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The Chipmunks And The Winter Goddess

Once upon a time, there were some friends. They lived in the forest, and they had a fairly easy life. They were all chipmunks, and because they were chipmunks they were very aware of the effect that the cycle of the seasons had on their lives. They couldn’t just go down to the supermarket whenever they wanted to get some food. They had to rely on what nature provided.

But they also had to rely on their ability to predict the times when nature wouldn’t provide, so they would be ok. They were all very good about watching each other and checking different temperature patterns so they would know when it was time to start saving a little bit of what they collected.

Normally, during times of good weather, they didn’t really have to worry about what they collected. They just collected, and ate what they collected, whenever they felt like it. It was always a little bit of sad time for them on the day when they realized that winter was coming. On that day, they had to start saving a little bit of what they collected for later. They were sad because they couldn’t devote their minds to only playing; they had to think a little bit about the future.

Of course when they were young, their parents had to practically force them to start saving when the time came. Because they were young and inexperienced, they never really understood the significance of the coming winter.

But as they transitioned to young adulthood, they started to recognize the importance of having to save. Each of their parents was very good about making sure they experienced enough worry during winter to remember to collect for the next year. Not enough worry to cause them any emotional harm, but just enough to make them aware of the importance of saving.

Some of their friends didn’t have it so easy. Their parents were selfish, and didn’t want to share any of their worry. They kept it all to themselves. They thought they were being good parents by always providing for their kids, without allowing them the luxury of learning how to provide for themselves.

When they grew up, and these young chipmunks had to leave their parents and live on their own, some of them were very unprepared to handle the changes of the weather on their own. And sadly, some of these didn’t make it.

Which is why every year, even thought they were sad their playtime was over, they were glad they had developed the skills to shift from pure play in to only partial play and partial work. Sometimes, they were excited when winter came, because just thinking of all the resources they’d saved up made them feel very proud of themselves, and confident in their ability to handle the changing seasons.

They had fully understood and appreciated the gift of worry, but only if you listen to it, and take steps to make sure what you are worried about doesn’t happen. When you do that, worry can turn into the powerful confidence of self-sufficiency.

Metal Work Saviors – East – I

East was having fun. A lot of fun. The three chosen for their group had never met before, not really. But for some reason, when they began walking on the first day, they found that they had a lot in common. They had many of the same experiences growing up. Like when you share something with somebody, and they have a very similar experience from their history. It’s like you were made to be with this person. The three of them were able to feel an incredible closeness as soon as they started out. That was four days ago.

When the time came to spread out and walk alone from sunrise until sunset, they weren’t afraid like they had expected. They were sad. They had just spent the last three days getting to know each other, and now they would have spend their waking hours mostly alone, and their nights mostly spent in sleep, recovering. They would miss sharing stories of their youth and the mischief they all seemed to get into and out of without too much trouble or punishment from their parents.

The days seem to pass too quickly as they knew the inevitable was coming. Their inevitable separation. As they arose, they dressed in silence, knowing that as soon as they were ready to leave, the fun would be left behind, and ahead was only loneliness and danger. That was ok, though. They had made a pact. They made a pact before they went to sleep the night before. No matter what happened, they would all make it back safely, and they would be the team who would find the new source that would support the village into the next generation. And they would be friends their whole lives. They had made the secret prayer together they all learned when they were children. Then they had slept, their dreams of a future in new village whose location and life source was chosen by them keeping their thoughts of the dangerous mission ahead.

They dressed, packed their tools and equipment and stood. They gathered on last time, and looked into the distance where they would spend the next six months walking alone, searching alone, surviving alone. They each silently and mutually held each other in high regard, and then turned to leave. The last of the sun was just breaking free of the horizon. They sky was clear, and the day was going to be hot. And long. They started walking.

* * *

Elder was clutching his side, in extreme pain. It was too soon to die. He grimaced and stood, facing defiantly into the setting sun. He turned a full circle, surveying the area around him. He knew where eldest and younger would be meeting. He would get there before they rose for the morning. He would not be left.

