Tag Archives: Oddsborough Farm

Oddsborough Farm – Shaymus

All of the animals who came to Oddsborough Farm came there because they were different. Sometimes, this could cause problems. One day, Mary Mu-Kau and Sue R. Rat went to visit a new arrival from all the way over in Ireland.

“He’s a Galway ram,” Mary said, looking up at Sue who was riding between her two short horns, “Galway is on the western side of Ireland. There are many claims that these sheep are the only breed to come out of Ireland, but there is a lot of discussion on the topic.”

“Very interesting,” Sue replied, “Do you think he’ll speak with an Irish brogue?”

“I don’t doubt it,” Mary smiled her little cow smile as the truck pulled up. That smile soon disappeared, however, when Shaymus Woolworthy stepped out.

“Oh my…” Sue gasped.

Galway sheep are almost always white, but Shaymus wasn’t, not at all. Shaymus had dyed his wool bright blue, and both of his spotted ears were full of piercings. He had dark circles under his eyes, a scowl on his muzzle, and he looked at everyone like they had just said something very nasty about him.

“Which one of you is in charge?” he said in a deep and very gruff voice.

“Well, we both are,” Mary tried her best to be cheerful, “and we’d both like to welcome to Oddsborough Farm, Shaymus!”

“Huh, I guess.”

He started walking away, and both Mary and Sue tried to keep up.

“Aren’t you going to say something?” Mary whispered to Sue.

“I don’t know what to say, Mary!” Sue whispered back.

“This place… Huh. Not much to look at, is it?” Shaymus said as they approached one of the barns, “kinda small, a little dirty…”

“Well, um… we think it’s very nice,” Mary said.

“Huh.”

Mary and Sue tried showing Shaymus the cafeteria, the beds, and even the performance space where the animals would sing and dance and tell jokes on Saturday nights, but all Shaymus would say was:

“Huh.”

Finally, Sue found the courage to say something.

“Shaymus?”

“Yeah?”

“Can I say something?”

“Aren’t you already?”

“Oh, um… well, are you unhappy?”

“I’m not really anything.”

“You sound unhappy.”

“Everyone says you should be happy, but I don’t get it. I’d rather just be… me.”

“Oh, I know how that goes,” Sue replied with a squeaky laugh, “If you can believe it, I own this farm, and–”

“I know all about you,” Shaymus said tiredly, “You’re a sewer rat from the city who owns a business.”

“Why, yes!” Sue puffed up a little with pride, “I see you’ve heard of my unique situation!”

“It’s not that unique,” Shaymus shot back, “Lots of rats live out in the fields, or forests, and make their own way without scavenging. It’s nothing different, what you, really.”

Sue deflated like a balloon someone had sat on.

“I, uh… I need to go check on my remittances.”

And with that, she scampered down Mary’s front leg and shot off for the farmhouse like a bullet. Mary took an uneasy breath as Shaymus spoke again.

“I know I can upset people, but I just have to say what I’m feeling.  I don’t ever let anything stand in the way of being myself.”

“Well, this is definitely the place for that to happen!” Mary piped up. Maybe this is my chance, she thought to show him how great this place is!

It didn’t go well.

“This is Percy. He’s our team lead for farm labor projects.”

“Nice to meet you, Shaymus!” Percy smiled a big, horsey smile.

“Percy is actually quite unique for a Percheron stallion,” Mary said proudly, “He’s an accomplished dancer and dressage performer!”

“It’s true!” Percy said, showing off a few moves for the new arrival.

“Huh,” Shaymus replied, “A dancing horse isn’t all that different. You’re just bigger.”

Percy could only stand there, flat-hooved, as Mary lead Shaymus away quickly, and quite embarrassed. But, she was determined to find something to impress the cantankerous ram.

“This is Henny,” Mary tried again, “Unlike our other chickens, Henny is very shy and quiet. She’s coming into her own as a poet, though!”

“I’ve seen shy chickens before,” Shaymus muttered, “What makes you so special?”

Henny could only stammer quietly in response.

“Huh,” Shaymus scoffed, and began to walk away. Mary apologized furiously to Henny, and then struggled to keep up.

“So!” she began, “you sure like to tell it like it is, huh?”

“I’m truly different,” Shaymus said with a small amount of pride, “Most of the time, when someone says they’re being different, it’s just for show. They don’t have what it takes to be like me. I don’t care if that upsets people, that’s just the way it is.”

He stopped in his tracks and caught Mary by surprise. Then, he stared her down with his intense, dark eyes.

