How the Animals Tricked the Farmer: A Barnyard Tale
It was Friday afternoon, and the children slogged miserably home through the baseball-game-spoiling rain.
“Rain! Rain! It ruins everything,” grumbled the boy, as they climbed the porch steps to where Uncle Gus sat on the swing. “It’s gonna be a terrible weekend!”
When their uncle said, “We’ve needed a good rain,” the girl made a face and said, “We didn’t need it on the weekend.” She wrung water from her bobbed hair, then twirled around, shooting streams of water off her sopping wet skirt.
Uncle Gus held up a hand to block the spray, and scolded, “Stop that. I don’t need to get wet to know it’s raining. You children are soaked to the skin. Go in and get into dry clothes. If you come back in a good humor, I just might tell you a story about the time a chicken, a peacock & a goat tricked Farmer Crenshaw.”
In minutes the children were in dry clothes, and curled up beside Uncle Gus on the sofa.
“This story starts on a day a lot like today,” he said. “But it was worse. It was the thirteenth day of the rainingest, thunderingest, lighteningest weather the animals could remember. They were touchy, spiteful, and downright ornery.
Blue Tommie Joe, the proud blue rooster, refused to crow – being that he was as sulky as some children I know. (He cleared his throat and looked at the girl.)
Pearl, the generally even-tempered, no-nonsense duck, was snapping at everybody. She even snapped at Rocko, the scary cat that lived under Farmer Crenshaw’s porch, and Rocko took it because he was a little afraid of Pearl. Everybody else was afraid of him, even the wily gander Hank, a gambler who always kept his bodyguard turkeys nearby.
Even Sundara, the peacock, who was irksomely cheerful, according to Blue, had his tail dragging a little. Sundara’s sunny disposition made him the most beloved animal on the farm. He tried to cheer up Blue, saying, “Storms always end in rainbows.” Blue walked away.
Then, the very next morning, the storm broke. The animals poked their noses out of barns, coops, and sties, saw sunshine, and ran out rejoicing. Rams loped across the pasture and leaped over rocks. Pigs rolled in the nice fresh mud. Sundara spread his beautiful tail to dry, smiled, and said, “See. I told you. The rain makes sunshine brighter. Blue rolled his eyes and flew to the fence where he crowed.
When they gathered in the barnyard for supper, Pearl said, “We’ve all been contrary as snakes. The rain’s over now, so we need to do something fun together.”
Esmeralda, the motherly cow, said. “What about a talent show? That would be fun.”
“That’s a fine idea,” said Pearl. “A talent show.”
Sundara broke into a jig. “I can do a dance.”
The barnyard crackled with excitement as they made plans for the show.
But then, all of a sudden, the fun stopped because they heard a terrible sound. Hank was running toward them, honking the alarm.
The chickens ran in circles, screaming, “Oh, no! The alarm. It’s bad. It’s bad.”
Esmeralda said. “Hens, be still! What is it, Hank?”
“It’s bad – real bad,” he said, leaning over, holding his sides, and gasping for breath. “It’s Sundara!” he cried. “Farmer Crenshaw is selling Sundara! I was up by the farmhouse and heard him say so.”
The barnyard was quiet as midnight for a minute. That peacock was the one thing every last animal agreed on. They loved him – even Blue, though he’d never admit it. Then pandemonium broke out, with cries of, “No! No! Not Sunny! No! He can’t.”
“Times are tough,” is what Farmer Crenshaw said, and he can’t afford an animal, “that’s just for pretty. Animals have to earn their keep, and all Sunny does is look pretty and eat.”
The blue peacock turned almost white and had tears in his eyes.
Pearl put her wing around him. “Sundara does more than that,” she said, but she couldn’t think of what.
Blue flew up in a frenzy and stuck out his talons, crowing, “I’ll fight him.”
“You’re not fighting Farmer Crenshaw,” scoffed Hank. “What we need to do is show him Sunny is valuable, too valuable to sell.”
Hank’s protection turkeys, Mick and Mack, looked at each other and said, “A guard for the farm is valuable.”
Mack said, “Sundara can do that. He has a fierce cry, fierce enough to scare the dead. And look at those long legs. They can kick.”
“Guard from what?” asked Pearl.
“Uh… a bear,” said Mick.
“No bear’s been seen here since I was an egg.”
Mack said, “We don’t need a real bear. We just need Farmer Crenshaw to think there’s one.” He looked at Dexter, the ram, and said, “You clump about like a bear, and your snort is almost a growl. If we tied some old blankets around you and covered your horns, you could pass for a bear.”
“Yes,” said Mick. “We can put on a show and trick the farmer. Sunny will cry and wake up the house. They’ll come out to see the bear chasing his animals. Then Sunny will shriek, and kick, and chase the bear into the woods.”
“It’s a better idea than Blue fighting Farmer Crenshaw,” said Hank.
The turkeys went to work, training Sundara. But the sweet bird’s kicks were timid. “No. No,” yelled Mick. “That wouldn’t scare a butterfly. Kick me!”
Mack called Blue over. “Sunny, here’s Blue. I’m a real bear, and I’m attacking him. Show us what you’d do.”
Mack charged at Blue, and Sundara stopped him with a kick so hard he tumbled to the ground. Sundara ran to him, crying, “I’m sorry.”
He sat up, grinning. “Sunny, don’t be sorry. You’ve just become valuable. Now we can show Farmer Crenshaw he needs you.”
That very night, when the moon was up, the turkeys crept to the woods near the farmhouse with Sundara, Goldie, Blue, and Dexter, who looked every bit the bear.
“All right, Dexter get ready to growl and attack. Goldie and Blue, you stand here, ready to run. Sunny, cry out to wake the farmer.” He did and the light went on in the house. “Now, Goldie and Blue, take off running past the porch, and make a ruckus like you’re scared for your lives. Dexter growl and chase them. Okay, Sunny, go after Dexter, kicking and shrieking.”
Farmer and Mrs. Crenshaw ran out as the animals put on the finest show ever seen on any farm. But there was one thing the turkeys hadn’t thought of – Farmer Crenshaw’s shotgun. He fired and just missed Dexter, raised it again and took aim.
The little play was about to come to a sad, sad end. But Rocko saved the day. Just as Farmer Crenshaw was pulling the trigger, Rocko yowled, jumped up, and clung to his arm. The bullet went wild.
The farmer shook Rocko to the floor. Then he saw Sundara kicking chasing the bear away, saving his chickens.
Dexter ran back to the barnyard through the woods, where he shed his blankets. The chickens rushed to follow Sundara back to the barnyard.
Hank hung back in the shadows to listen. Mrs. Crenshaw said, “Did you see that? The peacock ran off a bear! The farmer shook his head, “And to think I was about to sell him.”
Hank ran to the animals, yelling, “It worked. Sunny stays!”
They high-fived each other, and cheered for the turkeys who blushed because attack turkeys are accustomed to praise.
And that’s how the animals tricked Farmer Crenshaw into seeing Sundara was more than pretty feathers. The end!
“Wait,” said the girl. “What about the talent show?”
“Oh, that. It was a grand show. The end.”
“No. Tell us about it.”
“That’s another story for another time.” Uncle Gus looked at his watch. “Whew! It’s late. I need my beauty sleep. You can’t stay as pretty as I am your without beauty sleep. Bessie, you ready?”
“It would be awful bad if Gus lost his pretty,” said Aunt Bessie, laughing. “Let’s all go to bed. If you get up and get your chores done, maybe he’ll tell you another story in the morning.”
With that the children went off to bed, and the Crenshaw farm was down for the night.