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Authors: John Reed

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BOOK: Snowball's Chance
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Following the raising of the new flag, the animals proceeded to the back of the barnhouse, where more changes had been put in place for them. Most of the animals side-stepped, though they had not been strictly instructed to do so.

Here, there were several gulps and exclamations. (“Welladay!” and “Gracious to goodness!” said the geese.) And, as was becoming a regular occurrence in these surprising times, two of the sheep fainted.

The bronze statue of Napoleon, which for the longest
of times had replaced the skull of Old Major, was no-place to be seen.

“Wh-wh-where,” stuttered the frightened animals, “is the protector of the sheepfold, the duckling’s friend, the Godfather of geese?”

“Friends,” said Snowball, “it is true that Napoleon was a great Leader.” Snowball turned to the pigs, “It is true that he was the paradigm of pigs.” Snowball turned to the dogs, “It is true that he was the terror of mankind.” And here, Snowball turned to all, “But it is also true that his foremost commitment was that nothing should get in the way of your living the goodest, fullest lives.”

“Goodest, fullest lives,” repeated the sheep.

“And yes,” said Snowball, “now is a time when our lives can be gooder, and fuller. Napoleon’s time, that’s the past—while now is a time for the future. And we must not hesitate—for Napoleon would not hesitate. No, Napoleon would not hesitate to sacrifice anything—to give you that gooderest, fullerest life. No, Napoleon would not even hesitate—to sacrifice himself!”

“No, not even himself,” mewled Norma ecstatically, carried away by the moment.

“Well,” concurred Snowball, casting Norma a sympathetic eye, “I too will sacrifice anything for you, as would Minimus or Pinkeye or Brutus—just because we love you. Anything—for your own good.”

At this, there was a cheer. “For our own good, for our own good,” repeated the sheep.

And just like that, Napoleon and his days were pretty well forgotten—and that, perhaps, was the objective. What’s more, in days to come, it would often altogether slip an animal’s mind that he or she was led by anyone.
It would seem, ever increasingly, that what he or she did was by his or her own design.

With the broad sweep of a white muslin sheet pulled away from the side of the barn, Snowball pointed dramatically to the new Commandment—

All animals are born equal—what they become is their own affair

Yes, yes, all nodded their heads with collective assurance—that seemed fair enough. What we become is our own affair, each of them thought, confident that on a level playing field they could be enormously successful. So … fair enough! The pigs nodded. The dogs nodded. And all of the animals nodded. Why, it was a miracle! Except for old Benjamin, who wasn’t nodding, it seemed that everyone, truly, was in complete accord!

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes—it was entirely obvious that Snowball really had learned a great deal out there in the village!

To conclude the Meeting, it was additionally revealed that the old portrait of Napoleon had been replaced—this time with the image of some hard-working horse named Boxer, whom nobody but the pigs, and presumably, Benjamin remembered. It certainly was a moving depiction, however, and several noticed that Benjamin was not just teary-eyed, but positively sobbing at the sight of it. In the rendering, the brave horse pulled a cart of stone up an endless slope.…

In an unscheduled issuance, Snowball had the dogs tear down a final white sheet, to reveal an ode to Animal Farm that he had written to replace the now obsolete,
Founding Father Napoleon
. The ode was called,
All Animals Eat Pie

You may disagree on a bed or a sty

You may be annoyed when your food’s full of flies

But never ask, “why’s that manger better than mine?”

’Cause they worked really hard, and we all like pie

The change was a surprise to all. (“Halloo!” cried the sheep.) And even Minimus, the author of the original poem,
Founding Father Napoleon
, seemed caught off guard. At first, the Prize Pig appeared to prickle, and pucker—but then he had on his face something sort of resembling approval (albeit a twisted and tense approval). After all, it was a premise hard to refute—everyone did like pie.

At the next Sunday Meeting, Snowball presented Minimus’s “architecture for a better future.” He explained that out there in the village, one learned that there was nothing wrong with humans—and there was nothing wrong with living with them, or like them. To be perfectly frank, stated Snowball, in a village full of humans, it was probably “a good idea” to live with them, and like them. And when an animal heard it said that the prosperity of the one was the prosperity of the other—well, it could sometimes be a lie, but it could also be the truth. Because really, when one thought about it, the prosperity of animals was the prosperity of men, and the prosperity of men was the prosperity of animals. As long as the two lived together in the same village—their fortunes were utterly dependent on one another. And one might as well
face up to it. Men and animals together in Willingdon. Yes, perhaps in competition, but also in fraternity.