“Have you ever seen other sheep? All white and fluffy, and they’ll do anything anyone tells them to do. Us Galways, we’re expected to be the best of the best, but I don’t follow along with the crowd. I got sent here because no farm in Ireland could handle me… and I bet this one can’t, either.”

“Hmmm,” Mary thought for a moment, “well, what if I could introduce you to an animal that really was different, as you say? Would that convince you Oddsborough is the place for you”

“That’d be pretty tough,” Shaymus snorted, “I’m a realist.”

He sure likes to talk about himself, Mary thought, but I bet I can prove something to him with Patience!

“Oh. A skinny pig. Well, yeah… are you a mixed breed, then?”

“Yes I am!” Patience was stunned, “How did you know that?”

“You’re probably mixed with a non-commercial breed. It makes you smaller. That’s all. No big deal.”

Patience wrinkled her snout at the comment.

“Well,” she said, “I wouldn’t say being classified by the ALBC as ‘critically rare’ is no big deal…”

“But that’s only part of you, right?”

“Well, yes, but…”

“So I’m 100% Galway ram, Ireland’s only recognized native sheep. You’re just mixed. You’re not so special.”

“Okay!” Mary interrupted quickly, “let’s go see if your room is set up, Shaymus!”

She knew she had to get him out of there, and fast. Patience looked like she wanted to make a bright blue sweater out of him.

“Huh,” Shaymus sighed, “Whatever.”

By the end of the day, Mary was so frustrated she was ready to pickle her own tongue. She met with Sue at the farmhouse that night for two big mugs of apple cider.

“I can’t do it, Sue!” Mary wailed, “He’s going to drive us all batty!”

She turned to one of the bats perched on the windowsill outside.

“No offense, Clarence.”

“None taken,” said the bat.

“I don’t know how you did it, Mary,” Sue said with a sigh, “after five minutes with him, I couldn’t tell if I wanted to run away and cry or stew him into mutton. It reminds me of how rude those rats used to be to me back in the city.”

“But we made a promise, didn’t we Sue?” Mary asked, “No matter who, any animal who didn’t fit in was welcome here at Oddsborough Farm. I can’t give up on Shaymus, even if he is annoying every other beast and bird out there.”

“Yeah, did you hear what he said to the other sheep? He said his wool was better because Galways are usually bred for meat, but his wool is still good enough to be woven, so that makes his even more unique. Can you believe it?”

“There’s got to be a reason, Sue,” Mary said in a tone that surprised her, “I’m not ready to get tipped yet.”

Mary stayed up all night trying to think of some way to help Shaymus. She looked through every book in both her and Sue’s collection (and that was a lot!) until she finally found one called “Reverse Psychology.” Mary remembered how the other cows back in Warroad got angry at her for being so smart, and maybe if…

“That’s it!” Mary shouted triumphantly. Unfortunately, she shouted a little too loud scared Clarence right off his windowsill.

The next morning, Mary came by after breakfast to see how Shaymus was doing. Shaymus, of course, decided not to eat breakfast with everyone else.

“How was your night, Shaymus?”

“Huh.”

“You know what? You’re absolutely right. Turns out the barometric pressure was a little off last night, so it did feel a little strange. You’re so smart to recognize that!”

Shaymus blinked and, for the first time, was speechless.

“Uh… okay.”

And all through the day, Mary persisted, being as nice to Shaymus as she possibly could, even when he didn’t deserve it… which was often. Mary was a smart little heifer and knew all sorts of fascinating facts for each thing Shaymus said or did, it seemed. Strangely enough, the more Mary was nice, the more it made Shaymus upset. Finally, while Mary was congratulating him on choosing broccoli for dinner, Shaymus blew up.

“WHAT?!” he bellowed, staring at Mary. This time, his eyes weren’t dark and intense, but wild and confused.

“I don’t believe I said anything,” Mary said with a sweet smile.

“Why do you keep saying I’m right all the time?”

“Because you are.”

“No, I’m not!” Shaymus shouted, his voice starting to squeak, “I’m rude! I’m mean! I’m a jerk! I say things that make people mad! Nobody likes me!”

“I think you’re just wonderful, Shaymus.”

“NO YOU DON’T!”

“You have a very strong voice, Shaymus,” Mary smiled her little cow smile, “You must be very proud of it.”

“Stop saying good things about me! I’m supposed to be a bad guy!”

As soon as he said supposed, Mary knew she had him.

“Why?” she asked.

“BECAUSE….!”

