“Life on this farm sucks!” cried the little rabbit Hopper to no one in particular, since he had no friends. Then, like most in his unparalleled generation, he straightened up, looked hardly around the declining acreage, then emphatically added again to no one in particular, “Well, I guess I’ll have to be the one to fix it!”
Hopper was just old enough to remember the better times, but not yet old enough to know the struggles that led to those times. Although his memories may have been tinted rose-colored, there were some aspects of the farm that had indeed deteriorated over the years. He took stock of his problems:
The crops were growing, but not quite as bountiful as they did when he was but a wee bunny. This was likely due to agricultural stuff he didn’t know too much about (and didn’t really care about), but the more visible and obviously more important problem was the occasional coyote that slipped through the dilapidated perimeter fence and snacked on immature vegetables.
Of course, that fencing needed fixing too. Not only to keep the coyotes out, but also because it kept the dumber animals in. Any time the humans needed to spend tracking down the dumb sheep down outside the fence was time they weren’t spending tending to mending the farm’s descent.
Lastly, Hopper decided the big, brown barn could use some repairs, too. Over time the wood had dried out — and in some cases, rotted — resulting in the occasional hole in the facade. It wasn’t a big deal yet, but if Hopper was planning on fixing things, he figured he might as well fix everything that needed fixing while he was at it.
Part II: The donation drive
Charlie the Chicken
With visions of the perfect farm dazzling in his eyes, Hopper hopped straight to the nearest animal — in the next coop over — who conveniently happened to be well-suited to help.
“Charlie,” he cried out, catching his breath. “Charlie the chicken! I need your help!”
“What’s wrong?” the chicken cawed. “Is everything okay?”
“Nothing is okay! Haven’t you seen the state of the farm lately? We need to do something about it immediately, or we’ll blink our eyes and there’ll be nothing left. Can you help us?”
The chicken craned his neck to peer around looking for the others implied by the hare’s chosen pronoun but didn’t hold a lack of support against the naive young rabbit. He toothlessly smiled and asked, “How can I help?”
Hopper relayed the estate’s problems while the chicken listened, nodding along. After a conclusion, he nodded thoughtfully and said, “I appreciate how much it sounds like you’ve thought this problem through. I’ll tell you what, young one. If you’re going to fix the fencing or the barn, you’ll need wood and glue.
“I don’t have either myself, but we all know you can mix an egg yolk with water and mud to make a kind of adhesive that might work. The farmer clears our egg coop regularly, but I’d be happy to skim some eggs from the other chickens and get them to you for glue. As many as you need, of course, for the betterment of the whole farm.”
Daisy the Squirrel
With an endless supply of eggs to make glue with, Hopper and the chicken ran toward the oak trees on the outer edge of the farm to meet up with Daisy, who spent all day around trees and therefore must know where to find the wood they desperately needed.
“Daisy,” he cried out, catching his breath. “Daisy the squirrel! I need your help!”
The squirrel cleared her cheeks and froze in place, tense and ready to run at even the slightest unexpected movement.
“Daisy, the farm is dying and we need to save it,” Hopper said matter-of-factly. “Do you know where I can get some wood to fix the fences with?”
Daisy relaxed a bit but kept her head on a swivel.
“The only wood I know is on these here trees,” the squirrel said, “and I don’t think you nor I have the strength to take any of ’em down. I’ve got nothing else to do today though, so if you need help finding wood I’d be happy to tag along and keep an eye out.”
“I think we’ve got enough eyes between us,” the chicken spoke up abruptly. “Maybe you’d be more comfortable looking for wood from out here, atop the treetops? You might be more used to that than talking to the other animals.”
Daisy squeaked. “Oh, that’s okay, friend. If we’re saving the farm, I’d love to come along. After all, I live here too, you know?”
Sylvester the Fox
Together, the rabbit, chicken, and squirrel happened upon a fox out in the fields on their way back to the center of the farm.
The fox grinned deeply, exposing a suave smile full of sharp teeth, and greeted the strangers politely.
