The right eloquence needs no bell to call the people together and no constable to keep them. ~ Emerson

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Great Corn Bale-Out

So, the Pilgrims came to the New World, right, and they first land on Cape Cod. A small boat brought a group of them ashore and they looked around.

“This doesn’t look one bit like the painting of Virginia in the travel brochure,” said one of them.

“No, we’ve got to move on,” agreed a second. “It’s clear to anyone that the piece of real estate we’re now standing on will never be worth anything.”

“You’ve got two choices, both across the bay,” explained the Mayflower’s captain. “One spot is flat, with a huge deep harbor and a broad navigable river. The other has hilly, rocky ground, a small shallow harbor, and a narrow un-navigable river.”

“Oooh, lets go for that second one,” said the first Pilgrim.

“Yeah, we’re Puritans, so we like suffering,” said the other. “It sounds perfect.”

“I dunno,” said Hillary Chilton. “How about that island back yonder, Martha’s Vineyard? My husband Bill and I used to vacation there and it’s really lovely.”

“Shut up, Hillary,” said the first man. “Thou art always plying thy mouth too much.”

“Yeah, thou hast a ply mouth,” agreed the second. “Hey, that’s what we’ll call our colony – Plymouth!”

The Pilgrims founded their colony and built some dwellings. Then two friendly Indians braves showed up. One of them, Squanto, was very popular with the Pilgrims. The other one, Bendo’er, was even more popular with many of the Mayflower sailors. Unfortunately, the Pilgrim Fathers learned that Squanto and Bendo’er considered themselves “married” to each other, so they drove them out and the couple returned to Provincetown.

By this time, a whole tribe of Native Americans was on the scene and taught the Pilgrims how to grow a native plant, which they called “maize.”

“That’s a stupid name,” said Francis Billington. “Let’s call it ‘corn’ instead. It sounds more English.”

The Pilgrims were so grateful to the Indians for the gift of corn that they wanted to give them a gift in return. After a lot of soul-searching, they settled on smallpox and, sure enough, soon all the Indians were just dying to acquire it.

The Pilgrims grew a lot of corn and everybody had plenty to eat, for a while. Then one day, William “Obie” Barackford, who had been elected Governor, called a town meeting.

“Henry Ford Prescott, our richest citizen and amateur inventor, would like to speak to us,” Governor Barackford explained.

Everybody paid attention when Prescott talked. He was worth millions of British pounds and lived in a beautiful house on the Maine coast.

“My friends,” said Prescott. “I have found a better use for our corn than food.”

The Pilgrims glanced at each other in shock.

“I have found that an oil can be extracted from corn,” continued Prescott. “This oil can be used to power a motor of my own design that will drive something I call a corn chariot. It is like a wagon but allows one to travel anywhere without a horse or oxen team.”

On cue, an outlandish vehicle came chugging up. The Pilgrim Fathers all gasped and envy entered their hearts that day, as each thought, “I gotta git me one of them there corn chariots.”

Soon every Pilgrim had a corn chariot and came to rely on it not merely as a personal transportation luxury but also a necessity and divine entitlement. They drove them everywhere.

It was true a corn chariot got only fourteen feet per ear of corn but at a mere one pence per gallon, corn oil was cheap to buy. What was more, there was plenty of corn, an abundance of corn, an un-limitless supply of corn. Until one day it was gone.

“We can’t drive!” wailed the Pilgrim Fathers.

“And what’s with all the parking meters downtown?” asked Hillary Chilton. “Parking should always be free. It’s our right.”

“Shut up, Hillary,” said the men.

Everybody went to see Henry Ford Prescott and Governor Barackford.

“Not my problem,” said Prescott, as he glanced up from counting his money. “I just make the chariots.”

“I’ve been thinking about this,” said Governor Barackford thoughtfully. “Corn is essentially a foreign substance to our English sensibilities. We’ve got to eliminate our dependence on this foreign oil.”

“That’s just what I’ve always said,” shouted John McCrackston, the town’s oldest man.

“Anyway,” said Governor Barackford peevishly, “I believe the answer is alternative fuels. In this case, ethanol.”

“Sounds good,” said Moses Fletcher. “What is this ‘ethanol’ stuff made from?”

“Corn,” said Governor Barackford.

“Corn?” cried the weary Pilgrims in disbelief.

“Yes, corn,” said Governor Barackford. “What did you think it was made from – all this switch grass growing around the marshlands? Burn that shit down and start planting corn.”

“Great,” cried Henry Ford Prescott. “Meanwhile, I’ll start building even bigger corn chariots.”

At first, the new ethanol-fueled corn chariots seemed to solve the problem and everybody was happy. But then all the ethanol corn got used up too. Fuel prices soared to 400 pence per gallon or more.

Even worse, with all the corn used for fuel, there was no food and the Pilgrims began to starve. At times that winter, there were only six grains of corn per person per day to eat.

In the spring, Henry Ford Prescott came back from vacationing in Barbados and looked around. He immediately called for another town meeting. The dying Pilgrims dragged themselves to it.

