

Well said, well said, sister dog. And much of what I feel is in agreement. To take this step would be a drastic change in precedent and custom. But I must say that we pigs feel, and the rats tend to agree, that it is time to bring the Farm into a more modern age. There is so much potential lurking in the Forest by the Farm, totally wasted on wandering and scrabbling for pitiful scraps. Imagine, friends, just imagine what we could accomplish once the wilds have been tamed and cultivated! Yes, the geese are rowdy and, dare I say what we all feel, a rather lazy bunch, but their down is priceless and their eggs are fat. We all know the Farmer looks favorably upon their Due. How could it be a bad thing to have fatter eggs and, er, downier geese? So we of the pigs say that this bold endeavor should be our course. This makes it three for yes, three for no, and three abstentions. Now, we will hear from the rats.”

An arrow of misgiving pierced the heart of the matronly German Shepherd. Had her deep respect for traditions opened the door to calamity? She had no pretensions of wisdom or forethought, but anxiety crept in, and quickly on its heels, doubt. Maybe the old traditions were failing them, if such obvious evil was so easily accepted. The rats looked at each other quickly, then to the young pig who had put forth the motion who snorted ponderously. They each stood on their hind legs with their noses thrust in the air.

Abstain.”

Abstain.”

…yes.”

Then it is settled. Dogs of the Farm, gather our friends and siblings.”

Generations of obedience overwhelmed the sorrow in their hearts, and the three leaders amongst the dogs bolted away to do as they were commanded. The Horses looked down their long noses at the rats, whickered softly, and turned as one to march back to the clearing in front of the barn. Once they had turned the corner, the pigs swiveled their eyes toward the three rats.

Well rats, you had better be right about this. The dogs and horses are not happy. Are you certain that you can control these… outsiders?”

The largest of the rats, big and fat and darker than the rest, twitched his nose, nibbled an itch on his flank, and responded in the curtness of their kind.

Certain.”

It is a hard thing to see a threat disguised as a blessing, and harder still to convince others of it.

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