“I’m Hopper,” the rabbit said amiably, then introduced the others. “Do you live on this farm?”
“I do indeed,” the fox said slowly, trailing with an oppressive air of silence.
“We’re trying to fix it,” Hopper said, cutting the tension in the air. “The crops, the fence, the barn, everything. We just need help from everyone to get started.”
“Everyone that actually has anything helpful to give, that is,” the chicken added, side-eyeing the squirrel.
“What a wonderful goal. My name’s Sylvester, but you can call me Sly. What have you gathered up so far?”
“I’ve agreed to donate as many eggs as the rabbit needs,” the chicken said. “For glue.”
“And that’s it so far,” Hopper said, realizing for the first time just how big of a restoration project this would be. “We’re looking for wood now, to repair the fences; that should keep the coyotes out.”
“That’s it? Just eggs? That’s… not a lot. How long have you been planning this, uh, this revolution?”
“Long enough to know when someone’s got nothing to contribute,” the chicken retorted. He turned to Hopper and said, “Let’s go.”
“Now hold on one minute there, friends!” The fox widened his smile. “I may not have anything to give, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t if I did; I would if I could. For the sake of the farm, we should all be donating everything we can. If I had everything, I’d donate it all.”
“But you’re never gonna have everything,” the squirrel said solemnly. “We may fluctuate sun by sun, but we keep what we’re born with.”
“There are more ways to be helpful than just donating stuff. We’re going to ask the other animals to help, too. Want to come with us?”
Paul the Pig
The band of four animals next arrived at Paul the pig’s pen, where he was busy rolling around mindlessly in the mud without a care in the world, as he did all day every day. He was extremely fat from months of exorbitant coddling from the humans and unaware of the impending fate that lied ahead.
“Paul,” Hopper shouted loudly from the half-fence lining the pigsty. “Paul the pig, we need your help!”
The pig slowly rolled over, turning his snout toward the crowd of animals pressed against his pen’s wooden fence. He snorted, clearing his snout of mud that had accrued inside.
“Everything is wrong,” Hopper exclaimed, eyeing the wood he was leaning against. “The farm is dying and we’re going to save it! We want to fix the fence out there but we can’t find any wood to fix it with.”
“Take it,” Paul moaned. “There’s plenty here; I don’t know why the humans feel the need to fence us in anyway. Why would we go out there when our mudpool is right here? Take all the wood you need; it’s yours.”
“This isn’t nearly enough wood to fix the fencing,” the fox commented. “A little bit, sure, but not enough.”
“I don’t know where to get any more,” the pig responded. “Take it all and it’s at least a start. You’ve gotta start somewhere anyway, right? It’s all I have.”
“Thank you,” Hopper said graciously. “Would you like to come with us while we keep looking for more supplies?”
Belle the Cow
The brown barn stood tall next to the pigpen and the troupe of five animals headed inside to see what other animals would chip in to their horticultural rescue mission. Belle the Cow stood at the far end of the stables, repeatedly ringing the bell she wore around her neck with a dazed, long-forgotten smile on her face. At her feet, she also tapped a large pile of other bells with one hoof, sending bells loudly crashing into each other with each knock.
“Belle,” Hopper cried out over the carillon cacophony. “Belle the cow, we need your help!”
Belle continued to ring her bells as if stuck in a trance, staring listlessly out a small hole that had formed in the rotten wood of the barn’s wall. Through the hole, the sun was setting over a line of trees on the farm’s horizon.
“Belle? Are you alright?”
The cow remained silent and stoic until the chicken crowed loudly, stealing the bovine’s attention away from both the window-hole and the ringing bell around her neck.
“Oh,” she said, stumbling in place to turn towards the animals gathered at her pen. “What do you want?”
“Belle, the farm is dying. The crops aren’t growing and the coyotes are eating what does grow, coming and going through broken fences and wreaking havoc on what little left our farmers have, in both time and resources. We’re all pooling our resources together to fix it all and save our future.