Basic instruction in walking on two legs and wearing clothes would commence first thing Monday morning, said Snowball. And the animals supposed that, probably, there wasn’t anything wrong with walking on two legs or wearing clothes. They had all seen the pigs walking and wearing clothes for years. It just looked like it might put a little strain on the lower back, and be a little cramped—that was all.

For many years, said Snowball, sharing his history, he had been a student of the goat by his side, whom he called Thomas, as well as something broader, which he called “the village out there.” He had seen something called “economy,” and having analyzed this systemization of resources, he had arrived, with Thomas’s help, at a plan to revitalize the farm. And at this juncture he hesitated, suggesting that perhaps now it would be better to let Thomas himself take over. And Snowball preceded his yielding of the animal audience by introducing Thomas the goat as the most educated animal he had ever met, or even heard of. Upon him, this goat had been conferred the degrees of Doctor, Lawyer, Architect, and Engineer.

Taking his place on the soapbox, Thomas addressed the barnhouse. His elocution was so very sophisticated and genteel that many of the animals—dumbstruck—suddenly forgot to close their mouths, snouts, or beaks. Nobody had ever heard an animal talk like that.

“Dear me, thoroughly an honor to be so introduced by my esteemed colleague, Snowball, Animal Hero First Class. To address this issue of ‘betterness,’ inclusive of tomorrow and tomorrow’s tomorrow, and naturally,
inclusive of all of you, and tomorrow’s all of you, I can, I am perfectly positive—and I say this without qualification, hesitation, or prevarication—provide the manner of your deliverance. I propose to you an electrical generator, which will light your stalls, warm your stalls, cool your stalls, plough your fields, seed your fields, reap/bind/sort your crops, milk your udders, knead your bread, and slice your turnips.”

There were gasps from all corners—this seemed too good to be possible.

“Also,” the goat drawled, “I assure you that I will furnish every stall with hot and cold water!”

Four sheep fell on their sides—two cooperative steers dragged them outside for a breath of fresh air.

“But how?” asked Norma for the entire barn.

To answer, Snowball thanked Thomas and resumed his place on the soapbox—

“Windmills. Two of them. And these will not only be much easier to build than the one we already have—they’ll run much more efficiently. With the help of Thomas, Doctor, Architect, Engineer and Lawyer, we’ll be finished in two months’ time.” (Another sheep passed out.) And the following morning, while the animals attended their first classes on walking and wearing clothes, Thomas and the pigs began to draft the plans for the Twin Mills.


MOSES THE RAVEN DID NOT MISS A SINGLE Sunday Meeting—though none of the animals could tell when Moses might come or go throughout the rest of the week, or where he spent his nights on those nights he did not remain on the farm. Nor did any of the other animals know that following every Sunday Meeting, Moses flew over the hayfield, over the orchard, over the pond, and came to the arch of the stream, far beyond the reach of the pigs—and from there, crossed into the Woodlands, to the encampment of the beavers.

Animal Farm was sandwiched between Foxwood Farm, to the west, and Pinchfield Farm, to the east. To the north lay the road—to the south, the Woodlands. The borders of the three farms extended well into the Woodlands—to the top of a rocky undulation of forest that was too big to call a hill, and too small to call a mountain. A stream, as it ran down the slope of the uncultivatable land, looped through Foxwood, Animal Farm, and Pinchfield—and then, as it reached plowed ground, swung back, this time through Pinchfield, Animal Farm, and Foxwood. By this common water source, the three farms were forever embraced—the one unriskable betrayal, an interruption of the water supply. As each farm owned its individual up-river portion of the Woodlands,
should any one farm cut off water to any other, that cutoff farm would immediately retaliate by cutting off the water source of the aggressor. The final outcome of such a conflict being a triad of dry fields, the farms always managed to cooperate on the matter of the stream. This cooperative even went so far as to jointly monitor the all-important flow down the useless Woodlands hump.