“This is a terrible state of affairs,” said Prescott.

“Yes,” agreed the Pilgrims.

“I understand you all have six grains of corn each day to eat.”

“Yes,” agreed the Pilgrims.”

“That’s just wrong.”

“Yes,” agreed the Pilgrims.

“Those gains ought to be used to make corn oil instead. I’m in danger of going out of business.”

“Huh?” said the Pilgrims.

“I’m in danger of going out of business,” repeated Prescott. “Nobody is purchasing my big new corn chariots anymore. The Indians have invented a new use for corn – they’ve turned it into a crunchy breakfast cereal flake and now that’s all the craze.”

“Excuse me,” said John Alden. “But it seems to me the real problem is that you’ve created a lousy product that nobody wants to buy, motivated entirely on your own shortsighted greed.”

“No, that’s not it,” said Prescott stubbornly. “This is all the fault of the cornflake crunch.”

Everybody turned to look at Governor Barackford, who sighed.

“I hate that it’s come to this,” he said, “but we all need to help neighbor Prescott in the spirit of Christian charity.”

“Do you know,” he explained, “how when one of our hay fields is ready to harvest and rain threatens, we all help out with the baling of that hay?”

“Yes,” said the Pilgrims.

“Well, I think the government is going to have to sponsor a bale-out for the corn chariot industry,” said Governor Barackford.

“That sounds like socialism,” Joe Plumbington murmured dangerously.

“Just sharing the wealth,” said Governor Barackford. “Besides, I’ll make it up to all of you with a bold, two-pronged economic stimulus package that will boost your six grain corn allowance while simultaneously calming market fears with our fiscal discipline.”

“What are you going to do?” Stephen Hopkins asked excitedly.

“First, I’m going to double your corn allowance and then I’m going to halve it,” announced Governor Barackford triumphantly.

Hopkins squinted in concentration for several minutes while counting on his fingers.

“But . . . ain’t that the same as doing nothing?” he asked at last.

Governor Barackford frowned. “I was told you didn’t know fractions,” he said.

“Sorry, Hank, but you’re on your own,” Barackford told Prescott, as he figuratively tossed him under one of his own chariots.

“Why, you bunch of ingrates,” sputtered Prescott. “I’m leaving this place. I’m taking my wife and daughter and heading southwest in search of a new kind of oil, one that comes right out of the ground.”

“There is nothing in that direction,” said one of the few pockmarked but surviving Indians, “except empty prairie.”

“That’s another reason I’m heading out,” said Prescott, gesturing toward the Indian. “There are too many illegal immigrants running around this place.”

“But they were here first,” said Governor Barackford weakly.

“We Prescotts are a traditional, conservative family with traditional values,” said Prescott stiffly. “As such, we support King and England. I’m heading for the pro-English parts of this country. New England has become far too pro-American for my tastes. It’s all this representative government you have here.”

“Tyranny without representation is Texas,” he cried.

“The only thing in this ‘Texas’ of yours,” insisted the Indian, “is sagebrush.”

“I don’t care,” raged Prescott. “I’m a-going to Texas and I’m a-going to stay there, even if I have to marry my little daughter to a Bush!”

“I’m leaving too,” said a Pilgrim woman with an upswept hairdo and fashionably expensive dress made from homespun cloth.

“I’m sorry, but I’ve already forgotten your name,” apologized Governor Barackford.

“Call me Sister Sarah,” the woman replied. “I’m just a hockey mom, you betcha.”

“You know what the difference is between a hockey mom and a pit bull, don’t ya?” she asked coyly.

“The pit bull has fresher breath,” suggested Priscilla Mullins, rolling her eyes.

“And that’s why I’m leaving,” huffed Sister Sarah. “I’m sick of all this nasty Pris bias against me. Jerks! Well, that and my daughter is tired of having to wear a scarlet ‘A’ sewn into all of her clothes. If Prescott is going south and west, then I’ll try going in the exact opposite direction – north and west.”

“That’s not the opposite . . .” began Barackford.

“It’s God’s country up there,” Sister Sarah interrupted. “I know because a voice spoke to me and told me so.”

“That was just wind blowing through the empty rushes down by the lakeside,” laughed Miles Standish.

“No, it was a voice,” swore Sister Sarah, “and if Rush says so, you know it must be true.”

“Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” said Barackford but, by that time, Sister Sarah had already reached Iowa territory, where she was engaged in the wholesale slaughter of turkeys.

“What a strange woman,” remarked Governor Barackford. “Okay, time to vote. All those in favor of a corn chariot bale-out?”

“Nay!” screamed the Pilgrims with one voice.

“What’s the tally, madame secretary?” asked Barackford.

“The ‘ayes’ have it,” announced Constance Pelosi.

“Wait a minute, I don’t think . . .” began Hillary Chilton.

“Shut up, Hillary,” said Governor Barackford. “I declare today a holiday.”

“Hooray,” cried all the Pilgrims and quite a few of them dropped over dead.

And that, children, is the story of the first Thanksgiving. May you and your families have a Happy Thanksgiving too.

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