The sun shone through the cracks in the wooden barn wall. Neville the Pig began to open his eyes, his lids fluttering between open and closed as he slowly awoke. He stretched his arms and legs, yawning, and clumsily got to his feet and waddled outside, where the sun was high in the sky and his mud pit was awaiting him, warm and pleasant. He plopped into the mud, rolling happily and basking in the sun’s heat. “Ahhh, this is the life” he thought-lounging in the mud all day, every day, not a care or purpose in the world.
Meanwhile, Randy the Horse had been plowing the fields since sunrise. He was hot, aching, and absolutely exhausted. “I’ve been working for hours,” Randy moaned. “I wish I had a moment to relax.” Randy felt very unhappy. He knew that he had a purpose on the farm and that he was the only one strong and capable enough to plow the fields, but he couldn’t help but be envious of Neville, who did nothing but lounge in the mud day after day.
The hens sat in their coop, caring for their nests and fulfilling their sole duty: laying eggs. Because they rarely got the chance to leave their coop, the hens spent the days gossiping about the goings-on of the farm, particularly of Christian the Rooster. All the hens swooned over Christian and argued over who he fancied most. Christian lived a desirable life: he woke up bright and early every day, traveled to his perch atop the farmhouse, and crowed to awaken the rest of the farm. Christian believed his job was the most important of them all, and he took pride in it. He believed that without him, the farm would be dormant forever, and so for this he expected constant praise. The hens gave him the admiration he craved. Every day when he returned from crowing, he would strut into the coop and the hens would ogle at him, vying for his affection.
While the hens were enthralled with Christian the Rooster, most of the animals just saw him as entitled and cocky (pun intended). Buddy and Gracie, the farmer’s two sheepdogs, disapproved of him especially. More than anything, Buddy and Gracie were strong believers in love, loyalty, and hard work, which Christian could definitely learn a thing or two about. These dogs were about as happy as two animals could be. Their job was herding the sheep, and although it was their “job,” they loved to do it. They got a rush from running as fast as their legs could carry them in circles over and over, this way and that, the sheep moving with them like flocks of starlings in flight. When their work was done, Farmer MacDonald would pat them on the head and ruffle their fur lovingly, thanking them again for a job well done.
After a long day of work the animals all returned to the barn. Buddy and Gracie walked in, feeling tired but elated. The hens looked sad and empty: their day was as uneventful as any other, full of nothing but meaningless gossip. All they ever talked about was Christian the Rooster, how their own eggs were better than the others, and how ridiculous Helen, the eldest hen, looked that day with her feathers dirty and ruffled. Neville the Pig lay contently in the hay, while Randy the Horse stood next to him, exhausted and aching from hours of grueling labor. How was it fair that he, Randy, worked his butt off day in and day out and got the same praise, food, and living quarters as someone like Neville who had never worked a day in his life?
However, Neville did not feel as happy as he looked. He couldn’t help but feel a little lost- everyone else on the farm seemed to know their purpose: the hens lay eggs, the rooster crowed, the cows gave milk, the horse plowed the fields, the dogs herded the sheep- but what was he here for? He felt guilty that he wasn’t making something of himself like everyone else was. He knew that some of the other animals would give anything to live a life as relaxing and care-free as his, yet he couldn’t help but feel pathetic for having nothing of value to do all day long. He may have had a life full of leisure, but it lacked purpose.
Buddy looked around the barn, noticing that many of the animals exhibited the same expression of exhaustion and melancholy on their faces. He wanted to help them to enjoy life as much as he did, but he didn’t know how.
He decided to consult Gracie; she seemed to always know the right answer.
“Everyone seems so tired and unhappy,” he told her. “They come back to the barn at the end of the day, eat, sleep, and then go back the next day and do it all over again. There’s no excitement. There’s no fun. There’s no connection. What can we do?”
“Well, happiness is complicated,” observed Gracie, “but ultimately, I think what most of these animals need is something to look forward to at the end of the day and a happy place to come home to.”
A light went off inside Buddy’s head. “You’re a genius Gracie. I have an idea- I’ll be right back.” And with that, Buddy scampered away, leaving Gracie confused.
A while later, Buddy returned, a large scroll of paper held gently between his teeth. He jumped atop a large bale of hay and barked loudly to get everyone’s attention. The few conversations that were happening came to a halt, and everyone’s eyes turned towards Buddy.
“Every night when I come back to this barn, I feel like I’m walking into a funeral,” he said. “Everyone seems so physically and mentally exhausted.” There were nods of agreement. “Most of us have been around for a long time. What happened to our youthful happiness? What happened to our innocent view of the world? What happened to our community? I want that joy back. I sense a bitterness between us.”
As he said this, Randy and Neville suddenly made eye contact, but then their eyes quickly flitted away. Many of the hens that had been rejected time and time again glared at Christian. Buddy was right, there was some jealousy and long-standing grudges among the animals.
“I think it’s about time that we reintroduce joy into our lives, inside of our work and out.” Buddy then unrolled the scroll of paper he had brought in and showed it to the animals. It was a schedule. “On Mondays we’re going to have movie nights, this week we’re watching Babe. Tuesdays are Bingo, Wednesdays are our mid-week hoe-down and we’ll be practicing line dancing! Thursdays we’ll have improv shows, and Fridays we’ll have Ultimate frisbee outside to release some of the week’s built-up energy. Saturdays and Sundays are for relaxing, but we’ll be offering a book club meeting on Sunday afternoons; this Sunday we’ll be discussing the first three chapters of “Animal Farm.”
The animals looked at him, perplexed. It never occurred to them that they could make something out of their lives when they got back from work. After a while, they got so caught up in their daily routines that they never realized they could make a change. Although the idea seemed weird at the time, they figured they’d give it a try. Everyone liked Buddy and looked up to him, and whatever he had to say must’ve been valid.
Only a week later, Buddy made his way back to the barn after a particularly long and exhausting day of running and herding the sheep. The flock hadn’t been cooperating, and he hadn’t done as good of a job as usual. Farmer MacDonald hadn’t patted his head, given him a treat, or called him a good boy. As he walked back in the dark, he couldn’t help but feeling down. He almost forgot what awaited him inside.
As he neared the barn, he started to hear the faint sound of music. Then it occurred to him: it was Wednesday! He ran with all his strength, burst through the doors, and was flooded by joy when he saw all the animals dancing in unison to Footloose, smiles spread wide across their faces. Buddy joined the line, immediately forgetting the hardship of the day and feeling overcome with happiness. Everyone was enjoying themselves, Neville the Pig was at the front of the crowd, leading the moves, finally feeling as if he’d found his calling. Randy was moving freely, not burdened by a tractor. Christian the Rooster was dancing among the hens, who were all clucking with joy.
Over the heads of the animals, Buddy noticed Gracie, her tail wagging vigorously. Looking at all he’d accomplished and the impact he’d made on his community, he couldn’t help but wag his tail too.Add to favorites