by Bertil Falk
The Saga of the Rise and Fall
of the Stork-driven Population Explosion
Once or maybe twice upon a time there was one or maybe two small farms in a wilderness of oaks and beech trees. The king of the country lived far away from the province, where one or two farms were situated. His main purpose in life was to make war, officially in order to extend the borders of his kingdom but in reality because he liked making war.
In order to make his wars, he needed knights and soldiers and horses and atom bombs and air balloons and God knows what. One thing in particular that he wanted was a fleet of warships. And in order to build as many men-of-war as possible, he ordered as many oaks as possible to be cut down. Lumberers invaded the province.
When they left after one hundred years, including three more warmongering kings, a warmongering queen and one peacemongering king, the province was a bare cutting area, while the cut-down oaks served to an unprecedented extent as playgrounds for all kinds of mackerel, sardines, sharks, squids and octopi.
In the one or two farms, the owners enthusiastically rubbed their hands, then spat in their palms and set about clearing the ground of enormous oak stumps, thereby creating more arable land. The farmers found that it was now possible to fill many more stomachs and discussed with their wives how to have more children.
Since just about all people knew, except the few fools who thought that children grow inside the stomach of their mothers — don’t laugh now, you may yourself have some kind of superstition — knew that a rare bird called the stork is responsible for delivering offspring, the big question was how to tempt the storks to take up residence in the province, at least during the summer.
The countryside was well equipped with natural ponds and small rivers, and the symphony of croaking frogs kept people awake in the spring. And since frogs were like ice cream to storks, feeding them was no problem. But how to entice them?
One day one farmer, or two, had an accident. A cart load turned over, one of the wheels was destroyed, the other one was spinning in the air until it stopped and was like a flat round table on top of the overturned cart. Since, the cart was not worth repairing, it was left to its fate.
That fate turned out to be a stork, who happened to be passing by. It spotted the wheel from the air, fetched its spouse and then settled down, building a nest on top of the wheel after making arrangements hindering it from spinning like that of Omphale’s (“Who knows what evil, etc.”).
When what had happened was understood, the industry of wheel-making mushroomed, and soon the roofs of the one or two farms were equipped with wheels. Soon children arrived at a rapid pace; they grew up, new farms were built, and after some hundred years the province was spotted with farms and villages.
And now the whole province was populated, while historians at the nearby university quarreled about whether it had all begun at one or two farms at different spots in the province. This is a very important matter in dispute, since it will keep researchers engaged and their families alive for many generations to come.
The rich farmers become richer and they modernized cattle raising as well as farming, and the province was flooded with milk and honey. New equipment was used, but arrogance was rampant. They began to practice drainage by digging ditches.
To begin with, nothing happened, but then one after one of the stork families that had been considered to be peculiar to the province “took their children from school” as the euphemism goes for withdrawing altogether. With the frogs gone, the storks went to happier hunting grounds.
And after twenty years the wheels on the roofs were empty and fewer and fewer children were born, if you see what I mean. Now the big question is: what happens to the province? That question cannot be entirely answered at the moment, but you can at least partly be given an answer.
The province is still called “the granary of the kingdom.” The harvests are better from year to year. That is due to modernization. In the past, ninety percent of the population was occupied with farming. Now three percent supplies agricultural products. So it does not matter that fewer and fewer children are born.
Then the population must be on decline, you say. Not at all. Even though the kings and queens nowadays are peacemongers, the wars that are forever being waged around the world means that a permanent stream of refugees coming into the province keeps the population growing.
But the storks are missed. Very much so. Therefore some enthusiasts and researchers do their best to reintroduce them. Maybe restoring wetlands would tempt the frogs into returning. But that is not once or twice upon the past but rather thrice or whatever upon the future.
Copyright © 2008 by Bertil Falk