A fable that rings true

Published 7:14 pm Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Aesop was a Greek teller of tales who lived 500 years before Christ. Some of his fables have resulted in the very familiar sayings of today. I have been thinking of one of those sayings for many weeks now. Here is the story and the saying.

A farmer’s daughter was going to the marketplace with a freshly filled pail of milk. She had it balanced delicately on her head. As she went along her way, she daydreamed.

She thought, “The milk in this pail will provide me with cream, which I will make into butter. When I sell the butter, I will buy a dozen eggs. The eggs will hatch into chickens and they, in turn, will lay more eggs. Soon, I will have a large yard of chickens. I will sell some of the fowl and buy a pretty gown and go to the fair. When the young boys try to gain my attention, I’ll toss my hair and pass them by.”

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At that moment, the farmer’s daughter tossed her head and the pail of milk tumbled from her head and spilled on the ground. Afterwards, her mother scolded her with the words, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

As an optimist, I have always counted the chickens before they hatched. When we would dig peanuts, I would look at the peanuts as they were dug and turned on top of the ground. I would begin to count the tons and the money that we would make as I viewed the rows and rows of unpicked peanuts.

Daddy would remind me that Mr. Goldkist had never bought a peanut in the field. It had to be picked and put in a trailer. Then came the cleaning and the drying and the final weighing. After all that, then Mr. Goldkist would buy the peanuts and the amount we received was always less than I had imagined.

“Don’t count your chickens before they hatch,” Daddy would say.

Most of us are familiar with the ritual of the Gatorade shower after the football game has been won. This past year was a tough one for Georgia Bulldog coach Mark Richt. As the end of one game was approaching and it looked like the Dawgs would prevail, there were a few players getting the keg of Gatorade ready for Coach Richt.

With a few minutes left, they surprised him with the shower. He did not look too happy and the head dog might have barked a few unpleasant words to the early celebrants. I’m sure he was thinking that “the fat lady had not sung yet” and he did not want to count his chickens before they hatched.

I have been mulling this saying over in my mind for many weeks; ever since last month’s called senatorial race in Massachusetts. I don’t know where you could have been to not have heard the news, but upstart Republican Scott Brown defeated the Democrat’s candidate and machine to claim the Senate seat vacated by the late Ted Kennedy.

It was quite an upset and, combined with the gubernatorial victories from last November’s elections in Virginia and New Jersey, the Republicans have been giddy with anticipation of this year’s fall elections. They were trounced in the 2008 elections, losing not only the White House, but also both houses of Congress. The Republicans have been in the wilderness with no immediate prospects for rescue.

Along comes Scott Brown. He did something most political watchers would have thought impossible. Brown won a seat that had been thought of as a Democrat stronghold. That Senate seat had been held by a Democrat, and a very liberal one at that, since 1952. The elephants all over the country have been strutting, but a word of caution is appropriate. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

The American people are restless and dissatisfied with both major political parties. To use basketball language, one party stole the ball for a breakaway slam dunk. That is, they considered their 2008 victories as a mandate to have their way. The only problem was that the donkey took its eye off the rim and missed the dunk.

The other party figured its best offense would be a political version of the four corners. For all who aren’t familiar with that basketball strategy, I will simply say that it is a stall game and extremely boring. The American public grew weary of the four corners as a basketball strategy and grows just as weary of the political version.

Our political parties seem to care more about their own personal victories than the victories of the American people over their many and vast problems. They say one thing when they are running, but once they get back to Washington, they seem to forget that they are there to represent a constituency. Most of the time, they seem to be playing a game that is only between them and they would rather win the game than work together for the good of the country.

Whether Washington knows it or not, our country is in great need of leadership, not gamesmanship. We are traveling some roads that we have never been on before. Ever been on a journey and you know you are lost because you don’t see any recognizable signs? You keep looking for a sign that is reassuring. You want to see how many miles it is to your comfortable destination. Well, I don’t know who is driving this truck, but I haven’t seen any good signs in a long time.

The way this fickle electorate is feeling right now, if I were a politician, I would not be counting my chickens before they hatched.