For an illustrated version, see The EnvironMentor vol 7 no 4 pp 17-18
A fable from Aesop:
A poor farmer and his wife discovered that their goose was laying strange, heavy eggs. They feared the eggs might be spoiled but were delighted when they realized that each egg was solid gold! Selling the eggs in town, they became very rich and soon had everything they had ever wanted... until then. But soon they wanted more, and more. Even a daily golden egg was not enough to pay for their desires.
“This goose must have a huge lump of gold inside her, from which she makes the eggs she doles out to us,” they figured. So, in order to get more gold in a hurry, they killed the goose and cut her open.
But they found that the insides of this goose were no different from any other bird's. No gold.
And no more eggs could be laid by a dead goose.
Aesop, a slave, knew better than to pound in the “moral of the story” when he told a fable to his master. I think you can figure it out for yourself.
My colleague Michael Bennett brought Aesop's fable to mind when he told about what happened on the farm where he grew up:
“I grew up on a small farm in Idaho. We had a main canal running through the middle of the property, and we were careful to maintain about 20 feet of pasture on either side - grass, brush, and so forth. When my great uncle died, his 40 acres was snapped up by someone else who plowed the pasture and extended the corrugates right into the canal.
“They picked up a couple of farm acres but lost their best topsoil within 3 years. You end up renting a tank of anhydrous ammonia to try to put some nitrogen back into the soil, but that expense quickly negates any pickup from increased planting area.
“In addition to the soil loss, they never realized that the pasture provided 20 to 30 pounds of wild asparagus every 3 to 4 days, and that was a cash crop at the local supermarket back door. They lost pheasant habitat, and the hunters glad to pay $25-$50 for the weekend permission to walk the fields. Not a lot of cash, but sometimes we would swap that for apricot or apple harvest rights with another family.
“Asparagus could also be given to other families who would be happy to let us glean their fields after the potato harvest. We could fill a pickup truck every October with 1500-2000 pounds of fresh potatoes that would keep six boys fed until June.
“Plowing the pasture never made a lot of sense. It was all tax-free income, since nothing harvested from it ever had to go to the bean elevator.” -- Michael Bennett.
I wonder if farmers in northwest Oklahoma have noticed comparable losses of wild plant and animal resources, after tearing down the forested windbreaks that their ancestors planted during Dust Bowl days. I see very few of those windbreaks still stretching along east/west roads. The fields of winter wheat or soybeans run right up to the bar ditches on either side. The farmers gained fractional acres, but now the plains stretch as far as the eye can see with no trees or brush except around homesteads.
Fable retold from “The Goose That Laid Golden Eggs.” Rev George Fyler Townsend (1814–1900) was the translator of the standard English edition of Aesop's Fables.
Fact-tale: Michael J Bennett bennett.michael.j [at] gmail.com grew up on a small farm in southern Idaho. He is a financial analyst with the largest recycling company in America. He and his family live in the Mississippi Delta area of northeast Arkansas and run the storytelling program at the county library.