The Non-Expert

Fabled Again

Experts answer what they know. The Non-Expert answers anything. This week: An overstuffed mailbag means a lot of questions are begging to be answered, and we know the only way to satisfy those hungry for knowledge—goats.

Have a question? Need some advice? Ignored by everyone else? Send us your questions via email. The Non-Expert handles all subjects and is updated on Fridays, and is written by a member of The Morning News staff.


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For eons, really, or maybe twice as long, we humans have searched for answers to our most basic of problems. Problems such as How can I evolve? Or even What’s a good way to become famous? It’s fascinating to think, then, how human problems and solutions have altered the composition of our current version of the human species. Indeed, the DNA of anybody who in XX B.C. went ahead and ate berries from the bush that all the dead birds were lying around… well, that genetic makeup isn’t represented here today.

Which is where the important role of the advice giver comes into play. Other early humans may have looked to another early human—say, one who could type 60 words per minute—and grunt to him/her/undefined and point into their open mouths and then at the bush surrounded by dead birds and humans. The advice giver would look at those seeking its help, and then would gently blink and shake its head. This is, incidentally, when cannibalism first took off.

So, were they too to survive, advice givers had to learn a new way of conveying their answers, one that would interest an audience, one that involved a farmer and his goats—the fable. And so it happened.

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Question: I feel like these random bag searches they want to do on the subways are a violation of my rights. I mean, I’m not a terrorist!! So what can I do if I don’t want to have my bag checked?—Danielle M.

Answer: It so happened that a farmer and his wife were very much in love. Every night from their wedding night forth, they would eat and drink together, and recline in their chamber. They would spend all of their time together, eating and drinking and reclining, night after night, week after week, month after month, until they found themselves with no likable herd of goats to speak of, and debts mounting in great numbers.

As time passed, however, and the needs of their household grew, the farmer began spending more and more time in the pen with his goats, and every evening his wife would approach him with a casket of wine, and bid him come and recline in their chamber. The farmer accepted the wine, but declined his wife’s plea, saying that if he did not tend to the goats, their household would suffer, and then they would have no meat to eat, nor wine to drink, should they fell behind in their debts. The wife conceded the farmer’s point, and went to their chamber, alone.

And so it happened night after night, week after week, month after month, that the wife would bring the farmer wine to drink, plead that he come back to their chamber, and the farmer would decline her invitation to stay and then to his goats in their pen.

Until one evening, when the farmer fell asleep in the pen with his goats, when he had a terrible dream, that after so many nights of neglect, his wife had journeyed away to another village, never to return. He awoke with a great start, and ran with exceptional speed into the chamber, and was happy to find his wife asleep there, still loyal to him and their marriage.

The farmer, happy in his relief, immediately realized there was still work to be done, and so returned to the pen to tend to the goats, so that they might not fall behind in their debts, and would continue to have wine to drink, and meat to eat.

The moral of this story:
We only begin to appreciate something when it is under threat of being taken away from us. Vote with your transit dollar and work from your home. We’ll email you when we hear they’re searching those as well.

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Question: I’m trying to get my first novel published, but I don’t know the first thing about the publishing industry. Do I need a literary agent, or can I just do it all on my own?—Anna B.

Answer: It so happened that one day a poor-looking farmer was tending to a herd of goats when a man approached the farmer and commented upon what a fine-looking herd of goats the farmer had raised. The farmer smiled broadly and thanked him vigorously.

The man then offered the farmer a large sum of money, for he wished to own this exceptional herd of goats. The farmer again smiled, thanked the man and agreed to his offer, and asked when he would like to come by and take lead of the herd. The man admitted he did not know how to lead goats, but that he wanted them in his own field within three days, and that the journey would cross many villages, a journey that usually took a man twice as many days—with or without a herd of goats.

The man then offered the farmer twice the original sum if the farmer would agree to lead the herd to the man’s field himself, within the required time. The farmer again smiled broadly and thanked the man vigorously, money exchanged hands, and the farmer agreed to lead the herd to the man’s field within three days.

Three days later, the man, waiting in his field, saw the farmer approach—with no goats in tow. Once the farmer reached the man’s field, the man, in outrage, inquired of him where the herd of goats was. The farmer replied that he didn’t know, for they were in fact his friend’s goats.

The moral of this story:
It is wise to know those who can do what you would not. Which is exactly why you should check their references first.

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Question: Know a good way I can quit smoking?—Bill T.

Answer: It so happened that a farmer was leading his goat between two villages, between which lay many fields and rivers, when his goat fell ill. The farmer, not sure where they were in their journey, pressed on, and the goat, staying with its master, pressed on as well. As the journey continued, however, and the goat fell more and more ill, the farmer, seeing the goat lag behind on the path, picked up the goat and slung it over his shoulders so that he might make their journey more swift, and more quickly bring the goat to the next village, where he could seek out those who might tend to the goat’s illness.

After some distance, the farmer approached a deep, rushing river, across which he could see no path. He looked to the north, peering his eyes, and could see no bridge. Then he looked to the south, again peering his eyes, and could see no bridge there either. Knowing the next village lay further to the south, he headed in that direction along the river.

As the farmer continued he came to a raft, beached along his side of the river. He went over to the raft and pushed it a slight ways into the river, laid the goat on top, and then hoisted himself onto the raft. Before he was even halfway to the other side of the river, however, the raft began to submerge beneath the weight of its cargo, and so he quickly grabbed the goat, hoisted it above his head, and with great difficulty swam back to the only shore he could reach—the closer shore—as the raft sank.

Still on the wrong side of the river, the farmer did not give up hope, and so he again picked up the goat and slung it over his shoulders, and continued southward along the river.

After some time the farmer finally came upon a bridge. He took the opportunity, and crossed it, but once he was almost halfway over, the bridge began to give way, and he could feel it crumbling beneath his weight. As the bridge swayed, he lost his step, and accidentally let slip the goat over the edge of the bridge, where it was swept away by the current.

After that he found he could easily cross the bridge, and was able to make his way to the next village, quite safely.

The moral of this story:
If at first you don’t succeed: Try, try again. At least until the goat on your back is the death of you.

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Question: It’s the age-old question—why do hot dogs come with 10 in a pack but buns come with 8? I’ve heard other attempts at answers but I figure you must know the real truth.—Dan C.

Answer: It so happened that there were two farmers who shared a field, and who struck up a competition to see who could raise the more exceptional herd of goats. Every evening they would meet in the center of the field to compare the size of their herds.

One evening the first farmer would say he had surpassed the second farmer’s number by half. The next evening the second farmer would claim he had surpassed the first farmer’s number by still another half. And so on and so on until neither farmer knew exactly how many goats he had in his own herd, nor how many goats were in the other farmer’s herd.

After some time a man approached the two farmers as they argued in the center of the field over whose herd was the more exceptional. The man, not hearing the argument, quickly complimented both farmers, and deemed these goats quite exceptional and in such an impressive number that he wished to purchase the entire herd for a magnificent sum of money, a sum that, split evenly, both farmers quickly realized they could each use to live out their years in comfort.

The farmers agreed to sell the man the goats, upon which time money exchanged hands and the farmers set upon to live out their years in comfort, which they did.

The moral of this story:
Everything, no matter what, eventually gets eaten.

Andrew Womack is a founding editor of The Morning News. He is always working on the next installment of the Albums of the Year series at TMN. More by Andrew Womack