The Lost Gourd


The Lost Gourd - a fable Once there was a village, not a very large or an extremely small one, a village of nine families. The people in the village were all very well fed, because right there in the village there were all sorts of fruits and leafy vegetables for them to eat.

Because they were all very happy with what they had, the people in the village usually stayed at home and didn't know very much about the outside world, or whether there even was an outside world. The only exception was a young man named Arthur who liked to go exploring in the surrounding woods. Arthur would bring home strange objects and put them in his mother's house, mostly rocks, shells and wooden things. One day Arthur was venturing way far away in the woods when he espied a big, green ball hanging from a vine. He admired the shiny, big ball, broke it off of the vine and took it home. Everyone in the village asked him what it was, and Arthur named it a "gourd". The people all told Arthur that this big, heavy gourd appeared to be completely useless, and they went back to sitting in the sun with their fruits and leafy vegetables. Arthur put the gourd in the house where he and his mother lived, behind some other things he had collected.

A few months later, Arthur was going through some of the things in his house and discovered that the gourd had turned brown and was much, much lighter in weight than it had been. He didn't know what had happened, but when he shook the gourd there was something inside rustling around. He carefully cut the big, round gourd in half. When he did this, he ended up with two objects that were like large wooden bowls, plus some kind of woody, crumbly stuff that he put on the village's garbage pile, out behind the houses. He decorated the two bowls with juice from some of the berries that grew in the village and gave one bowl to his mother. The colorful bowl that Arthur made for his mother was the talk of the town. Everyone saw that the bowls were wonderful. Arthur and his mother showed how they used the bowls to hold their fruits and leafy vegetables. This was considered an innovation and had the effect of giving Arthur and his mother some special status in the community.

The next year, a strange thing happened. Out of the garbage heap grew several long, monstrous vines. Before long, there were many big, round gourds growing off of the vines. The villagers asked Arthur to get rid of them, so he took all the gourds into his house. This time, he made many, many bowls, decorated them with berry juice, gave them to everyone in the village and threw the stuff from inside the gourds onto the garbage heap.

The biggest bowl went to little Emma, the most beautiful girl in town. Emma was proud to have the biggest bowl, but soon she became sad, because her big bowl always looked so empty. The village had strict rules about how much fruit and how much leafy vegetables could be picked and consumed in a day. Emma's father, Barry, wanted to make Emma happy, so he went out into the woods looking for more things to put in the bowl. It was then that the village discovered all sorts of new vegetables, and then eventually fish and game.

Meanwhile, the new seeds that Arthur had thrown onto the garbage heap were producing many more gourds. Since everyone already had bowls, Arthur started making the gourds into musical instruments. By this time, hunting and gathering had become very popular with the villagers, and they mostly spent their days doing that. At night Arthur and a few friends would entertain everyone with music played on the gourds. Life was pretty good.

Then, the oldest man in the village, a wise old sage named Pippin, announced that he was tired of traipsing around the woods looking for food. He had learned that using the seeds of the vegetables, all the vegetables could in fact be grown right there near his house, and he invited everyone to grow crops behind where he lived. This seemed easier and caught on pretty quickly. By day, the villagers grew their crops, and by night they listened and danced in the garden as Arthur and his friends played crazy music on their gourd instruments. They also developed a solar calendar and some other neat things at that time.

One day, a traveler came to town. He said his name was John and that he came from across the river. He brought seeds from his own village and agreed to stay for a while. Where John came from, they had "singing", and John was soon singing with the gourd band. John told everyone about the land across the river. Even though it was not as warm all year long north of the river, one adventurous youth, named Christopher, decided to go see the other side, where he would trade seeds. A long while later, Christopher came back to the village with a few new seeds and other things, and with many strange tales. He spoke of men playing music with fire coming out of their instruments, singers who sang old songs of days gone by, strange enigmatic statues, mechanized cutting and grinding devices, lush breakfasts where people wore funny hats, and there were beautiful queens, on and on, so many stories.

Everyone wanted to go see the great outside world. Everyone wanted to trade things with the people across the river. Among the first things to be traded away were the gourds and gourd vines that they had in the village.

As people began to leave the village to go out and see the world, Arthur found that his band of musicians was shrinking. After a while, only the five most dedicated musicians were left to play for the dancers. Also, the people in the village now had so much to do, that sometimes there were no dancers for the five musicians to play to. On those evenings, the musicians would have long talks among themselves about all that had happened in the village. It was getting harder and harder to find decent size gourds to make their instruments and costumes out of. Every now and then, a gourd instrument would break and more and more often could not be replaced.

The gourd musicians decided there was only one thing to do, and they knew that no one else would do it. They had to leave the village on a quest, to search for that gourd vine in the woods, the mother vine that Arthur had found so long ago. Arthur didn't remember exactly where the vine was, just that it was a long, long distance away. So they all set out, in search of the lost gourd.

As the musicians meandered through the cities, valleys, mountains and roads, they searched for their prize and played their crazy gourd music. At times, you could hear that music hanging on the breeze, some distance through the woods, or even see them popping through the underbrush in their wild looking musician costumes. It was said that if you gave them a good smile, you would be happy all day, and if you gave them some hospitality, you would have good luck for a whole year. The gourd musicians searched and searched, eventually wandering throughout much of the known world, which at that time was a little smaller than it is now. Everywhere they went, they gathered musical influences from the wonderful people they met. Everywhere they went, they made people happy.

Sometimes, when the wind is right, you can still catch some of that gourd music wafting through the wilderness of our world, even now, because the five gourd musicians are still out there, still wandering ... still searching, for the lost gourd.

(This story dedicated to all the Walterses, Stephenses [and entourage], Parks, Mosers, Hibbens, Elliotts, Blesses, Benensons and Barnetts of this world. Long may you roam.) - (c) J. Ramsey, 2006


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