Shaymus stopped dead in his tracks, his broccoli completely forgotten. He knew he couldn’t say what came into his head: about how he was so scared of being a mindless sheep that did whatever he was told, he went out of his way to upset things to prove he was unique. He knew it he started, he’d get upset, and he might even cry, and he might say something about how nice Mary was being, and people aren’t usually nice to him, and, and…

And just like that, Shaymus took off like a shot for his room. Mary settled into her dinner (and Shaymus’ broccoli) knowing that this would only be the first time they would lock horns. She knew Shaymus would come back tomorrow, even more determined to be the black sheep, and she would have to be ready for it with even more kindness.

Eventually she knew, just like all the animals at Oddsborough knew, that kindness would win the day.

Oddsborough Farm – Patience

Patience Pellerin came to Oddsborough Farm in the early fall from a farm down in Louisiana. She shivered a little on her first morning there, which proved to be much colder than she was used to.  Some of the other animals nodded their heads: they had some from Florida, California… even the desert in Arizona, so they understood how chilly a New York October could be.

Especially because, as many of them noticed, Patience was a very skinny pig.

She was just as tall as the other gilts on the farm, and just as long, but she was so much thinner that some of the other lady pigs started to worry. Nearly every morning after breakfast, a particularly gossipy group of sows would get together and talk around the water trough.

“Do you think she’s all right?” asked a large Chester White.
“What do you think could be the matter?” wondered a Berkshire.
“You don’t suppose she just doesn’t like eating?!” gasped a Red Wattle.
“If you ask me,” said a cranky old Duroc, “it’s all because of the way pigs look on television!”

And so, Mary Mu-Kau woke up one morning to see a small army of gilts, sows, and even a few piglets outside her door. Mary rolled her eyes and tried her best to get the her messy morning hair out of her eyes

“What is it this time?”

Some of these lady pigs were very well known for their gossip, almost as much as the hen house: Pigs spend so much time in the mud, it only seems natural that they’d always be digging into things. Whether it was the news of a new delivery of apples or a rumor that someone had been sneaking into the cornfields for a midnight snack, Mary knew that a group of pigs outside her room was never a good thing.

“It’s that new one,” the Berkshire said, “the one from last week?”

“Do you mean Patience?” Mary asked.

“Yes, that’s the one!” the Red Wattle chimed in, “we’re very worried about her!”

“Not worried enough to find out her name, I suppose?” Mary asked. Several piggy heads sunk in shame.

“Be that as it may,” the Chester White continued, “We couldn’t help but notice that the new pig… Patience… she looks like she might be having some trouble.”

“She does?” Mary’s ears perked up a little, “I haven’t noticed that. We’ve been having lunch together as I welcome her in, she seems to be very happy here.”

“Are you sure?” asked the Chester White.

“Yes,” said Mary.

“You’ve had lunch with her?” asked the Red Wattle.

“Yes,” said Mary again.

“And she was eating?” asked the Berkshire.

“Of course she was!” Mary said with a snort. “What an odd question to ask! What kind of pig doesn’t like to eat?”

“Well, that’s what we’re here to find out!” shouted the old, red Duroc.

Mary hung her head and wondered exactly why she found herself in the position of conflict-resolution-cow.

“Look, I think you’re all making too much of a deal out of this,” she said after a sigh, “go off to breakfast and be sure to be ready to work: we’ve got a big shipment of apples coming in this afternoon.”

“I knew it!” shouted a pig in the back. Mary groaned a little and went back into the farmhouse. Later that morning, Mary was pleased to see Patience sitting contentedly at breakfast, munching on a cob of corn.

“Thank goodness,” Mary muttered to herself, “I’m sure glad that’s over. Anyone can see that Patience is doing just…”

But before Mary could finish that sentence, the Berkshire walked over and gave Patience some of her own breakfast. Patience looked confused, but said “thank you” all the same. Right behind the Berkshire came the Chester White, who plopped a big, shiny, red apple right on top of Patience’s breakfast, and after that the Red Wattle dropped what seemed like her entire breakfast portion onto Patience’s breakfast, covering it entirely.

Mary put a cloven hoof to her forehead and groaned again. Patience, now looking horribly embarrassed, sat there and ate every last bit, all while that old Duroc looked on, smiling through a pair of dentures that didn’t quite fit right.

Patience ended up being the last animal at breakfast, eating for what seemed like forever. Finally, at the bottom of the pile, Patience found her poor little cob of corn and forced it down, looking a little sick. Mary was shocked to still see her there.

