Billy Jack the burro was much smaller than Abe the mule, so Abe was stronger and able to do more work. Billy Jack struggled trying to move a tree stump from the barnyard. He pulled and tugged hard as he could. His short stocky gray body was wet with perspiration. His long floppy ears fell over his eyes. He couldn't move the stump not even an inch.
"You can move the fence post setting next to the barn," Abe said. "I can move the stump, because I'm much larger than you." Abe's long ears pointed forward, sticking through the holes in his straw hat that he wore to keep the sun off his head. His large muscular gray body moved with ease and he moved the tree stump in no time at all.
The barn cat blinked her eyes and got to her feet. She bowed her back then stretched her black, furry, lanky body and legs.
"What you should do," she purred, rubbing her body and tail around the post. "You should bet that Abe can't move that old rusty red pickup truck setting next to the fence."
"Yeah," squealed the brown slick haired rat, rubbing his black beady eyes and retreating back in his hole before the cat's paw slammed down hard on the floor. "You should bet Abe can't move the truck."
"Why not?" The workhorse neighed, galloping over to where the pickup truck set. "I bet Abe can't move that old pickup truck." He shook his huge dapple-gray head trying to get rid of a fly buzzing around his ear. His large brown eyes open wide from excitement. He switched his tail, swatting a bee that landed on his back leg. His hooves sounded like thunder as they hit the ground.
"Yeah," squeaked the rat. "Why not?"
"It isn't right to bet," Billy Jack whispered, afraid they would make fun of him. "You should help with the work instead of thinking of bad things to do."
"Who told you such nonsense?" The cat purred, squinting her yellow eyes. "I can assure you whoever it was is wrong."
"Yeah," squeaked the rat, afraid to poke his head out. "Whoever it was is wrong."
"Not right to bet," the workhorse roared a big horselaugh. "I'm like that old fuzzy cat. Who told you such nonsense?"
"Yeah," squealed he rat. "Who told you such nonsense?"
     "My mother," Billy Jack muttered, hanging his head. His long floppy ears covering one eye. "I'm sure she's right, because she never tells me anything that's wrong."
     "Your mother indeed," the cat said, rubbing herself around Billy Jack's legs. "We don't have to tell your mother."
     "Yeah," the rat let out a shrill squeak from his rat hole. "We don't have to tell your mother."
     "That's right," nickered the workhorse. "What your mother doesn't know isn't going to hurt you."
     "Yeah," the rat poked his head out. His beady black eyes sparkling. "What your mother doesn't know won't hurt you."
     The cat sneaked across the barnyard, creeping flat on her stomach, her claws out ready to strike at the rat when she got close enough to the barn. The rat saw her coming and darted back into his hole. The cat crammed her paw in the hole, feeling around for the rat, but all she had on her paw when she removed it was spider webs. The rat was back in the corner, barely out of reach of the cat's paw, covering his mouth with his tiny foot to muffle his giggling.
     "I would know," Billy Jack mumbled. "I don't think I should disobey my mother."
     "So," the cat squinted her eyes. "Everyone's going to call you a sissy."
     "Yeah," the rat's head emerged from the rat hole. Forgetting about the cat's paw as it came smashing down in front of him. "Everyone is going to call you a sissy."
     "What's wrong with you, Billy Jack?" The workhorse paced back and forth. He shook his head and snorted. His long gray mane fell across his shoulder. "There's nothing wrong with making a little bet."
     "Yeah," the rat mimicked. "What's wrong with you, Billy Jack?"
     "I don't want to bet!" Billy Jack brayed so loud that they all listened. "I'm not going to bet and I don't want to hear anymore about it."
     "It doesn't matter how much you can do," Abe brayed loud, sounding like a foghorn. "What matters is if what you do is right."
     "You probably couldn't move that old pickup truck anyway," the cat hissed, stalking back and forth across the barnyard. "We'd probably lost all our money betting on you."
     "Yeah," screeched the rat from his rat hole. He wasn't taking any chances. The cat's paw almost clobbered him the last time he poked his head out. "We'd probably lost all of our money."
     "I agree," the workhorse grumbled. "We probably would have lost betting on that ugly mule."
     "I can move the pickup truck," Abe said. "I don't have to prove my strength to any of you."
     "That's right," the rat agreed, peeping out from his rat hole. "Abe doesn't have to prove anything to us."
     "Let's get to work," the workhorse said, dragging his hooves stirring up the dust. "I'll help you clean up the barnyard. If we all help, we can get the work done today."
     "Yeah," the rat said. "If we all help, we can get the work done today. I'd be glad to help clean up the barnyard, but that cat won't let me out of this hole. Every time I put my head out. She tries to catch me."
     "You can't believe anything that rat tells you," the cat mewed softly, walking on her toes, holding her head high and batting her eyes. "He tells lies, cheats and will weasel out of anything that has to do with work. He knows I wouldn't lay a paw on him if he wants to help out."
     That's another thing I should mention," Abe said. "We should never tell lies to get what we want."
     "Yeah," squealed the rat. "We should never tell lies to get what we want."

Copyright © 1995  Jo Ann Lovelace. All Rights Reserved.