… where sa-tyres never go flat

Prize for Satire

Macpherson Farm

Macpherson Farm

By: Tekena Charles Banigo IV

(A story from the lost books of George Orwell)

Of all the farms whose animals had rebelled against their oppressive human owners (just as Old Major had desired for the beasts of every land and clime), few were predicted to have a future as bright and prosperous as the Macpherson Farm. And it was easy to see why. It (the Macpherson Farm) was a beautiful haven said to rival even the historic Eden.[1] The lush trees in its bountiful orchards produced succulent exotic fruits all year round. Its vast green fields yielded grains of the finest quality. And its woods provided timber, the like of which had not been seen since the days of the human king named Solomon. It was the pride of every animal.

Of all the farms who’d been tipped for success, none had their fortunes take a turn as disastrous and unfortunate as the Macpherson Farm.

For a few years after their rebellion, everything had worked out just fine. Progress was steady and it was only a matter of time before they caught up to and even surpassed the lazy humans. Then all of a sudden, in a series of events mirroring those which brought the old Manor Farm to ruin, things began to go awry. And not a single facet of their existence was spared the rot.

A good example of this was the area of internal farm security. The German Shepherds who were once the best guard dogs had over time become one of the most corrupt and inept organizations on the farm. So although they were the first line of security, they were always the first to flee whenever wolves came raiding. After this brazen act of cowardice, they would proceed to capture innocent sheep, dress them in wolf skin and parade them as captured wolves! A good number of them even went as far as being on the payroll of the criminal wolves and foxes. It was indeed a puzzling situation which would have been quite the comedy if the consequences weren’t so calamitous. Humans and neighbouring animals would occasionally peep through the fences of the farm, witness the generally deplorable state of affairs and together, ask the same questions. “How did things come to be this way?” “How did the once glorious Macpherson Farm suddenly find itself struggling with basic issues such as food production, health and security?” The answers to these questions lay in the actions and choices of the principal actors in this Greek tragedy – the animals themselves.

Now, as you must have rightly guessed, the Macpherson Farm was one of the largest and most populated in the region it was located. Virtually every type of farm animal inhabited its grounds but the most populous were the cows, goats, and chickens.

The cows (who were the largest group) believed they were superior to everyone and as such, vested with the divine right to rule the farm. The bitter irony was that they were, in fact, the poorest among all animals and often begged for scraps from the same goats and chickens they looked down on. Despite their pathetic state, however, they preferred to die in penury rather than see any other animal wield political power on the farm. And so every election cycle, they threw their weight behind their ruling class who impoverished them in the first place.[2]

The goats claimed to be the most intellectually advanced and exposed of all the animals. The simple truth, however, was that many of them were a most insular lot who had never left the confines of their pen. It showed in the way they always assumed any animal on the farm which was neither a cow nor a goat was automatically a chicken! They would stubbornly argue and go on to address fishes, ducks, and sheep as chickens despite their protests that they were totally different animals. In retaliation, said animals would point out that for all their supposed advancement, their internal political system was almost entirely controlled by a wily old billy goat known as Bourdillon.

Last, but not least, were the chickens. They claimed to be discriminated against by the cows and goats but went on to discriminate against the fish and rabbits who were not as populous as they were. Even fellow chickens were not spared as they often argued bitterly amongst themselves which breed was most superior. Their actions, by and large, were a true masterclass in hypocrisy.

With the animals divided by petty differences, they could never unite to oppose the true enemies of the farm – the greedy ruling class who stoked these differences for political gain. In order to ensure they remained in power, they impoverished the rest of the animals and created a social hierarchy very much like the one at the old Manor Farm. They jealously guarded their ranks, rotating power between themselves and their offspring while creating a fictitious middle-class to give the lower-class animals hope of ascension to the upper-caste. It was a devious ploy, and a very effective one. The most unforgivable evil they committed against the farm though was the installation of a clueless old bull to the position of Farm Consul. In fact, to this day, historians agree that this seemingly innocuous act was the final nail to the coffin of the farm.

The bull’s name was simply Harry, but many preferred to call him “Bull Harry”. He was a gaunt old beast rendered slow in speech and thought by age. His stark incompetence was matched only by his inordinate ambition. Rather than make actual plans for the farm, he preferred to spend his days, chewing lazily on the cud while sighing on how the farm had been run to the ground by past Consuls. Whenever he wasn’t lazing around, he spent his time visiting all the exotic farms and human settlements he’d always dreamed of visiting since his days as a calf. Of course, such visits were always disguised as state visits but the animals knew better.

The ruling class who installed him tried to butter up his image to the animals but it was evident he had no redeeming qualities. Rogue bulls trampled the gardens of other animals and were never punished even though it was expressly forbidden. On the other hand, he routinely sent his personal security dogs to hound animals he didn’t like. Official appointments almost always went to cows while he told the goats and chickens to be grateful for the low-level posts he gave them. He had all the flaws of the infamous Comrade Napoleon but possessed none of his brilliance.

In a personal attempt to launder his public image, he hired an array of praise singers to extol all his very visible flaws as virtues while making virtues he lacked seem like evils. His tardiness in attending to matters of state was lauded as patience. His inability to grow wealth was likened to contentment and his disregard for the ten commandments of the Macpherson Farm was hailed as a burning passion for justice. All forms of industry and hard work were discouraged and represented instead as greed and covetousness. And whenever any criticism was directed at his style of “leadership”, it was quickly labelled hate speech and treason. Slowly but surely, the once-great titan among animal farms was brought to its knees.

In the end, when the Grim Reaper hung his cloak over the farm, the humans and animals who’d long observed from other dwellings heaved a sigh of relief. The suffering of the Macpherson Farm had gone on for too long; made more macabre by the fact that its end came at the hands of animals and not the evil humans they’d been warned about. The wise ones who’d long heeded the writing on the wall had emigrated to literal greener pastures to begin life anew. The ones left behind? No one knows whatever happened to them. The Reaper’s cloak had over time, grown into a shroud which cut off the Farm from the rest of the world. Nothing that went in ever came out and the animals learned to stay away from its spectral walls and fences. In time, the rest of the world moved on as memories of the farm faded from popular consciousness. A relic only to be remembered around campfires as a fable from the darkest of ghost stories.

[1] A place where animals had first roamed freely before Man appeared to enslave them.

[2] Elections on the Macpherson Farm were always as decided by a single match of ‘tug-of-war” rather than ballot casting. Naturally, the other animals put together never stood a chance against the cows.

Tekena Charles Banigo IV is a graduate of the Faculty of Law from the University of Ibadan and currently a student at the Nigerian Law School. Like you, he struggles to meet submission deadlines as he has a thing against orderliness.

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The only thing you need to know about me is I speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth ―― well, except when writing.

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