He spent the next hours, through the dusk into the night, shuffling towards the directing of the rendezvous. With each step the pain in his stomach lessened somewhat. The more he walked, the more he convinced himself it was merely a passing pain due perhaps to an unnoticed poisonous plant or insect that shouldn’t have been eaten. Must be more careful next time. He checked his water. Plenty left. He knew exactly what plants would produce water, and how to convert certain kinds of earth into water as well. Those were methods that required a certain amount of time, so they were reserved for emergencies. Now he had to focus only on moving in the direction of the rendezvous. The other two needed his skills. The village needed his skills. He would not allow himself to die. Not yet. Not until their assignment was completed. The village council had made sure that each voyager understood the importance of the mission. That was one of the most important requirements. That they understood that they had only two choices. Succeed, or die trying. He was not ready to die yet.

He stopped, paused, and closed his eyes. He sensed his surroundings. There were several small animals around him. Not dangerous. Only curious. Perhaps he could lure them close for food. If he needed to. Not yet. He sensed the wind, the direction. He quieted his mind to be more receptive. There. He could sense the other two. At the camp, there fire emitting a certain smell. Perhaps another two hours walk.

He kept moving.

To be continued…

The Metal Work Saviors – The South I

South was having problems. They left the same time as the other groups, and spent the first three days as required walking a straight line to put sufficient distance between them and the original village. The problems began on the first day, as they passed the outskirts. Elder started having stomach pains. At first they all thought, including Elder, that it was just nerves. After taking several breaks, they realized they had to make a decision. The village counsel was clear on this. No member may slow the group. The purpose was to find new earth that would support the entire village for at least another generation. If one member of the search party became ill, or fell to attack, or did not make it to their nightly rendezvous point, the directions were clear. Leave him, and continue.

When Elder, whose name used to be John before being selected, had agreed with his parents to submit his name to the council, he never dreamed he would be chosen. Surely there were many boys more fit than he to carry this lofty burden. He was the youngest, and the only boy in his family. His older sisters were in the processing of selecting their mates for the second half of their lives, and they had their fate already chosen. John’s father was one of better-respected metal workers in the community, coming from a long, lone line of expert craftsman. None of their line had ever been chosen to be a voyager, to venture out into the territory to find new earth filled with abundant minerals with which they could continue their prosperity.

When John had first submitted his name, as all boys were required to do, he had never expected to be chosen so he hadn’t even allowed himself to imagine what it would be like. To venture with two other boys in one of the main directions, in search of a new source. The actual tests that he’d gone through were much easier than he’d anticipated. Of course, the actual metal working tests were easy, as his family had long taught boys those skills from a very early age. Where he excelled much more than expected was in reading soil, and reading the land and the elements, as if he was in some kind of primordial communication with them.

A metal worker usually doesn’t need these skills, as the sources are identified, and the village is established. Skills of reading the land and the earth are only needed in a great while, and are not routinely taught to the young. Because John had demonstrated such a talent for this, he was chosen unanimously by the council. The families of the other two boys that were in John’s group were happy when they learned of John’s talents. Surely his skills would bring the boys home safely after the six-month ordeal.

That was three days ago, and Elder, having shed his given name, was on his knees, doubled over, clenching his stomach in excruciating agony. Eldest and Younger looked on in disbelief and horror. Their orders were clear. They must leave him. Because they had all sworn their lives in the name of the village, they had taken a solemn oath. And because, after this oath, their lives, and happiness, and even physical comfort were only incidental to the success of the mission, they knew they must do the unthinkable.

They must leave Elder, alone, writhing in pain.

He looked up, and summoned enough courage to disregard his suffering. He slowly looked each of them in the eyes.

“You must go. Find a new source. I will recover, and I will catch up. You will see. Go. Now.” Exhausted by the supreme effort it took to ignore the pain long enough to speak, Elder slumped forward, close to unconsciousness.

He was fifteen.

To be continued….

