A farmer once told his son that he was going into town for the day to tend to some business. The boy was then told by his father that he was to spend the day harvesting the corn out of the field. Alas, however, as boys are so often apt to do, the young lad got distracted by other matters, and did not do what he was supposed to.
That afternoon, the sun came out; and it got so hot that all the unharvested corn out in the field began to pop. It popped so much that, soon, the whole field was knee-deep in popcorn. Thereafter, the mule, looking out from the stable in the barn, saw all the popcorn and thought it was snow. As a result, the poor animal froze to death!
Now, obviously, the whole point of this little fable is simply to stress that the loss of a field full of corn and a valued mule was all because the little boy did not do as he was told and complete his chores. And let me tell you that, in my case, it worked quite well. Having grown up on a farm and been repeatedly told this story, you can imagine how keen I was on completing my chores in a timely fashion in order that we would never lose either a valuable crop or a prized domestic animal due to my slothfulness!
From time to time over the intervening years, I have researched the origins of this little story; but have never been able to find them. Until yesterday, that is. Several older church members remembered hearing a song that had similar lyrics and informed of them. As a result, before the day was complete, I had procured the long sought source.
The story apparently came from a little jingle known as “WAY OUT WEST IN KANSAS”, which seems to have been a popular song during the time of Edison's cylinder phonographs before carrying over into the early days of radio.
Here they are in full:
The sun's so hot that eggs will hatch
Way out west in Kansas.
It popped the corn in the popcorn patch
Way out west in Kansas.
An old mule coming down the path,
Saw the corn and lost his breath.
He thought it was snow and froze to death
Way out west in Kansas.
It makes perfect sense, then, that my grandfather, a life-long farmer who was born in 1909, would have heard it and sung it over and over in his head. Later in life, seeing the opportunity to instill values within me and my cousins, he likely concocted the story he related from these very lyrics.
Of course, the Bible also offers us little reminders about the importance of remaining diligent in our everyday tasks and responsibilities. Jesus told several such stories, referred to by the term “parables”. One in particular relates to our purposes here.
14“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. 15To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. 17So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. 18But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.
19“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ 21“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
22“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ 23“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’
24“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
26“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
28“ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. 29For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
It is obvious from this story told by Jesus that God expects each of us to fulfill our responsibilities and do our fair share of work. It is equally obvious that we are accountable to our Heavenly Father when we do not!
For my part, I can only hope that I never disappointed my earthly father or grandfather with my work ethic (or lack thereof). More to the point, however, I hope I never disappoint my Heavenly Father by doing less than is expected of me!
SOURCE: https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=40362. Note that the discussion thread here contains numerous other verses, most all of which are equally comical to the one about the popcorn and the frozen mule. For all I know, my grandfather could have also had other fables based on them. YouTube has an Edison phonographic recording of this very song dating from the 1920s at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mfZ6xK6eRA.
SCRIPTURE SOURCE: https://biblehub.com/niv/matthew/25.htm.
SEE ALSO: https://tifwe.org/five-lessons-for-our-lives-from-the-parable-of-the-talents/.