Small World: A fable of our times

Henry Precht

By Henry Precht

BN Columnist

It all started with what seemed a small, albeit unusual, event. It seemed more like an old-fashioned fairy tale than a modern-day happening. Certainly the way the tale developed made it seem more like the creation of the brothers Grimm than a reputable newspaper. But let’s get to the facts:

The hero of this tale was a young, sensitive fellow who was disturbed by the employment of huskies to pull heavy sleds over snow-covered hills. As you might expect of a sensitive youth, he was a member of the Society Against the Inhumane Treatment of Animals (SAITA). With their authority he brought suit in the local court to prevent sled dog owners from mistreating their canines. Sitting as judge was an elderly gentleman whose afternoon naps were regularly interrupted by the pitiful yapping of those heavily burdened dogs. He decided to do something on their behalf.

The judge ruled that the practice was contrary to human rights law and must cease. But that wasn’t all. To drive his point home, he ruled that dog owners must be harnessed up every Saturday as long as the snow lasted and made to pull a fully laden sled silently over the full length of the racecourse.

Well, like I said, people around here didn’t pay much attention. They were used to odd behavior by officials. And the human sled pullers were blessedly quiet. Not so elsewhere, however. And here the tale shifts to Florida where the Ringling Brothers had just announced they were shutting down their circus, owing in large part to pressure from SAITA. The closure upset old-time circus lovers but had quite a different effect on the “wild” animals whose future(s) were left undefined. Those who had learned to read — mainly monkey-house residents — passed the word to their larger colleagues.

“Who will feed us our daily bales of hay?” asked the elephants and horses. “And our raw beef?” moaned the tigers and lions.

“We’ll just have to take matters into our own hands. We’ve grown soft since we left the jungle years ago,” an elderly lion lectured. “Meanwhile, this country — the U.S.A. — has grown even softer. It’s a disgrace making human beings pull sleds like you read us.”

“And SAITA won’t even let the authorities fire weapons at our brothers, the dogs who now run free,” a scholarly ape contributed.

“That gives me an idea,” a vigorous elephant ventured and beckoned all the rest to join him in consultation. As if long rehearsed, all of the animals suddenly began to rip up their chains, tear down the tents, and chase away the men and women who were supposed to be tending to them. They had thrown away their weapons after a judge affirmed the anti-mistreatment of animals ruling from Bridgton. Wasting no time, the animals chose by popular vote to make the oldest lion their king.

The king’s first proclamation decreed that a small island off the Florida Gulf coast would be their territory and that humans would be invited upon payment of a $200,000 membership fee to visit, lodge in cages and help the former staff provide nourishing meals for the animals.

“Furthermore,” the king roared, “I hear there is a rival king on the Atlantic coast opposite us. And I hear he is pretending to be as great as a lion king just because he sports a massive mane of hair. But it’s all gloppy with Stay-Comb and he’s no rival for me with my naturally fierce collar of fur.”

“Shall we give him a Ringling taste of the real world?” the sleek tiger sneered while cleaning his teeth.

“We’ll be happy to deliver your ukase. Put him ‘on notice,’” volunteered a pair of alligators who had just emigrated from the Everglades.

“You guys are a bit late,” chuckled the lion king. “I’ve already told that blonde, so-called king that we didn’t want any more humans coming into this country. We want an end to the immigration of rival meat and straw eaters. He’s basically a weak man so, without much reflection, he issued a ban on Moslem immigration and all refugees — the weakest bunch of humans. That’s how that kerfuffle you read about happened. I guess I scared him into going along with our plans.”

“Right on, Your Majesty,” all the animals chorused. “And tell him to quiet down his quests or we’ll send our elephants and local friends to teach them a real fox trot.”

Henry Precht is a retired Foreign Service Officer.

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