The Metal Work Saviors – Departures I

The first group to leave was simply called West. West was comprised of three youths; one aged fourteen, and two aged fifteen. This was the year that youths began their training at metal work. The typical journeyman was a period of a few to several years. There wasn’t any rush, as in this old village, the only path to metal work mastery was to inherit the shop of your superior. And that was usually only through his death.

They had only one task. Walk towards the setting sun until they found soil that was suitable enough to keep their village healthy and profitable for at least another generation. They were not to return for at least six months, regardless of what they found. Three other groups had also been dispatched. Although this seems a cruel way to treat a village’s precious youth, it would be much crueler to allow the village to die off completely. Not just for them, but for all the other surrounding villages that depended on their metal work for their horses, and farming. They would suffer as well. There were four groups, each with three boys, and all the villages were depending on them.

Before leaving, they had been trained in the ancient art of soil divining. Not dissimilar to finding a source of water, the boys were trained in the old art of determining if the soil contained enough elements to support a metal working village. They had been taught, and tested severely before being sent out on their quest. They each had a small collection of rocks of different sorts, several tiny vials of different oils, and a peculiar looking balance. When assembled the device would indicate the content of the soil, and if it had the ingredients that would allow the boys to go home, and the village to feel safe knowing they would survive yet another generation.

The awoke every morning at sunrise, and their rules were simple. They would walk together until midday, when the sun was directly overhead. They would then fan out, with the two older boys breaking right and left, and the youngest boy walking due west. Each boy would pause every hour, and measure the content of the soil. They would then record their measurements, and their location in a small bound parchment that was prepared for them by the village elders. When the sun was at three hands above the horizon, and sinking fast, they would converge and meet together just as the sun was disappearing. They would make their camp, and prepare for the next day.

Each boy was trained in the art of extracting water from the plants, and trapping small animals for food. They would take notes where there were abundant sources of water for their return trip. After three months of walking into the setting sun, they would turn around, and head back to the village. If all groups returned safely, the village elders would spend a sufficient amount of time with the boys’ notes, and determine the next location for the village.

They were on their fourth day, the day where the elders had told them it was safe to begin reading the soil. They had to move a sufficient distance from the village to ensure that their interpretation of the earth was pure. The sun was just reaching the apex, and they were preparing to split, for the first time.

“So, we meet back in a few hours, right?” Asked the younger.
“Yep.” Replied the eldest.
“Don’t worry, we’ll be fine.” Added the elder. The eldest was older than the elder by only a few weeks, but nonetheless, he was the eldest.

They stopped, looked out into the still flat and undiscovered land, with the slow hills rising just a few days off in the distance.

“What lives in hose hills?” asked the younger.
“We’ll find out when we get there,” said the elder. The eldest only grinned.

They stopped, looked at each other, and split up. It was the first time that any of the boys had ever been alone in an unfamiliar environment. The younger began to silently weep, yet bravely kept walking forward, not looking back. He chastised himself or crying, but he didn’t know that the others were doing the same.

Several days up ahead in the distance, just as the hills slowly rose up out of the flat earth, a solitary figure stood watching. Waiting. Wondering.

To be continued….

The Metal Work Saviors – The Choosing

Once upon a time there was a small village. They village was part of a large collection of villages, which together formed the basis of a kingdom. It was kind of a strange kingdom, as it wasn’t governed by a king in the traditional sense, with the king living in a big castle in the center of the kingdom, and poor serfs living outside the castle walls. This village/kingdom was a semi-independent collection of villages. Some villages were better at certain things than others, and there were various trade agreements between villages. For example, some villages were good metalwork, and others were good at farming. They would all meet once a month in a large flat treeless area to set up and exchange the goods they could produce for the goods that they needed. This was a time before money, so they all enjoyed bartering and trading and all the ensuing arguing that happened naturally when people got together and tried to get the best deal.

The great meeting usually lasted three or four days. After everybody was satisfied, the traders would stay for one extra night to have a large celebratory party. Of course the most popular person at this large celebratory party were the villagers that made the mead that was used to drink at this festival.

