Once upon a long time ago, a lone oak tree stood in a large pasture. Towering over the grass and weeds the tree grew strong, producing vast quantities of acorns. A colony of squirrels feasted on the acorns, making the tree their home. They lacked for nothing and in return began to tend to the tree. With patience and care, these squirrels farmed their tree, steadily increasing its yield. Every year, they produced more acorns than they could use, and began to wonder what to do with the surplus.
In the distance, the pasture gave way to a thick oak forest. One so thick that the trees struggled to find adequate water and food. The starved trees produced few acorns. Squirrels living in the woods foraged far and wide, yet seldom collected sufficient nuts to last the winter. They would look across the pasture and marvel at the magnificent tree. One day the forest squirrels sent an emissary to the pasture.
“Perhaps they could share their acorns?” he pleaded.
“We must help our cousins,” one smart pasture squirrel declared. “After all, we have more than we can use.”
The brave squirrel formed a company which transported the surplus across the field and sold it to the forest squirrels. A shrewd businessman, he quickly became wealthy. The demand for acorns grew, so more companies formed, producing more prosperous squirrels. Life was good in the pasture oak, and it seemed the more surplus acorns they sold, the more acorns the tree produced.
Eventually, their colony split into two social groups; the farmers who continued to tend the tree, and the traders, who bravely transported acorns across the pasture. The farmers, taking pride in their work, continued to improve acorn yield, and lived quietly in modest tree nests. The traders, however, looked down on the farmers and their way of life.
“We can’t live in humble nests,” the traders declared. “We must build grand homes, homes in keeping with our wealth.”
Using their newfound riches, the traders hired farmer squirrels to be carpenters. These workmen built elegant homes for the traders. Tantalized by the homes they were building, the carpenter squirrels soon wanted beautiful homes of their own. So they demanded higher wages.
“Give us more money; we will build no more homes until you do,” they cried.
The greedy trader squirrels resisted, and work slowed to a stop. Then one day a sly squirrel had a thought.
“We’ll just raise our acorn prices,” he said. “That way we can continue to build our grand homes.”
Work resumed, and majestic homes rose high into the tree. More farmers were hired, to meet the demand for new homes. The remaining farmer squirrels struggled to tend to the tree, to no avail. Acorn production plummeted, and surpluses evaporated.
“How can we maintain our lifestyle with no surplus to sell?” the traders demanded.
“We can hire forest squirrels to tend to our tree,” declared an influential trader. “We will bring them across the pasture in our empty acorn carts.” Then he whispered, “Besides, they are so poor that we can hire them for an acorn a day.”
His plan worked, and acorn production skyrocketed. Unfortunately, the forest squirrels needed to eat, severely cutting into the nut surplus.
“We can go into the woods and take some of their trees,” said one tricky trader. “With our methods, we will increase production, and again have a surplus.”
The traders sent expeditions into the forest to identify the best trees. Then they drove the forest squirrels out of their homes and compelled them to tend the trees. In no time at all, acorn production increased, surpluses grew, as did the ranks of wealthy trader squirrels.
In the pasture oak, the dwindling farmer squirrels worked harder each day, yet received less pay. Soon their children refused to be farmers, opting instead to be carpenters and traders.
However, the traders continued to make money and build greater homes. For them, life in the Oak continued to be good.
Then one day, they noticed that their oak tree no longer produced acorns.
“What’s going on with our tree?” they demanded.
One old farmer slowly made his way to the front of the group.
“I am the only farmer squirrel left in our tree.” he declared. “The others have become carpenters and traders. Sadly, I can no longer tend the tree, as I am old and sick.
A murmur ran through the crowd, “Who will feed us?” they lamented.
“Not to fear, we have our forest trees,” piped a crafty trader. “We will merely import our nuts.” A great cheer rose from the crowd. “Yes, we need no farmers!”
The traders discovered that transporting acorns from the woods to the pasture was even more profitable. Indeed their life was good and greater homes towered into the sky.
The old farmer squirrel rested on his deathbed, his children and grandchildren gathered ’round. With sad eyes, he told the story of the Grand Oak Tree. When finished he stretched his arm toward the sky to grasp a branch of his old friend. The dry branch snapped, falling to his chest. The farmer wiped a tear from his eye, shaking his head sadly.
“Our tree is dying from lack of care,” he said. “In time, our friends the forest squirrels will realize that they have the only acorns.” Grasping his son’s hand he sighed.
“What do you think will happen then?”
David L Dahl
Hello, I’m David Dahl. When I’m not Bugga (grandpa), I do some woodworking and write children’s books. My latest is Olivia’s Story: Protector of the Realm.
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