From the Alternate History Series
One day in a far away land, a potato farmer was standing in his fields when a Republican wearing a very expensive suit approached him. The farmer noticed that the fellow walked with a light step, hardly making a sound and that his neatly creased pants were soiled with fresh dirt. The Republican asked after the farmer’s health and if he’d mind helping out with a possible problem. Still puzzled by the man’s sudden appearance and dress, the good natured farmer agreed. The Republican asked the farmer to follow him.
The farmer particularly enjoyed this walk. He looked down his gently sloping field toward the tree line at the extreme end of the field. Just beyond the tree line the land fell sharply off onto a sand and gravel beach which bordered a fiord. Across the broad blue-green waters, the land resumed a sharp rise to low evergreen-covered hills, and beyond that, rose tall, jagged snow-capped mountains.
Sometimes when he felt in the mood and the tide was low, the farmer would gather a short rake, some empty sacks, and a bucket, and walk down to the sandy part of the beach. There on his knees, he would rake the sand in neat rows as he harvested some clams for his supper and most for market. Often the tide was low just before daybreak. In those times it was his want to just sit and watch the low mists as they swirled along the waters, alternately covering and revealing the green hills and small waterfalls on the opposite shore.
The two men walked through the nearby woods, and then passed over a log bridge the farmer had erected over a small creek, and emerged into another of the farmer’s fields, not far from several large circular fish ponds. The Republican pointed to a large hole in the ground – it was deep and broad, the spoils were heaped up to one side. Walking over to the pit, the Republican asked the farmer who dug it? The farmer said he had no idea, and that he certainly had not done it.
While the farmer was examining the mysterious pit, the Republican walked up and ‘accidentally’ bumped into the farmer, knocking him into the pit. There was no way the farmer could climb out on his own – so deep was the pit, and besides his ankle was turned and hurt mightily. He shouted for the Republican to help, but the Republican had turned away and was even then disappearing back into the forest.
While the farmer was lying in the pit trying to figure out how to get out, he heard the sound of a diesel truck followed by the sound of heavy chains dropping, and then the rumble of another diesel starting. This commotion was followed by the clanking of metal tracks approaching the pit. Looking up, the farmer could just make out the yellow shape of a backhoe.
The engine stopped, and the farmer heard the sound of oddly loud footsteps. He shouted for help. A neatly and expensively dressed Democrat leaned over and glanced into the great pit. The farmer shouted again, but the Democrat seemed not to hear him. Immediately, the Democrat returned to the backhoe, started the engine up and began to fill the pit in.
After some buckets of dirt were dumped into the pit, the farmer heard the engine stop again, and again the Democrat approached the edge of the pit. The farmer shouted for help with all his might. The Democrat heard him, and turning back to his machine, replied. "I’ll be right with you as soon as I get this hazardous pit filled in."
Using the backhoe’s pushing blade, the Democrat rapidly finished filling in the pit. He drove the backhoe back and forth over the pit, and then, unloaded a tamping machine from the truck’s trailer. He tamped and packed the lose soil down, insuring so no one would ever fall into that pit again. After the Democrat had finished his labors, the Republican returned, walked up and remarked to the Democrat what a lovely area this was, and how glad he felt that the Democrat had filled in the large and dangerous pit.
The Democrat agreed, remarking, "I see your pants have fresh dirt on them also."
The Republican remarked, "Yes, like yours, everyone can see we are men of the people and not afraid to get dirty when the time is right."
After trading more pleasantries, they both concluded the field would make a marvelous up-scale housing project and agreed that right there – were the pit had been – would make a fine place to build an ‘Interpretive Center’. They had little trouble initiating condemnation procedures, since the owner, a farmer, had mysteriously vanished and all inquires came to naught.
Soon the once bounteous fields were filled over with many feet of gravel – over which roads, grocery stores pilled high with food, and half million-dollar homes were built. The people were so happy to live in such a marvelous place with its great views. They felt fortunate indeed to live so close to the stores where food came from, so they re-elected the Republican and the Democrat. Which is how it came to be cheaper for the people to import their potatoes from China than to grow them locally.
When the farmer got to Heaven, G_d asked him if he could tell the difference between a Republican and a Democrat now.
The farmer replied, "No Sir." Then, puzzled and sadden at his failing, he added, "Most Holy, can you tell me what the difference might be so that next time I may be wiser?"
G_d replied, "I’m sorry, I can’t tell either. I was hoping you could tell me."
–PIF – 12/1/2003
Revised – 04/03/2006
Revised – 03/12/2009