“Patience! Oh my goodness, you don’t look so good.”

“No, no, Mary… it’s all right. I guess I just…”

She hiccuped so hard Mary was afraid she might explode.

“made a pig out of myself, ha ha…”

Patience looked so woozy Mary was afraid she might fall over. She helped the little pig back to her sty and Patience rolled over onto her side, groaning.

“Why on earth did you eat all of that, Patience?”

“I… I didn’t want to be rude…

“And don’t you think it was rude when those sows dumped all that food on you?”

“No, it’s all right. I understand what they mean. Pigs are supposed to be fat, I really should… I should eat more…”

“You eat just fine, Patience.”

“No, I had the same problem at my old farm. I just wasn’t… big enough. All of those other pigs… they were winning blue ribbons, state fair, magazine covers… try as I might, I just couldn’t get as big as them. I bet… I bet they all just want me to be happy, right?”

And for the next few days, the sows kept piling their food onto Patience’s trough, and Patience kept trying to eat it. By the end of the week, she could barely walk, and she sure couldn’t help with any of the work on the farm. Then, on Saturday, Mary woke up to a group of pigs outside her door again.

“Ugh!” she grunted, “Now what?”

“Patience is sick,” one of the young piglets said.

“Well of course she is!” Mary said with a snort, “You’ve been feeding her enough for an elephant all week!”

“We were only trying to help,” the Chester White said, her face in a piggy pout.

“What on Earth made you think THAT was helping?”

The Berkshire shuffled her trotters and looked ashamed.
“Well, it’s just that…well…”

All of the pigs replied at once: “Pigs are supposed to be fat.”

“Oh, for crying out…” Mary stamped her hoof, “Haven’t you ever noticed that I’m not as big as the other cows here at the farm?”

“Oh, I guess she is…” some of the pigs muttered amongst themselves.

“I’m a different kind of cow, that’s all. This is just how I was made. Patience may be thin, but it’s not like she doesn’t eat enough. I know you all meant well, but you were trying to make her look like something she isn’t.”

“Well, now what do we do?” asked the old, red Duroc.

“I think we’ll all walk over there and apologize to Patience… and maybe bring her a bicarbonate of soda.”

Patience looked a little green around the jowls, but the bicarbonate helped her feel much better… after a few big burps.

“We’re sorry, Patience,” the Berkshire shuffled on her trotters again, “we all had our heads clear in the mud.”

“No, it’s all right… I just wanted to be a big, fat, famous pig, but I suppose my mother was right.”

“What do you mean?” asked the Red Wattle.

“My mother always said my great-great-great-grandsow was a Choctaw hog, and that because of that we would always look different.”

“I knew it!” shouted a pig in the back.

“That’s part of the reason why she named me Patience. She’d always tell me to have patience: patience for where I am,  and patience for where I was going to be. I’m always wanting to do things right away, just like when you gave me all that food. I didn’t have the patience to say ‘not now,’ because I thought if I ate it all I might get fat and famous. But I know, even after all I’ve eaten this week, I’ll be skinny again on Monday.”

“You will?” asked the Chester White.

“Yes. You see, I’ve got a very strong metabolism.”

“I knew it!” shouted a pig in the back.

“So I guess I’ll just have to be patient, and maybe someday I can be the pig I always wanted to be… until then, I’ll have to ask that you be patient with me.”

“What would we need to be patient with you for, dearie?” asked the old Duroc.

“Patient with me on these cold northern mornings! I need a blanket!”

The pigs all oinked and squealed with laughter, as Mary looked on, smiling her little cow smile.

Oddsborough Farm – Henny

Henrietta Cluckenmeyer never got along with other chickens, even after she came to Oddsborough Farm. The hens were always off in their corner, clucking about this or that or what so-and-so did or didn’t do, and the roosters were always picking fights with each other. To Henny, just the idea of all of that clucking and crowing and squawking and screeching made her feathers ache. She was a chicken who wanted nothing more than to be alone in her nest with a  cup of corn silk tea. The rest of the chickens found this very odd, and every day it seemed like they paid attention to quiet little Henny less and less. Mary Mu-Kau saw this happening and started to worry about the short-legged little Bantam hen.

“Henny, is everything all right?” Mary asked one day after lunch.

“I think so,” Henny replied very quietly, “Have I done something wrong? I’m sorry.”

“There’s nothing to be sorry about, Henny. Why would you think you did something wrong?”

