Financial Fables – A Mouse in the Cellar
Long ago, in the small country town of Wealthville, lived two families. Both families were hard working and planted their fields with many different kinds of plants. They had potatoes, turnips, carrots, corn (and yes even pop corn) and lots of apple and fruit trees.
In the summer, they enjoyed eating the food they raised – right out of the garden. They had blueberries, strawberries, lettuce, tomatoes, peaches and lots of other stuff.
But in the winter, when nothing could grow, they had no way to keep their food fresh. Back then, there was no electricity, there were no refrigerators, no freezers and no grocery stores.
Both families decided to build a root cellar to store their food for the winter. A root cellar would keep their food cool in the summer and warm in the winter so they could eat food from it all year long.
Papa and Mama Watchful dug a hole for their root cellar into a hill, so it would stay nice and dry even when it rained hard. They found the trees with the hardest wood and shaved thick planks to make the inner walls of their cellar and they searched and searched to find tons of big flat rocks to line the outer walls – to keep the mice and squirrels out. They thought and thought to find all the ways they could to make their cellar dry and snug so no water or animals could get in. Their cellar walls would be thick and impenetrable, the roof, stout and covered with lots of insulating earth, their cellar door was to be tight fitting and they would even build a vent so air could move into and out of the cellar to dry it out. The floor would be slanted and padded with sand and stone to let the water drain out.
Papa and Mama Carefree dug their hole conveniently right next to their house, by the side of the creek so they could get to it very fast. Their walls were made of hard packed earth. The walls and floor were made of dirt. The door was thin and lightweight and the roof had just a thin layer of dirt on top.
The Carefree’s finished their cellar the very first spring and used it to store all kinds of stuff from the garden that year. They had lots of good food for the whole winter. That winter was warm and dry.
The Watchful’s were still working on their root cellar when harvest time came that first year. They weren’t able to put any vegetables or fruits aside for the winter. It was a hard winter for them. Papa Watchful worked for Papa Carefree. Papa Carefree paid him with vegetables. Mama Watchful taught Mama Carefree’s children to read and write. Mama Carefree paid her with apples and nuts. And so they made it through the first hard winter. The Carefree’s secretly laughed at the Watchful’s for spending so much time building their root cellar and not having any food to enjoy during that first winter.
The Watchful’s continued to work away on their root cellar all winter and did finish it by the next spring. It was solid, dry and snug.
Both families again planted, harvested and stored their produce for the winter – each in their own cellar. This winter, it was cold, snowy and rainy and the creek flooded in early spring.
Along about December, Mama Carefree came to visit Mama Watchful. She was worried. The fruits and vegetables in her cellar were disappearing! She didn’t know where they were going. “Are your fruits and vegetables disappearing too?” she asked Mama Watchful. “No”, replied Mama Watchful, “we still have many left. Do you need some?”
“No, not yet” Mama Carefree responded, and she went back home.
Mama and Papa Watchful and their children went into their cellar twice a day and watched for moisture, mice and other animals and checked the temperature. They inspected their vegetables, nuts and apples to make sure they were staying fresh.
Mama and Papa Carefree and their children were busy with other things and did not bother to check their cellar or their food often.
In March, Mama Watchful went to visit Mama Carefree. Mama Carefree looked thin and tired. As they sat and chatted, Mama Watchful learned that almost all of the apples, nuts and vegetables in the Carefree’s cellar had vanished. “I don’t know what is happening”, exclaimed Mama Carefree, “would you take a look at our cellar?”
Mama Watchful went to get Papa Watchful and they went back to the Carefree’s to take a look at the cellar. When they went into the cellar here is what they saw:
- The walls were wet.
- The floor was damp.
- It smelled like rotten food.
- Mouse droppings were everywhere.
- A family of mice sat in the corner looking at them.
- It was really cold inside.
- A squirrel.
“Oh my” cried both Mama and Papa Watchful at the same time, “ you have let your expenses eat away at your assets until you have next to nothing left!”.
“What do you mean”, queried Papa Carefree?
“You had many assets in the form of all of your apples, nuts and vegetables but now many of those have disappeared. You let the water ruin some of them. You let the family of mice eat a lot of them. You let the cold weather freeze and ruin some of them and the squirrel ate most of your nuts”, said Papa Watchful. These were your expenses. You didn’t watch what was happening to your assets. You didn’t build a strong, safe place to store them. You didn’t keep your eye on expenses to keep them from eating away at your assets, or ruining them, or stealing them.”
“But we didn’t know that would happen!” shouted Mama Carefree. “What should we do?”
“First, we will let you do some work for us, to earn some of our food to use”, said Papa Watchful.
“Then”, added Mama Watchful, “you should clean out your root cellar to get rid of the spoiled food, mice and squirrel!”
“Next, we will sit down with you and plan how you can change your root cellar to be more secure. After that, we can help you set up a review list so you know what to check to make sure your expenses aren’t eating up all of your assets” stated both Mama and Papa Watchful together. “We’ll show you how to keep a Watchful eye on your assets so your expenses don’t eat them up!”.
Finally”, piped in the littlest Watchful, “we’ll help you fix your cellar!
Readers, this is my first attempt at fable writing! I’m sure you got the moral of the story (it actually is a fable for kids). Is this too hokey? Do you think your kids would listen to a fable like this and learn from it?
Please, please give me feedback! Should I do more fables, or are they better published elsewhere?