The particular village of this story was the village that specialized in making horseshoes. Because several of the villages depended on horses for travel and farming, horseshoes were in great demand. In the horseshoe village, boys were trained from a very early age to find the raw materials to make the steel, and forge the iron that would be used to make horseshoes to use in trade with the other villagers.

But recently there had been a problem. The hills where they would go out into and collect the materials for making the steel were becoming less and less fruitful. They had known about this for several years, and they finally decided it was time to do something about it. The village elders demanded a solution be found when it was determined that the raw materials wouldn’t last for more than three more seasons.

So after they finished the month end celebrations for the trade, the horseshoe village decided to have a meeting of the elders and the senior horseshoe makers to determine what they could do. After much arguing and consulting with oracles, they decided that they would simply need to find another source of raw material. This wasn’t entirely unheard of, as other villages had moved in the past in order to better produce whatever they were good at producing. The loose collection of villages comprised a large enough area that it wouldn’t be a problem to maintain their monthly meetings.

Then the tough decision was made. Who to choose to send out in search of new material? They would need at four teams of scouts. One for each direction, north, south, east and west. And it was expected that each team of scouts would be gone for six months at the very least. They would be trained to be able to determine from the earth which hills would support a new village for at least another generation. They decided they would choose four teams of three-member search. A total of twelve young boys who would be tasked to finding the resources that would keep the village alive for another generation.

After their decision, they made an announcement, and asked for volunteers. They were completely surprised by the number of applicants. Every single boy in the village that was old enough to be an apprentice was accepted as an applicant. They put them through a series of rigorous mental and physical tests, and made their selections. The time finally came for the boys to depart.

Nobody had any illusions about the safety of the boys. They would be gone for at least six months, and despite the loose collection of villages, there was much danger. Predators, both beast and man, threatened to kill the boys just to take their supplies. It was expected that half of the boys would not return. The boys knew, however, that if they returned with a location sufficient to sustain the village for another generation, they would forever be loved by the village. Having the status of a provider, an explorer, a discoverer of resources was well worth a fifty percent chance of death.

The village had a celebration for three days to pray to the gods and celebrate the bravery of the young boys whose discoveries would carry the life and safety of the village on into the next generation. After much singing and weeping, and several tearful goodbyes, the boys, who were by now being only referred to as The North, The South, The East, and The West, gathered their equipment, and departed.

To be continued…

Imagining Words Can Be Reflecting Truth

Last night I was walking home from this bar. It was a bar I’d never been to before, but a few of my friends convinced me to go, since it was fairly new and didn’t have huge crowds. You could still hang out with a few friends, have a decent conversation, and enjoy the interesting international food they had. They also have about thirty different beers on tap from all over the world. It’s interesting when new bar opens up in a part of town that has lots of bars. If you start going there before it becomes popular, you are the only person there, so you feel like you are in the wrong place, even if you are with a group of friends. If you wait until it is the hippest bar in town, you can forget about every getting a table unless you go there at two in the afternoon. This place where I went last night was just at the perfect spot on a bars rise to prominence. Just the right amount of people to feel like you are in a popular spot, but not so crowded as to feel like each time you see the waitress she is in some kind of hurry to fill your order so they can make room for the next customer.

So after several drinks and appetizers of various ethnicities, we decided to part ways. I don’t remember what time it was, but it was later than the last train, so I had to find my way back to the main station to catch a taxi home. Since I was in an unfamiliar part of town, I kind of meandered around through alleys and side streets. I wasn’t too worried about what time I made it back, and crime in my cit is relatively low, so I just was kind of content to wander around and lazily make my way back home. You know how you do that, when you have a vague destination in mind, but you aren’t really concerned with how or when you will arrive. For some reason you just want to take your time with this, and enjoy the experience. Sometimes I think it’s times like this that are the most rewarding, because for some reason you can be open to opportunities that you would normally overlook.