“Oh, it always happens,” Henny muttered. Mary could tell that she was upset, but was a little uncomfortable talking about it. But Mary was a clever cow, and she knew that sometimes, all you had to do was ask questions.

“What always happens?”

“I cause problems,” Henny hung her beak low.

“Like what?”

“Well… sometimes…”

“It’s OK. Henny,” Mary said gently, and smiled her little cow smile. To her surprise, Henny looked up at her, almost trembling.

“Are you sure? I don’t want to cause any problems.”

“You’re not causing any problems, Henny.”

“OK, well… I do want to be friendly… I really do… but every time I try to talk, they all look so upset and confused that I feel like I’m bothering them.”

“They’re probably just surprised you spoke to them, Henny,” Mary replied.

“But, but… they’re all having a good time, and I come in and start squawking, and then they look all upset.”

“They’re not upset, Henny. Remember, all of the animals here at Oddsborough Farm were once like you and me. They probably want to be your friend, but they just don’t know how.”

“I don’t know if I know how to be a friend, either,” Henny pouted, which is awfully hard to do with a chicken’s beak.

“Well…” Mary thought for a moment, “let’s think about this. Do you like cracked corn?”

“Oh, yes,” Henny fluffed up her feathers happily, “very much.”

“And do you like a good scratch in the dirt?”

“Of course!” Henny nodded, “Who doesn’t like a good henscratch?”

“And how about a nice, soft nest and a good nap on a spring afternoon?”

“Oh my, yes. That sounds wonderful.”

“That’s what I thought,” Mary nodded, “Follow me.”

They had only gone a few steps before Henny started to panic.

“We’re headed toward the chicken coop!”

“Of course we are,” Mary said, and kept walking. Henny hurried to keep up.

“But, but… all the hens are in there!” Henny’s soft voice nearly disappeared when she got frightened.

“How else are we going to make friends?” Mary asked.

“But, but… they’ll all laugh at me. They’ll make fun of me!”

“Why?”

That stopped Henny cold in her tracks.

“What do you mean, Mary?”

“When I say ‘why,’ I mean ‘why,’ Henny,” Mary said with her gentle little cow smile, “Why do you think they’ll laugh at you? Have they laughed at you before?”

“No…”

“Have they made fun of you before?”

“No, but…”

“Why do you think they will?”

“Because everyone always does!”

That was the loudest Mary had ever heard Henny squawk. Truth be told, it was the loudest Henny had ever heard herself squawk. Now it was Mary’s turn to be stopped in her hoofprints.

“People have picked on me ever since I was a little chick… because I was small, because I was quiet, because I liked to be alone… I moved to three different coops, but it was never any better. I was so miserable, I couldn’t even lay an egg, and that’s why… why…”

“That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”

“Yes.”

Mary stepped a little close to the little chicken and rubbed her muzzle up against Henny’s soft, fluffy feathers.

“Well, I’ll tell you what,” Mary said quietly, so quietly only Henny could hear, “If any of the chickens in this coop are mean to you… I’ll sit on them, one by one, and squash them into chicken mash!”

Henny wanted to give a squawk, but she was so surprised almost no noise came out!

“But, but… Mary!” she said in a terrified whisper, “Don’t do that! I’m sure it’s not their fault! It’s probably mine!”

“Henny, it’s not your fault,” Mary replied, “It’s not anyone’s fault here at Oddsborough that we’re different. It’s just how we are.”

“But, but…”

“No more buts!” Mary said finally, “now, just stay here and have a nice scratch; I’ll be back in a minute.”

Henny decided it was indeed a good time for a scratch, and at least it took her mind off things. Suddenly, though, she became aware that there was a second pair of feet scratching in the ground, and she looked up into the bright, giddy eyes of a Rhode Island Red.

“HI THERE, HENNY!” the red said with a big, chickeny smile.

Poor Henny squawked and lost her balance, dropping her tailfeathers in the dust. She was immediately picked back up and dusted off by reddish-colored wings as the bigger hen kept on clucking.

“Sorry about that, Henny, people are always saying I say HI too loud but I really like to say HI loud because I like to meet people and say HI to them and I want to show them that I’m happy to meet them and I want them to be happy to meet me so I say HI and…”

“That’s enough, Crowena.”

Henny looked past the grinning red hen to see Mary’s smiling face.

“Henny, this is Crowena Pinfeather. I asked the other chickens inside what they thought of you, and they all felt really bad about you being left out.”

“Yeah!” Crowena butted in, “like, I was sent here from my old farm because my old farmer said I clucked and crowed too much, but I don’t think I cluck and crow too much, do you?”