Aside from a bit of trapping on the part of Pinchfield and Foxwood, the only benefit the Woodlands seemed to offer was the satisfaction won from occasionally clearing a beaver dam with a bit of dynamite. This was a small matter to the farms, attended with the casual stick—and outside the gratified guffaw of a job well done, nobody gave it much thought. On Animal Farm, few outside the pigs were even aware of the operations. The sporadic kablooeys spooked the horses—but they were calmed once it was explained that the brook had just been cleared of an obstruction, and that the water in their troughs would be colder and fresher in a matter of no time at all.

The beavers, however, to whom Moses returned after the Sunday Meetings, were not nearly so blithe about the destruction of their dams. The leader of the beavers—who had come to power with the promise that he would return control of the water supply to the beaver paw, where it belonged—was Diso. Forced from their lodges (where, under the threat of dynamite, only the most immobile and helpless creatures dared continued habitation) Diso and his troops were bunkered deep underground—in dens built by field squirrels, moles and rabbits.

As difficult as it was in the Woodlands to just scrape by without having to do anything extra, those field squirrels, moles and rabbits hadn’t much appreciated the extensive
excavating required to develop the beaver burrows. And yet, when the order to dig had been given down, it had been followed, as the more militant beavers commanded a total dominion in the Woodlands. The Woodlands animals, who had been hunted and trapped for so long, thirsted for a leadership that could satiate their anger, and perhaps even reckon with the evils of “farmland.” It might be true, they all agreed, that the beavers were possibly a little too forceful—but to the spring-traps of the previous season, the deer had lost four doe, a buck, and two fawns, and the rabbits had lost twenty, and the ducks had lost four, and the voles had lost seven, and the pheasants had lost five, and the squirrels had lost six, and the mice had lost two, and the moles had lost one. And the newts, frogs and toads had lost forty-seven to that evil incarnate, Bilby Pilkington, son to the owner of the Foxwood farm—a boy of eleven with a penchant for arming his slingshot with live amphibians. The Woodlands animals needed protection, and if the beavers were a little too fervent, a little too excitable, well, it was just the way the cricket crunched.

“What have you for me?” Diso lifted his head from heavy books and worn blueprints when the raven crept into the candlelit den—

“What word do you deliver, my herald Moses?”

Much unlike his status on Animal Farm, in the Woodlands (where Animal Farm was more commonly known as the “Pig Farm”), the raven Moses had been raised to a status of semi-divinity. Once Moses had explained to the newly empowered beavers that ravens lived for 300 years, and that he himself was 200 and therefore remembered the greatness of long-ago days when beavers ruled
the village—well then, the beavers bestowed upon Moses a state of holy grace. A state, to Moses, of the most exquisite bliss. A state, moreover, of that rarest optimism—perhaps, he thought, if the beavers really were to control the village, he would always receive this lauding, which he so rightly, and obviously obviously obviously deserved. And in return for this ecstasy, Moses had imparted to the beavers the old knowledge (from the Age of Beavers) as he himself remembered it. The herald had restored to the beavers the tenets of the Ancient Beaver Code, which disallowed, specifically, any indulging in lemon meringue pies, and, more generally, any indulging in pies, period. So, as a matter of course, Diso was intensely concerned when Moses reported the new Pig Farm credo, “We all like pie,” as it was undoubtedly a threat to the Ancient Beaver Code, if not, indeed, a direct assault on it.

Diso was a firm believer in the Ancient Beaver Code, and he followed it dutifully. He brushed his body fur to the left, and his tail fur to the right, four times a day—as did the followers of the Ancient Beaver Code from the time when beavers ruled the village and all was good. Also, as was the way of the pure European beaver (and Diso himself was a fine specimen of that rare genus,
Castor fiber
), he always walked on four legs—as did every other animal in the Woodlands. Only the birds walked on two legs, and there had been some discussion of requiring them—if they were absolutely determined to insist on walking—to drag their wingtips as they did so.

For the beavers, whose minds had been so yearning for this historical perspective now offered by Moses, it was almost inconceivable that back on the “Piggery” their
herald raven was considered at best a clown or a liar, and at worst, a bore. The beavers couldn’t understand that the animals on the Pig Farm had just, over the years, tired of the over-familiar raven, and grown to distrust him. Not to say the farm animals wouldn’t have liked a new raven, if one arrived—they held no grudges against any species. It was just Moses they were sick of. But from the perspective of the beavers, this thinly veiled antagonism to Moses, an invaluable source of spiritual wisdom and deeper understanding, meant only one thing—the animals on the farm were nincompoops.

BOOK: Snowball's Chance
3.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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