Once I was driving to a friend’s house. He was having a party so I wasn’t really concerned with what time I got there. It was a bit of a drive, and he was a good friend from a ways back, so I knew there would be a couch or a spare room I would be able to use. So I was just taking my time driving through the mountain roads, stopping here and there to check out the views. He had just bought a nice house up in the mountains, and I had never been there before, so I wanted to take my time and enjoy the scenery along the way. Sometimes we go through life just too fast with tunnel vision, missing out on all the cool stuff that is around you.

So there I was looking through the windows of closed shops when I saw him. Or heard him, as he came up from behind me. Judging by his voice, he was a good 5 or six meters behind me, and I could see his vague reflection the glass of the retro clothing shop window I was trying to look through. (I don’t know why, I’ve never really been a fan of retro clothing.) He said something that was both vague and interesting. Vague in that I didn’t know exactly what he meant by it, and interesting in that I wanted to turn around.

“You can take small steps when necessary.” Is what he said.

“Excuse me?” I asked, turning around slowly.

“Small steps. I don’t know where you are going, how could I, but you seem to be going somewhere. Some people have a fear of moving in the direction of their destination, afraid that they will make a mistake. But you can take small steps if you need to. That way if you make a miscalculation of direction, you can easily change course to put yourself quickly back on track.”

“Oh, um, thanks.” I said, still not sure what he was talking about. He seemed to want to say something else, so I waited for him to speak.

“Awaken from the dream.” He finally said, after giving me a seemingly long once over.

“Huh? What dream?” I asked, checking the palms of my hands for some reason.

“That which you fear, that which you think you are afraid of, that which you think you lack, is all an illusion. You have everything you need. Right here, right now. You don’t need anything else. Everything you see comes from within.”

I wasn’t sure what to make of that, so for some reason I turned and looked back inside the vintage clothing. I was surprised to see that his reflection was no longer there. When I spun around, he was gone. A thousand questions ran through my mind. Was I imagining it? Had I drank too much? Was I too sleepy? Suddenly it hit me. Whoever, or whatever he was, it didn’t matter. It really didn’t matter, because I had a feeling that the words he spoke made sense. And when you think about it, the speaker of the words is really different than the words themselves. After a while, the words themselves are all that matters, so you can imagine this speaker as being whoever you want. And that can open the door to all kinds of opportunities. Now.

The Sheepherder’s Discovery

As you sit there, and read this page, you might feel certain sensations in your body. Some of these sensations might be familiar, and some of them might be one’s that you’ve felt before. Either way, you can let these feelings remind you of those wonderful memories from before. You know the time I’m talking about. The time you had that experience, the one that made you feel just that way. And it doesn’t really matter if you can remember it completely; because one thing about experiences is that they are completely up to you to remember them any way you like that, right?

So as you let those thoughts that you are thinking circulate in your thought-sphere that exists some place in the realm of ideas, I’d like to borrow your attention for a few moments. Don’t worry; I’ll give it back when we’re finished here. Just relax, because you know that those experiences that you enjoy are really up to you to discover them here, now.

Once up a time there was a sheepherder. His job was to take his sheep from pasture to pasture, and let them graze. When the time came for him to sell their wool, he took them into town to the place that bought the wool. They would sheer the wool from the sheep, and take the wool to make various things. Clothing, blankets, rugs, and other things. The sheep were happy, because they didn’t really have to do much except eat, and get a haircut periodically. The sheepherder didn’t have an overly difficult job, because he just found natural grass for the sheep to eat, made sure the wolves stayed away, and had to find a market for the wool from time to time. All in all, it was a happy life for all of them.

As the character in most stories do, our sheepherder boy encountered a problem one day. He had grown bored with his sheep herding life. At first, when he first got into it, it seemed fantastic. Travel, no boss, make your own hours, it was a young man’s dream come true. But the more the years passed, the more he realized as he traveled from town to town that he was missing out on something. It seemed more and more apparent that the townspeople were enjoying a happiness that wasn’t available to him.

Despite his freedom and detachment from the world, he longed for human companionship. He longed for the touch of a woman, and the warmth of a fire in the fireplace of his own home, and the smell of fresh bread from his own kitchen.