“Charlie the chicken here is donating eggs from his pen to make into glue to use with wood from Paul the pig’s sty. It’s not enough to fix the full fence or all of the barn, but at least it’s a start. Hearing your bells when we came in gave me a great idea: would you donate them to the farm so we can hang them on the fences to keep coyotes at bay? I don’t know if it’ll scare them off, but at least we’ll know they’re coming and can scare them off ourselves.”
Belle slipped back into her stupor, ringing her pile of bells again as she stared dolefully down at them.
“No,” she said flatly.
“No, you can’t have my bells. They’re mine. I collected them and I’m not giving them away to some strangers just because they want them. I’ll tell you what, though; if you want it, you can have the shit off my floor. To help the crops grow.”
“If I might interject,” the chicken interjected, sticking his head between the wooden planks of the stable door, “I might point out that everyone here is clearly struggling and your bells would go to great lengths to improve the lives of us all.”
“I’m not struggling,” Belle responded. “Take a look around. Do you think coyotes come in here? I’m doing just fine on my own.”
The squirrel climbed to the top of the fence and squealed, “It’s our duty to help others.”
“Oh yeah? What did you donate to this great cause?”
The squirrel fell silent and hopped down as Hopper tried to calm the situation down: he thanked Belle for the manure and asked one last time if she was sure she couldn’t give anything more.
“You know, I don’t have to give anything at all,” Belle huffed. “Is my charity not enough for you?”
The pig stepped forward to poke his head through a hole in the fence and groaned. “You know, we can see you have the bells to spare. We appreciate the manure, but we all chipped in more than just our scraps.” He added, “I sacrificed my sty’s fencing for wood. All of it.”
“And look at all the good it did, if you’re still asking me for more.”
The fox slipped through the pack of animals and cleared his throat loudly, then genially coaxed, “Belle, Belle, Belle, darling. You know, if you hadn’t hoarded those bells in the first place, we’d have been able to gather them ourselves. We’d fix the gate and you’d be none the wiser, yet you’d still benefit. You hoarding them does nothing for any of us.”
“Gee, thanks,” Belle responded sardonically. “You have no clue why I collect these bells. I’ve never even seen half of you, ever, in my entire life here. None of you have shared in my struggles, nor will you ever. I stand here — in this exact spot , because where else can I go? — day after day, agonizing over the prison we’re in. And you all want to ‘fix’ it? To make it better?
“No, I’ll have no part in that. These bells are my escape. They mean the world to me because they remind me of someone I loved who managed somehow to escape this hellhole, and I probably wouldn’t even part with them if y’all happened to have a good cause. But you don’t, so I guess I don’t need to even think about it. Take your shit and go.”
Part III: Fixing the farm
With what they could collect, the animals got to work fixing their farm. The chicken donated hundreds of eggs over the next couple of weeks before he disappeared, and the resulting glue mixture combined with a complete dismantling of the pigsty allowed the animals to mend some of the perimeter fence’s worst spots. The humans replaced the wooden pigsty barriers almost immediately, even though the dumb pigs never left their mud pits.
The manure did, in fact, help the crops grow. Daisy the squirrel had graciously offered to both collect it from Belle’s pen and to spread it into the fields. While collecting the manure from underneath a sleeping Belle one day, Daisy made off with two bells that had been lost in the hay and droppings without the old cow noticing. The animals attached the stolen bells to the fence at the remaining coyote hotspots and found that they did, in fact, deter the wild pests. Three times the animal troupe returned to the stables to beg Belle for her bells to cover the rest of the broken fencing, and three times the cow turned them down.
Eventually, the cow’s tenure at the farm ended and the rabbit and his friends raided her empty stable, finding a stash of over a hundred bells jammed into an old mouse hole in the barn wall. With those bells covering almost the entire boundary of the farm, the coyotes ceased trespassing almost entirely and the newly fertilized crops were able to grow uninterrupted until time took its toll on the fencing and barn and crops once again and the same problems crept up for the next generation of animals to urgently fix.