“Well… yes?” Henny whispered.

“HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!” Crowena cackled, “Henny, you’re the nicest little chick I’ve ever met, and even YOU tell me I need to tweak my beak! Maybe we could learn something from each other, huh?”

“R-really?”

“You bet!” Crowena laughed again, “You can teach me how to be quiet, and I can teach you how to talk the paint right off the side of a barn!”

“Oh, my… I don’t know if I want to do that!”

“Of course you do, it’ll be fun! C’mon, let me introduce you to the gals. Tell me, do you like corn silk tea?”

And the big, boisterous Red brought the little white Bantam into the coop to meet all of the other chickens. As she watched them go, Mary smiled, but it wasn’t a little cow smile this time, it was a big, happy, Crowena Pinfeather chickeny smile.

“Something tells me those two will be great friends.”

And then, Mary went off to help with the hay-cutting, because there was always work, work of all kinds, to be done at Oddsborough Farm.

Oddsborough Farm – Percy

Percival Whickerstaff was well known around Oddsborough Farm: he was the biggest, strongest, and hardest working animal, getting up early and working late. Sometimes, the other animals would be in bed and would be sent off to dreamland by the sound of his big, powerful hooves outside. When he wasn’t working, Percy was kind, friendly, and always willing to help out every animal on the farm.

Percy was everyone’s friend… but he had a secret.

Not long after Mary Mu-Kau started organizing Oddsborough Farm, she tried to talk to Percy about setting up a work schedule and organizing the chores. Mary didn’t think it was fair for some of the animals to do less work while Percy worked so hard. But every time Mary tried to talk to Percy, he was busy. So, so, busy. He would pull wagons into the orchards, use pulleys to lift heavy hay bales into the barn, haul lunch out of the kitchens for everyone to eat, and more. Every time Mary would ask:

“Percy, can I talk to you?”

Percy would respond:

“Gosh, Mary. I’d love to, but I’m a little busy.”

After getting to know most of the animals at Oddsborough Farm, Mary grew suspicious of Percy always being too busy to talk to her. And so, one night, after all of the other animals were asleep, Mary sneaked away from her bed and followed the sounds of Percy’s thundering hoofbeats. They were almost like music, Mary thought to herself, always thudding in perfect rhythm: thump-thump, thud, thump-thump.

When Mary finally found Percy, way out behind the oldest barn, far far away from the farmhouse, she knew why Percy’s hooves sounded like music… Percy was dancing.

Not dancing like you or me might do, but dancing like a horse would: high kicks, perfect rhythm, and even crossing one of his massive hooves over the other. There were times it seemed like all his hooves were off the ground at once, and Mary thought it was a miracle that the whole ground didn’t break open when Percy came back down to the ground. But it wasn’t that loud, really, and Mary was surprised.

“Percy, you’re very light on your hooves.”

She said it without thinking about it, but the minute Percy heard her voice he fell over with a monstrous THUD, knocking over a stack of haybales and a big bucket of water. Percy tried desperately to get to his feet, but the hay was now stuck to his head and made him look like he had a long, blonde mane. Mary tried not to laugh as she apologized.

“I’m sorry I startled you, Percy. Are you all right?”

“Yes! Everything is fine! Please go back to bed, Mary! I’ve got… lots of work to do! Lots of work still to do, yes, lots of work, so just…please…”

Mary saw Percy’s eyes look incredibly sad, and the big war horse fell to his knees, his ears hung low in dismay.

“Please just leave me alone. And don’t tell anyone you saw this, okay?”

“Percy,” Mary replied, “I don’t understand…”

“I love to dance, Mary,” Percy sniffed, his face even longer than usual, “I want to be like the Lippizans with their dressage: the piaffe, the passage, the half-pass… but I can’t. I’m just a big, thundering fool!”

“I think you danced very well, Percy,” Mary said.

“Even if I did, all the other animals would laugh at me. A horse like me, a Percheron, I’m supposed to be strong and be a hard worker… if the other folks knew I liked to dance, they’d make fun of me, just like…”

Percy sniffed again.

“Just like at my last farm.”

Mary walked over and nuzzled into Percy’s strong neck.

“Percy, we all have things that make us different. That’s why we’re here. Just because you like to do things that a big horse like you wouldn’t normally do doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.”

“It doesn’t?”

“No!” Mary said proudly, “I’m a cow that likes to do taxes! Don’t you think I got made fun of for that?”

“Yes…”

“But that doesn’t mean I stop doing it. It doesn’t mean I stop being me.”