But he didn’t want to lose his sheep. They had served him well over the years, and he couldn’t bring himself to just abandon them. So he decided to have a meeting with his sheep. He hired a sorcerer from a nearby town, as he would have to find a way to communicate his intentions to the sheep, and gauge their responses. The sorcerer claimed to have experiences in these matters. After a long discussion, he was convinced that the sheep would be able to govern themselves, and find their way into town to get their usual haircuts, as they’d been accustomed.

The sheepherder had agreed to take the profits generated by the self governing sheep, and set up a wolf free zone, so sheep could live in safe environment, free from predators. The money would be used to buy special minerals and mix them into a special recipe known only to the sorcerer, thereby keeping the wolves from encroaching on their territory.
When they had finished making the arrangements, everybody was happy.

The now ex-sheep herder boy set off to find the girl of his dreams, and start the exciting journey of his new life. As he was leaving, the sorcerer pulled him aside, to give him some last minute wisdom:

“Life is a long journey. It can be easy or hard, depending on what you make of it. You can find peace, or you can find pain. The greatest secret does not lie in how to get money or how to seduce the most beautiful daughter of a shopkeeper. Nor does it lie in conjuring magic to keep away the wolves. The secret lies in seizing your own power to choose. Once you fully realize that you have always had that magnificent power, the world becomes yours.”

The ex-sheep herder boy thanked him, and wandered off, open to the bliss that was in store for him, and you.


The Fisherman’s Dream

As you read this and sink into that chair that you are sitting in, you might become aware of the thoughts that are running round your head. You know that ones I’m talking about. Those thoughts that are the most familiar to you. The ones that you think the most often. I’m going to ask you to put them aside just for a moment. Don’t worry, you can have them back when we are finished. Of course, they might never be the same. But then again, they never were to begin with, right?

When the old man suddenly realized that the sun had been up for several minutes, he quickly rolled out of bed. He noticed that his alarm hadn’t gone off as he’d hoped. That was ok. He still had plenty of time. He noticed that the fish he’d caught the day before were still where he’d left them. That wasn’t particularly surprising, as it was getting late in the season, and most of the bears had probably found a place to hibernate already. He checked his tackle and set out for another day of fishing.

As he was walking to the lake, he came across a rather large beaver dam. He didn’t recall seeing it yesterday, so he stopped to take a look. He noticed that the beavers were acting particularly strange, but how he knew this he couldn’t really put his finger on it. He decided to stop and watch. He’d been walking for about an hour when he came across the new dam, so he decided it would be as good a place as any to enjoy a quiet break. Something about these beavers was not quite right. The more he watched them, the more he became determined to find out exactly what it was about them that was so intriguing.

He set his bags down, and found a nice spot on the ground to sit. He leaned up against the hard bark of a sycamore tree, and began what was to be the most interesting afternoon of his life.

The beavers seemed to notice him watching, although they didn’t change the procedures, at least as far as he could tell. He was almost mesmerized by their methodical efficiency, scurrying off into the forest and coming back with pieces of tree that were the exact same size that they needed. They would carefully place the piece in just the exact place. Everything in order. It was amazing, the old man thought.

Trees would grow, taking different elements from the ground and the soil and the air and the rain. They would grow over the years, then these animals would come and chew down the trees to dam up the water to build their house. Did the trees mind that they were being taken to build a house? Did the water mind that its course was being changed? Were the beavers aware of all that they were doing?

The man remarked at the impressive way in which things so naturally fit together. So peacefully. So perfectly. Did he belong? Did he really? It was as if the earth itself was giving of one part of itself to help out the other part. As if it were taking resources from one area, that were becoming almost superfluous, and somehow using itself to move those resources to another more helpful self. Like it was constantly rearranging itself to rebuild itself, so it would more easily sustain itself.

The old man wondered why he never had the ability to see things from such a clear perspective. He realized then that everything was cyclical. From the earth to the tree to the water to the ocean back to the sky to the earth. He wondered how this cycle ever began, and how it knew how to sustain itself. Surely there must be some underlying pattern that lies beneath that which is seen?

