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Useful And Fantastic: Animal Circus

Things are not going well on the farm run by animals, as Val Yule reveals in this bedtime story for children of all ages.

Once upon a time there was an animal farm. Its name, in letters of gold stuck on the back of every fruit-box, was The Garden Farm.

The farm was run by the animals. Many years before they had won their freedom from being owned by Men, although the Men on neighbouring farms sometimes stopped by its fences and gates to chew a straw, thoughtfully. There were, however, neighboring farms that shared their animal freedom, and had a common braying pen, at which they were represented by the donkeys and goats, with the occasional Major Mitchell Cockatoo, and usually several galahs.

This was because the farms had been cut out of virgin bushland, and its remains still littered the slopes and edged some of the creeks. Farm and bush creatures shared a common enemy in Man.

Most of the animals on the farm were sheep, whose non-stop business was to eat the grass and keep it neat and short, and then ruminate while they grew woolly thoughts. They worked hard at both jobs.

There were also among the farm animals, a mob of fair cows, horses for courses, and a gaggle of chooks and other birds - some more flighty than others, others that just swanned around. The farm was run however by the turkeys and pigs, with the help of the magpies, who had the main job of telling the sheep what a dirty rotten job it was to run a farm, better to keep youir own wool clean. The sheep therefore left it to the pigs and the turkeys, though sometimes illegitimate bustards and even brolgas joined the irregular sessions of deliberations held in the cowshed, while the cows looking on said “Moo, Moo,” in approval of anything particularly silly which was considered.

However, the bushland life, which was quite picturesque, often merged with that of the farm - as larrikeets sometimes swarmed in in their vagabond plumage, snakes slithered around poisoning the minds of the young, and bounders respected no fences. Sometimes the howling of bunyips was heard from the artist’s colony deep in the brush.

All animals, however, were brothers - including the females and the many multi-sexed mutations - except for the Ferals, of whom there were far too many - foxes, wildcats, terrible bores, foreign devils, mad hares, and bunnies, who swallowed anything and everything, and multiplied incessantly and licentiously.

The animals, being animals, could not produce all their own wants from the farm. The therefore from time to time gave some of their farm products to trading Men, who in return gave them what they thought fit, using a set of scales with artificial hiccups, so that the animals never knew quite what their trades would be.

A couple of jackdaws had had the principles of the scales explained to them by the Men, and these opinionated birds assured the farm animals that their trading rewards were according to the Laws of Seesaws, ordained by the Weathergod, Lord of Work and of Business, of Holysales and of Re-tails. And who was to go against the Weathergod, without whom the crops could not grow?

The pigs had some clues about the Weathergod, but kept their snouts to themselves. Weatherwise pigs were able to keep fat however the scales hiccupped.

The other farm animals were not so lucky. The turkeys maintained their rage, and songs like ‘The Red Wattles” were sung, and free hashes and mashes and bashes were promised. Old slogans from the great rebellion continued to be parrotted - especially by the larrakeets, galahs, cockatoos and even parrots - e.g. “United we stand, divided we’re cutlets’’. And so when there were elections for the cowyard Thing (the original Buff-Orpington name democratically elected decision-making carcases - they often smelt too much to be live bodies) the animals voted for the turkeys rather than the pigs. All turkeys elected immediately had rings put through their noses as a sign of office - so did the pigs, but it mattered less to them, since the controllers of the rings were all pigs too.

Within the cowshed, the turkeys gobbled loudly. Both in and outside the shed, the pigs gobbled whatever they could put their trotters on.

And it came about that the turkeys decided to show that they, too, like the pigs, could be goers and doers and shakers and makers. And they looked out over the fields to see what they could shake and make and do and move. And whatver the animals asked for, the turkeys tried to give them, to keep in favour with both Pigs and Leasts - as the lower Beasts were called.

The Turkeys set up a committee to increase wealth through shuffling cowpats and other ordure. As there were pigs who had lived in muddy sties so long that thery had beome expert shufflers, the Turkeys naturally turned to them for the actual shuffling. Other pigs set up shuffling piles on ther own, and the Turkeys strutted with pride as whole pyramids of dung began to pile up in the barnyard, and great cess-pits were dug for silage.

Now there was no doubt that some of the animals supposedly working in field and yard were getting lazy without the fear of death and whip that Men had used to encourage their labors. There were some animals with one job who tried to set up little empires with more animals under them to do the same job because it gave them more status and less work. Six hens would be scratching a patch of the farmyard that was once fully scratched up by one. There was less productivity instead of more. Some pigs suggested that if teams of animals were broken up. and pigs were put in charge of each smaller gropuip, there would be less laziness and more to harvest. So the turkeys started cutting up teams, fields, and even dismantling machines to save the cost of oil, maintenance and petrol. And they started listening to schemes to fleece the sheep, by poking them and rolling them.

Then the Weatherman struck and blew. Piles of dung were scattered - some fell into the well, and some into the silage pit, and some disappeared. Pigs were seen sitting on plump bags shaking their heads, and saying what a mess the turkeys had made of everything. One handsome young pig in particular used to put his foot in his mouth and attract attention to himself in pointing out the acccumulating mess. His name was Local Hero.

So they had an election for another Thing. Local Hero had an advantage in that he had made a name for himself. He and the other pigs pointed out what a mess had been made of the farm during the time of the turkeys - things had moved and messed, and sunk in the silage pit.


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