Percy stayed on the ground, looking at his silly mane in the reflection of the spilled water.

“Percy,” Mary continued, “Do you work extra hard because you’re afraid folks will make fun of you if you don’t?”

“Yeah.”

“Then I’m glad I finally got to talk to you,” Mary smiled her little cow smile, “Because that’s not fair, and it’s especially not fair that you work so hard because you’re afraid. I’ll tell you what: you work only as much as the rest of us do, and then you can take a break and dance if you want to.”

“But, Mary!”

“And if anyone makes fun of you for dancing, I’ll poke them with my horns… just a little.”

“Don’t be mean to them, Mary,” Percy sniffed, “they don’t know what they’re doing, it’s not their fault.”

“It’s not your fault either, Percy.”

Percy looked at the puddle again and shook the hay out of his mane.

“You’re right,” he said, standing up so fast it almost made Mary fall over, “tomorrow at lunch time, I’m going to dance for everyone, and if they don’t like it, well… maybe we’ll have a talk later.”

Mary smiled her little cow smile.

“And I’ll bring the lunch out for everyone tomorrow.”

The next day, Percy was very nervous, but he heard the music in his heart and danced until he was sore. He leapt into the air, he did all the dressage moves he had studied, and when he was done all of the animals sat there, their lunches untouched, their jaws hanging open.

And then, they cheered. And they stamped their hoofs and their paws and their feet, and the called for an encore. Percy really was a fantastic dancer, and from that day forth he never had to hide it again.

Oddsborough Farm – Mary

Mary Mu-Kau was different from the other cows on her little farm in Warroad, Minnesota. Her father was a champion Mongolian bull, and her mother a prize black-and-white Holstein. Mary was an experimental cross-breed to fight the cold Minnesota winters. This gave her a shaggy mess of hair between her horns (which Mary tried her best to keep nicely trimmed) and made her a little bit smaller than the rest of the cows on the farm. But, even on top of that, Mary was a very peculiar cow.

The rest of the cows on the farm concerned themselves with one thing: eating. Grass, hay, silage, corn, it didn’t matter; the cows liked to eat and eat a lot… but not Mary. One day, while the farmer was giving the young cows their afternoon hay, he heard a very polite voice speak up in stall number 12:

“No thank you. I’m still full from breakfast.”

The farmer was amazed by this. “How did you learn to speak?” he asked.

“Well, we all speak cow, sir,” Mary replied, “But I learned English from hearing you and your sons talk, and from the radio in the milking parlor.”

The farmer scratched his head. He was sure this was some sort of dream, or maybe he’d just spent too many late nights on his tractor. But Mary talked to him the next day, and the next day, and soon they became very good friends.  Mary was very eager to help out on the farm: organizing all the cows for milking time, calculating the market prices of the milk, and even letting the farmer know when it was time to expect a new calf. The farmer loved having Mary on the farm, but she was a very small cow, and she didn’t eat a lot. She was more concerned about organization and preparation than eating, and as a result her milk was very low. One night, the farmer called Mary into the milking parlor and turned off the radio.

“Mary,” he said sadly, “I don’t know how to say this…”
“It’s simple,” Mary replied in her polite little voice, “I’m not producing enough, and it is costing the farm money.”
“Wow!” the farmer said, “how did you know that?”
“I ran the numbers,” Mary shrugged, “and your wife told me about all the bills at the farmhouse yesterday.”
“I’m so sorry, Mary.”
“Don’t be sorry, Michael,” she smiled a little cow smile, “It’s just business.”
“But what am I going to do?” the farmer started to cry, “I don’t want to send you away!”
“But you have to,” Mary replied, “and I know just the place.”
She told her farmer about a place she had heard about on the radio, a new farm in New York that was taking in all sorts of odd animals.

“It sounds like just the place for a cow like me, sir.”
“I’ll say it does,” the farmer replied, “but it will be expensive to send you to New York.”
“I’ve already contacted them,” Mary smiled her little cow smile, “There will be a truck here next week to take me there free of charge. Your phone was very hard to use with hooves, by the way. If you and your family ever have a chance, you should come out and visit me there.”
“We will, Mary,” the farmer gave her a big hug, smelling the fresh cowhide, “we will.”

The next week, Mary left her little farm in Warroad and traveled the 1498 miles to her new home in New York. When she got there, she found the farm in a troubling state: animals everywhere, things stacked up all over, no rhyme or reason to be seen. What’s worse, it seemed like every animal on the farm was upset with everyone else.

