The Fable of the
Ducks and the Hens

G. Rockwell

 

Many many years ago,
When animals could speak,
A wondrous thing the ducks befell.
Their tale is quite unique.

Down by a pond dwelt all these ducks
Ten thousand at the least.
Their duckish joys were undisturbed
By any man or beast.

One day near the entrance gate
there was an awful din.
A hundred hens all out of breath
Were begging to come in.

"Oh let us in!" the poor birds cried.
"Before we do expire!"
" 'Tis only by the merest inch
"That we escaped the fire!"

Their feathers burned, their combs adroop,
They were the saddest sight.
They'd run a hundred miles or more,
All day and then all night.

"Come in! Come in!" the ducks all quack.
"For you our hearts do bleed!
We'll share our happy lot with you.
Just tell us what you need!"

And so these poor bedraggled hens
Amongst the ducks moved in.
"For, after all," the ducks declared.
"We're sisters 'neath the skin."

Before too many months had passed.
The hens were good as new.
They sent for all their rooster friends.
And these were welcomed too.

To please their hosts, these chickens tried
To waddle and to quack
To simulate the duckish ways
They quickly learned the knack.

This pleased the flock of ducks because
It gratified their pride.
But hear my tale and learn how they
Got taken for a ride.

The ducks, it seemed, spent all their time
 in fixing up the place,
In growing food and building homes
And cleaning every space.

They asked the hens what they would do
To earn their daily bread.
"We'll teach and write and entertain,
And buy and sell," they said.

And so these hens began to teach
The baby ducks and chicks.
They traded food and eggs and things.
With many clever tricks.

They wrote great books and put on shows.
Of genius they'd no lack.
It wasn't long till chickens owned
The Duckville Daily Quack.

One day a mother duck who took
Her ducklings to the lake,
Was flabbergasted when one said,
"A swim I will not take!"

"Why ducklings always swim!" she gasped.
"It's what you're built to do!"
"Like bunnies hop, and crickets chirp,
"And cows most always moo!"

"You're NUTS!" her little son replied,
"That stuff is all old hat!"
"It's wrong for birds to swim. . .besides,'
"It's damn cold on my pratt!"

"Oh Lie!" the mother duck exclaimed,
"You're talking like a fool!"
Up quacked the other ducks and said,
"He's right! We learned in school!

"Such things must stop!" the mother cried,
"Those hens can't teach such lies!
"For sheer ingratitude and nerve,
"I'm sure this takes the prize!"

But she was wrong, for even then
The hens did thump the tub,
Demanding they be let into
The "Duckville Swimming Club"

"But you don't swim!" the ducks exclaimed,
"To join, why should you care?"
"That's not the point!" the hens replied,
"To exclude us isn't fair!"

The younger ducks, who'd been to school,
Agreed right there and then,
"To keep them out is Bigotry!'
"Twould just be anti-hen!"

Outnumbered by the younger ducks,
The old ducks soon did lose;
They agreed to let the hens all in,
If they would pay the dues.

That night the Duckville Daily Quack
Contained this banned spread:
"Reactionary Ducks are Licked!"
"Duckville Moves Ahead!"

Down at the Duckville Gaity,
The younger set laughed with glee,
At cracks about "Old 'FUDDY' ducks"
In burlesque repartee.

Next day the hens were at the club;
A petition they'd sent round.
They objected to the swimming fund
With fury and with sound.

"You use our dues to fix the pond,
"To keep it neat and trim.
"And this is wrong, "they said, "because
"You know we do not swim!"

"God help us!" cried a wise old duck,
"These chickens have gone mad!"
"We'll take this thing to court, by George!
"And justice will be had!"

But when they went up to the judge,
Imagine their dismay!
A chicken-judge decreed that they
A heavy fine must pay!

"Minorities must have their rights!"
The judge declared right then.
"To use Hen's dues to fix the pond
"Is very Anti-Hen!"

Once more the Duckville Daily Quack
Emblazoned 'cross the page:
"Old Foggy Ducks Refuse to See
"The Great New Coming Age!"

In Duckville's Church on Sunday morn,
The preacher spoke these words,
"Discrimination's got to stop!"
Remember, we're all birds!"

The wisest duck in all the town
Sat down in black despair.
"I'll write a book," he thought, and then
"This madness I will bare!"

"Let swimmers swim, let hoppers hop
"Let each one go his way.
"Let none coerce a fellow bird!"
Was what he had to say.

"Twere wrong to force the hens to swim,
"So here's the problem's crux;
"It's just as bad for hens to try
"To chicken-ize our ducks!"

"I can't print that," the printer said.
"Twill put me in a mess!
"My shop is mortgaged to the hens.
"The chickens own my press!"

This worried duck then tried to warn
His friends by speech and pen.
But young ducks fresh from school just jeered
"He's a vicious ANTI-HEN!"

