Monday, November 07, 2005

Animal Farm 2: Revenge of the Sheep - Part One

Things were going swell on the Saint Pete Acres farm. The cows got along with the sheep, the barnyard was in good repair, there were fewer incidents of rustling than in the past and there was more than enough pasture grass for all.

Fuzzy, the ovine leader of the Barnyard Crew, was a hale fellow well met. Though he possessed a somewhat awkward social manner, he was confident in his leadership abilities - a confidence stoked by the overall quality of life in the barnyard that was a vast improvement over the dreary long-past times. He brought the cow and the sheep together - and most were content with his leadership.

One day, news circulated the Barnyard that Farmer McTree was planning on selling Saint Pete Acres. Many of the Barnyard Crew - and most of the sheep - saw this as a welcome change, since Mctree's manner was abrasive, and some felt that the once-per-year shearing that McTree imposed on the sheep unfairly favored those with more wool. These sheep felt that the woolier sheep should be sheared twice as much so that the may feel the uncomfortable (yet never fatal) bite of the winter's chill, just as the lesser blessed ovines did. These sheep also resented the fact that the cows got a larger portion of the pasture on which they could graze, even though the cows were larger and produced more because of this.

Needless to say, the vast majority of sheep were excited about the prospect of a new farmer to tend them. They bleated day and night to whomever would listen that these benighted times under the "incompetent" Farmer McTree were coming to an end.

But Fuzzy was suspicious of the prospective buyer of St. Pete Acres - one Farmer Lurch. He knew Lurch to be something of an empty suit (overalls?). He noted that Lurch wanted to purchase the farm because he merely was itching to spend a pile of extra money he came into through marriage (actually, two marriages). The only farming bona fide Lurch offered was that he once tended his own cucumber patch in his back yard some thirty years ago. Fuzzy also knew that Lurch tended to be free and easy with his wool shears.

So Fuzzy found it difficult engage in the enthusiastic conversations amongst the sheep about how great Farmer Lurch would be for St. Pete Acres. He assiduously avoided offering any opinion about the proposed sale of the farm as long as he could. Fuzzy knew that if his true feelings about Lurch became known, his leadership position in the Barnyard would become imperiled; the sheep, by their vast numbers, held considerable political clout.

But as the bleating of his fellow sheep became louder, more frequent, and coarser, Fuzzy found it harder and harder to avoid the subject. Their simple-minded insults of Farmer McTree grated on him. That, coupled with increasing pressure to endorse the sale of the farm to Farmer Lurch, forced him into the corner that he feared.

Fuzzy screwed up his courage and announced that he would be making a statement as to his position on the sale of the farm. He told all the barnyard residents who wished to hear it, to meet at the site where the monument to Napoleon the Pig used to stand (before it was dismantled so long ago by Farmer Ronnie.)

At the appointed time, all the animals gathered. Looking over the crowd, Fuzzy noticed that there was not one member of the Poultry Community present.

"Anybody know where the chickens are?" he asked.

A cow shouted from the back of the gathered throng: "One of them sneezed last week, and we haven't seen any of them since."

Satisfied, Fuzzy cleared his throat and began.

"I understand that there is much talk and excitement surrounding the proposed sale of this farm to Farmer Lurch. I see a lot of unfounded anger and resentment toward our current caretaker, Farmer McTree. However, I think much of that anger is misplaced and comes from an irrational place. I think that Farmer McTree is the best farmer for the Barnyard."

For several seconds, the animals sat in stunned silence. Some of the cows and horses nodded approvingly.

Every single sheep in the crowd simultaneously pooped in rage.

Then all hell broke loose.

"HERETIC!" some shouted. Others were not so charitable. Another sheep announced to much ovine approval: "we must strip Fuzzy of his leadership!"

One sheep named Bobo ran to the front of the group and yelled over the din: "I am a REAL sheep, not a traitor like Fuzzy! I nominate myself to replace this apostate!"

The sheep cheered Bobo. Bobo's dimwitted brother Simian - an odd looking sheep who was no longer able to grow any wool - suppressed his glee so as not to appear biased, for he was a weekly columnist in the Barnyard Times.

One of the brighter bulls, stunned by this display of knee-jerk groupthink, spoke up: "Are you kidding? Things are going well here in the Barnyard, and all you sheep want to oust him because he's happy with our current farmer?"

One of the duller ewes, named Minnob cut him off: "Silence! You and your Bovine Echo Chamber are up to your usual games!"

Another sheep retorted: "The Leader's loyalty is not to the Barnyard, but to the sheep. Those who cut against that grain must be tossed from power!"

Incredulous, the wise Bull persisted. "So you're saying the Leader exists for the good of the sheep, and not for the good of the Barnyard?"

"The interests of the sheep are the interests of the Barnyard," came the emphatic and severe reply.

Another cow, feeling more distressed by the minute by the bizarre spectacle she was seeing, replied plaintively, "But sheep are more expensive to tend and produce less than the other animals! If the Barnyard is to be run for the benefit of the sheep, it will surely fail!"

"Nonsense, you echo-chamber-cow," Minnob retorted. "Run Bobo run!"

Fuzzy skulked off to his pen to be alone. The animals set an election date, but the cows and the horses knew it was a mere formality. The sheep had just manufactured a fait a complis, and Fuzzy had been their unwitting catalyst.

TO BE CONTINUED

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