“I need to see the manager immediately,” Mary thought. She found Susan Regina Rat in the farmhouse office, with paperwork stacked almost to the ceiling.

“Help!” called Regina, “I’m trapped under these remittances!”

Mary helped pull Susan out and they got to talking. It seemed that Sue hadn’t put much thought into what it actually took to run a farm, and she was having a lot of trouble. Mary took one look at the stacks of papers and smiled her little cow smile.

“Don’t worry. I’ll take care of it.”

Within weeks, the office was neat, tidy, and organized: Mary paid the bills, managed the accounts, and most importantly she taught Sue how to delegate. Instead of doing it all herself, Mary made sure Sue found other animals to help her. Soon, all of the animals found they had something to do, and it made them all much happier. As they worked together, they started to make friends, and Sue was delighted at what she saw.

“Thank goodness you came here, Mary Mu-Kau!” she squeaked, “You’re making my dream come true!”

“We all are… together,” Mary smiled, “right here at Oddsborough Farm.”

Oddsborough Farm – Susan

Once upon a time, there was a rat that lived in the sewers of New York City. This wasn’t a nasty rat in the dirty sewers, oh no: Susan Regina Rat was the cleanest rat you ever did see. Her den was always dry, and neat, and tidy. She always washed her paws. She got fresh newspaper for her bed every night. And she always squeaked “please” and “thank you” when she asked for a bit of cheese.

Susan was a different sort of rat, of course. Her family thought she was strange as they played in the garbage and swam in the dirty water. “This was what a rat does,” they said, “so why don’t you want to do it?” And always, Susan’s reply was the same:

“I don’t know, it’s just the way I am.”

Because of this, Susan was very often alone with her bits of paper. But she liked to read, which another very un-rat-like thing to do. She even learned English, which is not all that different from Rat-ese, and she would often confuse her family with stories about Yankees and Mets and a street that was also a wall. “How can it be both?” Her family would ask.

“It doesn’t translate perfectly,” Susan would admit, sadly.

She tried to be part of her pack, but every time she felt like she messed things up. The worst was when some of the rats about her age, started calling Susan names.

“Look at all that junk she has in her den,” they would say.

“And she likes to READ the newspaper!”

“And she tries to be clean!”

When she asked her parents, Phillip Thomas Rat and Dorothy Rat, what she should do, they didn’t say much. Her father was a rat of few words.  Finally, he said, “Susan, why can’t you fit in?” And she cried and cried until her mother, who had come all the way from Ireland, gave her a little bit of advice from an Irish writer:

“Mistakes are the portals of discovery.”
Susan was surprised to find out her mother liked to read, too!
“So if you feel like you’re making mistakes, Susie,” her mother said with a smile, “chances are you’re bound to discover something wonderful!”

So Susan kept reading her paper, and one day found an article about a farmer in some place called Upstate. The article said the farmer was old, and wanted to live with his children in Connecticut (which is a very hard word for a rat to read!) So, he wanted sell his farm, but he wanted to sell it to someone who wanted to keep the farm small. And Susan began to do a very un-rat-like thing: she began to dream. She dreamed of being in this Upstate place, where things were green and the sky was blue and seemed to go on forever. She wanted to be there. She wanted to live there. She wanted to get away from the sewer and own that farm.

And so, she took some of the money she had found in the sewer, and she went to buy a lottery ticket. The shopkeeper was very surprised when the rat started squeaking to him in perfect English, but he sold the ticket anyway because she had the money. The next day, Susan checked her newspaper, but she didn’t win. So she bought another. And another. And another. And on the fifteenth try, she won twenty million dollars!

“Wow!” the shopkeeper said as Susan jumped and skipped with delight on top of his counter. He had grown to like the odd little rat, so he told her he would call the farmer and let her talk. It was very hard to get her voice loud enough through the telephone, but Susan was able to set up a meeting with the farmer. “When they told me a rat wanted to buy my farm, I didn’t think they were serious!” the farmer said, surprised.  “Why do you want to buy my farm?”

“I want to live where the grass is green, and the sky is blue, and the air is fresh and clean and the water is clear and pretty.”

And the farmer said, “that doesn’t sound like something a rat would like.”

And Susan said, “I know… but it’s just the way I am.”

“You’re an odd little rat” the farmer said with a smile, “I suppose we’ll need to change the name of the farm from Doddsborough Farm to Oddsborough Farm.”

And Susan said “I would like that very much indeed,” and she shook the farmer’s hand with her paw.