The old man awoke, after having dozed off while watching the beavers. Their dam was complete. The sun had begun to set off in the west. The old man realized that he’s missed his opportunity to catch more fish. That was all right, he had enough to last him through a couple of weeks, and a couple of weeks would be enough to allow him to catch enough to keep for the winter.

As he walked back to his cabin, which would soon be warmed by the fire he would build, he wondered vaguely how the bears were doing. It will be good to see them again in the spring, he thought.


The Lumberjack and the Printing Press

Once there was an old lumberjack. He had been a lumberjack for most of his youth, starting when he was around thirteen. If that sounds a bit young to be earning a living from hard labor, you might consider that back in his day, those that didn’t work, didn’t eat. So naturally, this person decided to choose the best course of action, which was to maximize skills that he’d been given. And his particular skills were in swinging an ax. There was a group of lumberjacks who were passing through town when he was a boy, and asked around where they were going. He hadn’t known anything about lumberjacks at that time. He just became incredibly curious at the sight of all these big powerful men rumbling through town.

He asked what this was, and he was told that it was a crew going up to the forest to cut down some trees. They were building another town nearby,and they needed the wood. So the young lumberjack to be decided to follow this, to see where it would lead. He followed them long enough for them to notice him, and when they saw how well he could swing an ax, he naturally joined them. He followed them around for several years, chopping different kinds of trees to get wood, so they could build more houses, because the population was quickly growing.

As he started to get older, he noticed that his group of lumberjacks was slowly becoming smaller and smaller. There were less and less young boys that wanted to join. They had other, more modern interests. And as the group of lumberjacks began to shrink, so did the need for wood. They would spend seemingly endless nights arguing whether the decrease in lumberjacks was causing the decrease in demand for wood, or if the shrinking demand for wood was the reason for the dwindling group of lumberjacks.

That had been long ago, and this lumberjack was growing old. He still carried around his ax, the one they’d given him when he chopped down his one thousandth tree. That was not an easy milestone to reach, so they gave him not an easy ax to lift. It was heavier than all the other ax’s he’d carried with him before. But how, as he became older with every passing day, the ax seemed to be getting heavier and heavier. A small voice kept telling him to get rid of it, because it wasn’t worth anything. But he knew that if he did that, he might well die, because lumber jacking had been his life, and getting rid of this old ax would have meant throwing away a lifetime of memories. He just couldn’t bring himself to do.

As time passed, the ax became more and more an embarrassing burden. He started to question it. He started to question the value of the old ax. Everywhere he went, people would point and whisper. They had never seen a real lumberjack. They all thought they only lived in stories. The lumberjack became more and more distressed. Each day that passed, each chuckle he heard behind his back would cause him anxiety. What to do with this old ax?

Then one day he was walking down a rather large street. His ax was slung over his shoulder, and his head was drooped down low. He knew people were staring, but he couldn’t bear the embarrassment of meeting their eyes. Then, for some reason, which he would later describe as divine inspiration despite the fact he’d never been inside a church, he immediately spun around. He saw people frantically trying to help a man who appeared to be partially inside a printing press. There had recently been a newspaper in town, and the printing press had printed out a newspaper three times a week. They man’s arm was caught in the machine, and the people helping him were desperately trying to pull him out. It didn’t appear they were having much luck. The lumberjack realized that if they didn’t help him, he would be killed.

“Stand back!” He yelled in his booming voice. The people parted, and the lumberjack swung his ax over his head, and heaved it towards the machine. It swirled through the air, end over end, until the head was buried into the printing press with an ominous metallic clank, as the onlookers gasped in horror. The machine was stopped, and the man was freed. The crowd looked at the lumberjack in awe.

“You saved my life,” the man meekly said to him.
“I guess I did,” said the lumberjack, who smiled, closed his eyes, and breathed his last.

The townspeople took the ax which saved their mayors life, and put it up in the center of town, in honor of the unknown lumberjack, where it remains to this very day.