Miles Kington: Better a huntsman than a bird-spotter

Their life of anonymity was over. They would never get a moment's peace now
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The Independent Online

Time for some more fables for our times today...

Time for some more fables for our times today...

The rare pigeon-chested woodpecker

Once upon a time there were two pigeon-chested woodpeckers living deep in the woods of Louisiana. They were male and female, and were the last of their kind. They had very good camouflage, which was just as well, as hunters in the woods of Louisiana - indeed, anywhere in the USA - will ferociously shoot and kill anything that moves.

One day they were sitting motionless in a tree as a hunter passed by when from behind them they heard a cry of triumph.

"My God! A pigeon-chested woodpecker! Everyone thinks they are extinct! And now I've seen one! No, two! Wait till I tell the other ornithology guys! Boy oh boy oh boy!"

Yes, it was a bird-spotter, laden with video cameras and trembling with excitement. The two birds looked at each other in deep distress. Their life of anonymity was over. They would never get another moment's peace now. With one accord, they took off and flew towards the hunter. Moments later there were two shots, and the pigeon-chested woodpecker no longer existed.

Moral: It is better to die in battle than live in a museum.

The alpacas and the bull

There were eight alpacas in a field. Nobody ever went into the field until one day there came a man on a cross-country walk who was following a footpath, as he thought, though in fact there was no public right of way in the field. Halfway across, he noticed the alpacas and, as he had lived in South America for a brief while, he immediately recognised them.

"Don't worry, little alpacas," he said. "I come in peace. I mean you no harm."

They stared at him blankly. Then it occurred to him that as they came from South America - Peru, if he was not mistaken - they might understand Spanish.

"Buenos dias," he said. "Como estan? Que pasa? Hace frio, no?"

They looked at each other and then back at him, but said nothing, so feeling slightly foolish he passed on across the field and climbed the gate into the next field. As he did so, he heard one of the alpacas make a loud rippling noise, but he ignored it and passed on into the next field, where he was chased by a bull and nearly gored to death.

"I did warn him," said the eldest alpaca. "I did say 'Hay un toro en el proximo campo...' There is a bull in the next field. I did try to warn him."

"I know, dear," said his wife. "It wasn't your fault."

Moral: Oh yes, it was. It's no use giving people warnings in good Spanish if you've got a lousy Peruvian accent.

The parrot

Once there was a rare parrot who escaped from the pet shop where he lived, and flew into the woods. A gamekeeper who saw him recognised his value and said: "Come here, sweetie! Come here darling!" The parrot, who picked up phrases quickly, said: "You can sod that for a lark," which was the pet shop man's favourite expression, and flew into a nearby garden.

There the parrot spied a lady at a window, and said to her: "Come here, sweetie! Come here darling!" Rather shocked, the lady was relieved to see it was only a parrot, and said to it: "You'll be lucky!" and the parrot flew off again into the nearby village, where it perched on the entrance to the newsagent. It so happened that a man was about to go in, but was hesitating, not knowing whether he should buy another National Lottery ticket, as he had never once won.

"You'll be lucky!" said the parrot.

"Thanks, pal," said the man. "It's a sign from God," and he went in and bought a ticket. The parrot flew back to the pet shop, where the owner, in deep distress at losing his priceless parrot, was sitting with his head in his hands. He looked up to see the return of the wanderer.

"You're back!" he said.

"It's a sign from God," said the parrot.

"Sod that for a lark," said the pet shop man.

Moral: Repeat the last thing said to you, and people will always believe that you can speak their language.