Now up the stream a little way
Was Gooseville on the lake.
The hens had come to Gooseville too.
But the geese were more awake.

When the hens began to spoil the young.
And Gooseville's laws to flout
The Geese rose up in righteous wrath'
And simply threw them out.

Of course you know where they all ran:
On Duckville they converged.
"We've got to take these refugees."
Was what the hens all urged.

The Duckville Daily Quack declared
"These geese will stop at nought!"
"They plan to conquer all the world!
"Atrocities they've wrought!"

"That's right!" the young ducks all agreed
"We'll help our fellow birds!
"These Geese have plans to conquer us!
".. .We've read the Quack's own words!"

They let the hens from Gooseville in.
The whole bedraggled pack.
And every hen took up a job.
On Duckville's Daily Quack!"

When Duckville's mayor's term was up
The Quack put up its duck:
A vain and stupid duck was he
A veritable cluck!

But when he praised the wild young ducks
And cursed the evil geese.
The Quack declared he was "all-wise."
His praise would never cease.

The hens chipped in to help this cluck
Give grain away for free.
The old ducks sadly shook their heads
The writing they could see.

And, sure enough, this stupid duck.
He was elected mayor.
From this point on the Duckville ducks
They never had a prayer.

The Mayor said, "Gooseville must GO!"
"We'll wipe them off the map!"
While Duckville slept, the scheming hens
For Gooseville set a trap.

They called the geese by filthy names
They filled their pond with sticks
They helped the weasels catch the geese
And other hennish tricks.

The geese got mad they threw some rocks.
"It's WAR!" the Quack announced.
"We ducks must FIGHT those evil Geese
"Till they've been soundly trounced!"

The ducks (who knew not of the tricks
Indulged in by the mayor).
Were filled with "patriotic" zeal.
And pitched right in for fair!"

Now when the ducks had whipped the geese.
The Mayor called "Retreat!"
"Our HENVILLE friends should really take
"Gooseville's big main street!"

The hens were back in Gooseville now
They starved and beat the Geese.
They prayed for "Peace". . but organized
The "Henville Armed Police!"

They drained the Gooseville swimming pond.
They "De-Gooseified" the schools:
They wrung the neck of Gooseville's mayor
On lately made-up rules.

They formed a council of the hens:
"UNITED BIRDS" the name.
The other birds who joined the thing
Did not perceive the game.

No sooner had they set this up.
Than they announced their plan
To seize Swanville as a home
For all their hennish clan.

They took a vote amongst the hens
And everyone approved!
"Swanville was for HENS!" they said.
"Way back, before we moved."

And so they kicked the swans all out
With Duckville's help and power.
And Duckville couldn't understand
Why swans on them turned sour.

By this time, Duckville was a mess.
The young ducks had gone mad.
They stole and laughed at truth and law
They went completely "bad".

The hens were selling Loco Weed
in every nasty den.
But ducks who dared to mention this
Were labelled "ANTI-HEN."

The hens all preached of "tolerance."
They invoked the "Golden Rule."
But they subsidized the indigent.
The greedy and the fool.

At last the very dumbest ducks
Began to smell a rat.
"This mayor is no good!" they cried.
"And we will soon fix that!"

But the hens had planned for even this
A candidate they had
Whom even wise old ducks believed
Just never could be bad.

This Hen-tool duck had whipped the Geese.
A soldier Duck was he.
Although the hens had set him up.
The Ducks all thought him free

This Hen-tool got elected,
Through ignorance and greed,
Through hennish lies in press and speech
Through bribes of "chicken feed."

The hens now kicked the ducks around
Without a blush of shame.
Until the mayor ran the town
In nothing else but name.

They pumped the swimming pond all dry
They taught the ducks to crow.
While duckish numbers dwindled.
The hens' began to grow.

The hens stirred up the happy crows
From out the piney wood.
To fight to mix and marry ducks
In the name of "Brotherhood!".

Things got so bad that fifty ducks
Who knew of days gone by
Took up their wives and children.
And decided that they'd fly.

They flew through storm and tempest
They froze, and many died.
But on they drove, until, at last
A lovely lake they spied.

They settled down exhausted.
But soon went straight to work
To build and clear and cultivate.
No danger did they shirk.

Now after many years of toil,
This little band had grown.
The fields around were full of grain
From seeds that they had sown.

The first ducks now were long since dead
Their struggles long had ceased.
Through hard work and suffering
Their joys had been increased.

One day down near the entrance gate
There was an awful din:
A hundred hens, all out of breath
Were begging to come in.

"Oh, let us in!" these poor birds cried
"Before we do expire!"
" 'Tis only by the merest inch. . .

This epic really has no end because
no matter how you fight 'em.
Those HENS will show up EVERY TIME, and so. . ad infinitum.

 
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