#11: The Farmer and His Sons: Reloaded

Once upon a timeless time, there was an old farmer who owned a vineyard in Cornwall. He’s worked hard all his life, and in fact had started at age 16, having left school with a handful of GCSEs.

He grew big, juicy grapes in his vineyard. They were big and juicy because his farm was a particularly fertile land and also because the old man – who was really was very old – worked so hard, digging and forking and hoeing carefully around every inch of his land, only occasionally stopping for his cigarette break.

When the grapes were ripe at the end of every harvest, he sold them at the local market. People were happy to pay a slight premium for the grapes as they were – and we’re making this clear in case you weren’t paying attention earlier – big and juicy grapes.

Despite all his success, the old farmer was a worried man and he had been unhappy for the longest time. It has been suggested by his peers that he should engage an executive coach in order to be a more effective farmer, but the source of his despondency was much more straightforward than most people think.

The problem was the old farmer’s three sons, John, Paul and George, who were all very lazy. He also had a dog called Richard, a thoroughly agreeable – if slightly grumpy – Dandie Dinmont Terrier who hailed from Northumberland.[1]

John, Paul and George never did a scrap of work, didn’t have to work for good grades at school, always got a generous annual performance appraisal at the end of every year, and were always bumming fags off of their father.

The three sons just lay in the shade and smoked sheesha all day, leaving all the hard work and toil to their father. The old farmer’s most fervent hope was for his sons to get off their lazy rears, become good farmers and do well in their lives. Clearly, the chance of this happening was as about as good as getting Madonna to sing live at her concerts.

One day the farmer told his sons, “There is a great treasure in my vineyard. Remember that when I die.”

“That ought to be enough to get them interested,” the old man thought to himself, and he left it at that.

When the old farmer passed on, his sons remembered what he had said and the prospect of hidden treasure in the vineyard got them all giddy. The very thought of bags of gold, sacks of coins and chests bulging with silver and pearls was obviously pant-wettingly exciting for the sons. They started dreaming about all the holidays abroad that they were going to take and all the Victoria’s Secret models that they were going to impress and pull.

Now all they had to do was dig for it.

“Let us find the treasure!” they roared, as they ran out into the vineyard.

They set out to work immediately with spade, hoe, fork and all kinds of pointy things. It was initially rather awkward, as they had never held a spade, hoe or fork all their lives, but eventually they got into a rhythm and proved that they were not completely useless.

They dug and looked all over the father’s vineyard for days on end. They hoed out the weeds hunting for pearls, and combed the hard soil with their forks looking for gold and coins.

They dug deep with their spades in the hope of finding a bulging treasure chest, and after that they dug deeper still. It was hard work and there were plenty of expletives being spewed throughout the process as fatigue, dehydration and frustration set in. Their limbs were getting tired and weak, and George, who was a bit on the pudgy side, actually started to lose weight without embarking on an intensive GM diet.

Alas, the extensive rummaging through the land failed to produce anything valuable. They had worked over every bit of the vineyard but didn’t find a single pearl or a nugget of gold.

“Father must have been playing a trick on us,” said John. “There is certainly no treasure in this vineyard.”

“If this is his idea of a joke, I think it’s just dreadful and cruel,” said Paul, clearly not impressed.

“I’m hungry,” said George weakly.

Utterly disappointed, they gave up work and did what they usually do best: laying in the shade.

But by now the vineyard was so well dug that the grapes soon grew big and juicy. It was a dry, bad season for other farmers, but not for John, Paul and George. Their grapes were better than any that their father had ever grown before.

When the grapes were ripe, the lads figured that they might as well take them to the market and maybe earn themselves a few bob.

Much to their surprise, everybody crowded round to see such marvellous grapes. Traditionally, grapes from their father’s farm had always been the market benchmark anyway, but this year, they actually surpassed the quality.

In true Hollywood moment, there were plenty of oohs and ahhs, as everyone wanted to buy some. Trading was particularly brisk, demand outstripping supply by a hefty, healthy margin, with customers paying as much as 28% premium[2] compared to the same harvest period last year.

Within a couple of hours, the sons sold all the grapes and their pockets were full of money. In a moment of madness, some customers even offered a huge amount of money for the sons’ future harvest, triggering the birth of the first Grapes Futures Market in the region.

The sons were amazed and now they began to understand what their late father meant. “The grapes are the treasure from the vineyard, and the sly old fox was trying to tell us to stop being lazy without hurting our feelings!”

Their father was right after all. He had taught them how to be good farmers without necessarily giving them a boring lecture on the virtues of an honest toil, hard work, etc., and they have worked hard in the vineyard ever since.

The story – and the powerful lessons therein – travelled across the land and became one of the most famous stories being told around campfires across Europe. It reached Malaysian shores when the Dutch – under the guise of Dutch East India Company[3] – captured the hitherto impregnable fortress of Melaka by defeating the Portuguese in 1641, courtesy of a hattrick by Robin Van Persie.

By the time the Pangkor Treaty was signed in 1874, the story had firmly became a penglipur lara staple across the Malay states, and it[4] was said to be the inspiration behind the 1964 Malaysian comedy film, ‘Tiga Abdul’.


[1] The dog is not the most important part of this story, so we will not be mentioning him again.
[2] Risk adjusted.
[3] Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie or VOC.
[4] The story of the three sons, not the Pangkor Treaty.

May 6th, 2015

#11: The Farmer and His Sons: Reloaded

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