Derek the Duck and John the Fox

FABLES

ONCE UPON A TIME there was a land called Vard. Vard was a very happy, well-endowed land, and many animals lived there. The mass of animals were sheep, and some lambs, and a few other animals ruled over the flock. The head of Vard was a duck called Derek, who was part of a seven-member council of owls that made all the decisions about Vard. And under Derek Duck was Roso the Bear, who in turn had assistants called John the Fox and Archie the Badger.

While the bear and the duck and the fox and assorted other animals ran around wondering who was going to stay around for a long time and who should do what to whom and why, the sheep went on their merry, sheep like way. Some of the sheep lived up by the cliff, and some lived down by the river, and the lambs of the flock lived in the big green yard. Each year thousands of lambs tried to get into Vard only to be told that there was just so much pasture land to graze on and they would have to find other meadows to grow up in, like the Yale field to the southwest.

A group of goats led the sheep around and taught them all they needed to know, when they weren't off researching the trees and animals and rocks. The sheep were very happy to be near these wise old goats, even if they knew the goats really didn't care very much about them. In fact, they were glad just to be in Vard, the $6000 annual fleecing notwithstanding.

The sheep had all heard legends of other sheep in Vard who had many many years ago stopped being mere sheep and had even taken over the meadow all to themselves and driven out the previous head of Vard, Nathan the Pussycat, but they didn't believe all the legends and didn't care much themselves to do more than graze and go "baaaa." They all lived in a time called by the field's newshounds 'the new mood of the meadow.' After they lived at Vard for four years Derek the Duck branded a big V on their sheepskin and sent them off into the world outside the meadow.

When the lambs grew up they moved out of the yard, but after a while the crafty old fox noticed that few of the lambs went to live at the cliff. Almost all seemed to want to live at the river, which was getting too crowded. Then the fox realized that a small flock of lambs lived among the sheep at the cliff, and he decided that when lambs grew up to be sheep they didn't want to live with other lambs. So the fox ordered all the lambs to live in the yard, behind the big green hedge, and filled up the cliff with second-year sheep, whom he ordered to be happy and refused to let them leave the cliff even if they wanted to. And the fox called his idea 'The comprehensive plan for the sheep,' and he went about his business contented. And although the fox had never asked the sheep if they wanted to do things that way, they were sheep after all and soon became docile again.

But all the other ruling animals were upset--after all, the fox had upstaged them all and the newshounds had barked about him all over the meadow. So they decided to think up comprehensive plans of their own. But the fox was a crafty animal, and before the others could think up their own plans he had come up with another plan of his own.

You see, the sheep ate mostly hot apples for their meals (when they weren't eating grass and dancing about the meadow), and sometimes they took the apples and polished them up real bright and gave them to the goats. The fox decided that the sheep would do just as well if they ate cold apples, and it would be much cheaper not to have to cook the apples every day. But the sheep baaaaed a little, so he gave every fourth sheep a hot apple and told them to share the delicacies with their fellow sheep who had cold apples. And the clever fox called the idea 'The second comprehensive plan for the sheep.' The sheep staged a baa-in outside the fox's den, and then went on eating the cold apples and being sheep again.

Then Roso the bear, who was always carrying around a big pot of honey and eating from it during animal council meetings and when talking to newshounds, announced his own plan--in his own words, a plan to revolutionize the sheep's intellectual diet and put Vard back in the leadership role it had grown accustomed to. Instead of letting sheep eat whatever kinds of apples they wanted, like MacIntosh apples, and little green apples and tasty golden ones, he would have all the sheep eat the same thing--the cores of the apples. Then they would grow up to be liberally educated sheep, Roso the bear said. His assistants, Michael the Walrus and James Q. Stallion, said Roso was right as usual, and urged the animal council promptly to agree to the core plan. It did.

But the sheep were upset. After all, they knew what tasted good, and besides, they didn't like being ignored as if they didn't matter. First the fox and now the bear were trying to change their lives around without even asking them. So the sheep formed the SACC--sheep against core consumption--and marched down to Roso's den to complain, but he growled a little and promised he would only make next year's sheep eat cores, so they went home.

Then the sheep heard that the Council of Owls was involved in another meadow in a far off land called Aparkside, where the white sheep lived high off the hog (excuse the metaphor) by making the black sheep work really hard for them. And the white sheep wouldn't let the black sheep form a flock, and made them eat bad apples that caused many of the little lambs to die before they grew up. The Vard Council of Owls had a deal with the Aparkside rulers, in which Aparkside rulers like the John the Horsester gave Vard money for owning a great deal of rocks in the Aparkside meadow. Some people who were against the poor treatment of the black sheep said if Vard would take away all its rocks, that would help end the rule of the white sheep, because other rock owners would see what Vard did and do the same thing. But the Council of Owls said, "No, that would be like cutting and running. We believe in working within the system to effect change. We won't sell the rocks."

BUT THE SHEEP WERE unhappy, and they baaaaed loudly, so Derek the Duck said he would establish the ACSR--the animals' committee to study rocks--and he would refer their complaints to the new body. So the ACSR met, and decided that the Aparkside system was indeed bad, and announced that someone, somewhere, somehow should immediately do something about it, or at least talk about it. And then they asked the Council of Owls to do something about it.

So the council met, and said the ACSR was a very wise, and prudent, and cautious body, but it may have gone too far, and said someone, somewhere, somehow should probably do something about it, or at least talk about it, but maybe not immediately.

And the sheep thought of the black sheep in Aparkside, and got upset, and thought of how the council ignored the fact that they had all asked for Vard to sell its rocks in Aparkside but they didn't, and then they thought of how the fox and the bear and the duck always ignored what they wanted, and they got very upset. So they got together and formed the United Flock, and marched on Derek the Duck's own pond, and baaaaed loudly and sang black sheep songs, and asked Derek to come out and discuss the rocks with them. But Derek sent out his parrot who said the duck was just literally swimming in other work, and was in over his head, and probably couldn't come up for air for a long time, and besides, the owls had already spoken. And the sheep milled about and kept baaaaing angrily and burned the grass in effigy, and suddenly Derek the Duck waddled out of the pond and headed for the holy oak in the meadow. And the sheep ran around the duck and asked him to talk about why the Owls hadn't listened to them, but he wouldn't say anything. He just kept waddling towards the holy oak, surrounded by four bulldogs, and Archie the badger, John the fox, and Roso the bear.

The sheep were very upset, and lay down in his path and wouldn't let him into the holy oak, so he climbed onto a private lily pad pulled by official Vard fish and sped off along the river. But before he left he quacked something about "another day in the life of a University duck," and then became quiet again.

This made the United Flock very mad, and they ran around the yard bleating loudly, and lit the grass on fire, and took over the holy oak and the duck pond and Roso the bear's lair and Archie the badger's house and John the fox's den and the nests of the council of owls, and fired all the goats, and told the sheep they could have hot apples again and they could eat whatever kind of food they wanted and could live wherever they wanted to. Then the United Flock sold the Aparkside rocks, and declared Vard "an animal's democratic university." And they all lived happily ever after.