Miles Kington: The traumas of a non-scarey, naked scarecrow

'A secretary bird kills a poisonous snake by treading repeatedly on its head. It should have been called a rugby-forward bird'
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Today I bring you some more fables for our terrible times:

The Crow and the Pigeon

Once upon a time there was a scarecrow who stood in the middle of a field, wearing an old hat, an old coat and an old pair of trousers which the farmer no longer needed, and waited to scare the birds off the crops.

When he wasn't looking, a large crow came and sat on the scarecrow's shoulder and said: "Boo!"

"Don't do that!" said the scarecrow. "You nearly gave me a heart attack!"

"You haven't got a heart," said the crow. "You haven't got anything. You are absolutely useless. You can't even scare a crow."

"I am not useless!" said the scarecrow. "I can..."

Just then a tramp came across the field and took the scarecrow's clothes, because they were better than his own.

"Bloody hell!" said the scarecrow, when the tramp had gone. "You'd think he might have had the decency to put his own clothes back on me so I could at least continue my work as a scarecrow!"

"Ah, but technically you are no longer even a scarecrow," said the crow. "You are now a pole in a field with a cross-pole."

Moral: A cross may terrify British Airways officials, but it doesn't scare many birds.

The Secretary Bird

One day a laughing hyena met up with a praying mantis, and they both commiserated with each other on the names they had been given.

"I hate being called a laughing hyena," said the hyena. "My hunting noise may sound like laughing to a human ear, but it strikes terror into my prey. I think I should be given credit for that."

"I agree," said the praying mantis. "Just because humans raise and join their forepaws when they are talking to God, they think I am doing the same, whereas I am getting ready to eat. If anything, I should be called a dining mantis."

"And I should be called a roaring hyena," said the hyena.

"You are both quite wrong," said a secretary bird, who had been listening. "It is a very good thing to be given a silly name. I, for instance, was called a secretary bird because my feathers made me look as if I were wearing some 19th-century legal uniform, and had quill pens behind my ears. Thus I was thought to be harmless. Whereas in fact, I am the only bird of prey which is so strong, and fast, and heavy, that it can deal even with a poisonous snake, by catching it and repeatedly treading on its skull. That is how I always deal with my prey, by stamping on its head. Nothing else in nature does it. If anything, I should have been called the rugby-forward bird!"

"Would you have liked that?" said the hyena.

"Not at all," said the secretary bird. "It would have put people on their guard. Nobody ever said: 'Look out! Here comes a secretary bird!'."

Moral: Look out! Here comes a secretary bird!

The Very Old Rock

There was a small rock in the desert which had once been a big rock but had been worn down over the years. As it lay there, it was spotted by two geologists who happened to come that way.

"Look at that rock," one said. "It must have been here for millions of years. It was here when this region was all under the sea which once covered this desert."

"And it must have been here during the last ice age," said the other.

"And it must have witnessed the coming and going of the Roman Empire, and the Carthaginians, and the armies of Mohamed," said the first. "Ah - what a story this rock could tell if it could only speak!"

When the geologists had gone, a nearby sand lizard, who had heard all this, said: "Well, rock, it seems you're a bit of a star! Go on then - tell us your story!"

"About what?" said the rock.

Moral: Old rock stars never die, but they don't remember much either.