There was once a Ground Squirrel and a Crow who lived in a long-forgotten sunflower plot in a remote corner of an abandoned old farm. The sunflowers were no longer tended to by humans but grew, year after year, seemingly on their own.
One day, the crow watched as the ground squirrel gathered sunflower seeds from where they lay upon the ground, snacking on half and saving the rest. The crow decided to hop up beside the squirrel to discuss the issue, “Say there, Mr. Squirrel, might I have a word with you?” and then he spoke again before the squirrel had even acquiesced to having his lunch interrupted, “I see that you only eat half the sunflower seeds you collect and save the rest in those-there pouches you have in your cheeks. Would you care to explain yourself?”
“No, I would not.” The squirrel curtly replied, “What business is it of yours?”
“Well, as you know, hard times are upon us.” The crow bobbed his head up and down and began to slowly pace back and forth with his wingtips crossed behind him, “Food is scarce these days and one has a right to know what’s happening to the food you’re taking if you’re not eating everything you find as us crows do.” He gestured behind him with his beak at the murder of crows who always seemed to be within a few hops of their leader.
“Us ground squirrels,” the squirrel said, simultaneously pointing with a stubby arm and a stubby tail at the gathering of squirrels foraging nearby, “have been here collecting and managing sunflower seeds just fine on our own long before before you greedy crows moved into the neighborhood and started gobbling up everything you can.”
“Well, we’re here now.” managed the crow, “Neighborhoods are bound to grow. I’m just concerned about our resources, you see. That’s all.”
“Pardon me,” the ground squirrel feigned politeness, “but when, exactly, did you become concerned about our resources, as you say?”
“When I noticed that you ground squirrels have more than you need to survive. That’s absolutely clear by the way you only eat part of what you harvest and put away the rest. I’m, frankly, quite concerned about your greed.” The crow spread his wings.
The ground squirrel was aghast, “But we collect the same number of seeds you crows do! Only you eat all of yours and we save some of ours.”
“Yes, but since we also depend on this plot, I think we have every right to know where those seeds are going. We need to manage all these seeds in a way that’s beneficial to all of us.”
“In that case, you should be saving half of your seeds as well!” And, with that, a great cheer erupted from the gathering of ground squirrels who stood behind their leader.
“Heavens, no! Why would we do such a ridiculous thing?” laughed the crow, “Not only are we absolutely, positively, not ever going to even dignify such nonsense, but what I think is required is an immediate and thorough investigation into your methods and motivations if you’re going to continue to partake in such deviousness… such foolishness!”
The ground squirrel was indignant. “Really? Well, if you must know, managing our resources is precisely what I’m doing. You see, we save half these seeds for the benefit of the community — for all who occupy the sunflower patch. The seeds we collect are used to raise sunflowers for the next season. Without them, these sunflowers won’t grow next year. How do you think these sunflowers keep coming back year after year, anyway? It’s because we plant them… with the seeds that we save.”
I see, said the crow, “I think it is wrong. It is very, very wrong of you. These seeds are here, as food, to be eaten.” The crow pointed his beak skyward and puffed out his great feathery black breast in pride. “Mind you, these seeds were put here for us to eat.”
“Put here? Put here by whom?” Mr. Squirrel was incredulous.
“Nevermind that now,” waved a dismissive crow with one open wing and quickly said, “I think we ought to rethink what you’re doing with your seeds.”
“And by what logic do you get to decide what we do with the seeds we’re saving?” inquired the ground squirrel.
The crow thought and thought, and then dismissed himself from the conversation, “One moment, please.” He went and conferred with all the other crows for quite some time. When he came back, the crow recited (and sounding rehearsed), “You said those seeds are intended for the good of us all, did you not?”
The squirrel agreed.
“And the outcome of what happens to those seeds affects us all — wouldn’t you say?” The crow tilted his head.
Again, the squirrel reluctantly agreed.
“Well, if you’re saving some seeds, and those seeds are intended to benefit all of us, and since we crows make up half the population of this sunflower plot, then it stands to reason that we crows have every right to decide what to do with our share of those saved seeds.”
The squirrel suddenly felt very worried about his place as a leader. Despite his previous wit and confidence, he could now think of no new persuasion on his own to dispute this cleverly-prepared argument, and he stumbled in his reply, “You don’t get to… these sunflowers aren’t… don’t forget they won’t be here forever… you know.”
The ground squirrels who were foraging nearby had overheard all of this and now gathered behind him to egg him on. “Tell the crows they need to save half their seeds! Tell them…”
“Hush! I’ve got this!” insisted their leader. And the gathering grew quiet, save for a low rumble of complaint. “Well, what do you suggest?” asked the lead squirrel of the crow, hoping to sound reasonable.
“Well, Mr. Squirrel, I think it’s simply obvious that we should divide up all the saved seeds and let everyone decide for themselves what to do with them.”
“Well, I suppose that sounds reasonable.” admitted the squirrel, wanting to meet him halfway. “And, what would you do with your share?”
“Well, that would be our business!” The crow spread his wings and turned to face the other crows, proudly proclaiming, “They are our seeds, after all!”
The gathering of ground squirrels, behind their leader, could no longer remain silent and raised a ruckus. They pleaded with the head squirrel to make a better deal.
“Is there a problem?” inquired the crow. “Are you not the leader of the ground squirrels?”
“There’s no problem,” insisted the squirrel, feeling confident in the deal he was about to make, and then, after a moment of consideration of how he might appear to the others, demanded, absolutely demanded, resolutely demanded, one more condition be met as a demonstration of his authority and ability as a leader and negotiator, “If we give you half the seeds we collect, you must, then, leave us alone to do with our remaining half whatever we choose!”
“Indeed we will,” promised a satisfied crow.
And the deal was made.
So, the ground squirrels gave the crows half the seeds they had saved and the crows promptly ate them all.
And, from then on, the crows ate all the seeds they found, and the ground squirrels ate half the seeds they found and saved the rest. And half of what the ground squirrels saved, they gave to the crows who immediately ate all of those as well.
At the end of that year, the ground squirrels planted the seeds they had saved, which were only half of what they once planted because the crows received the other half and had eaten all of those.
The following year, only half as many sunflowers grew in that long-forgotten sunflower plot in a remote corner of an abandoned old farm that was no longer tended by humans.
The ground squirrel was worried about the harvest of seeds and approached the crow to renegotiate their deal. “Mister Crow, can you see, now, why we have to save so many seeds? Can we, please, renegotiate our agreement and plant more seeds next year instead?”
“Whatever do you mean?” said the crow. “The crows are doing very well. They are happy, strong and well nourished from all the seeds they consumed last year. Surely, you don’t mean to take that away from them? We simply won’t tolerate it!”
And that year it was the same, with the crows eating all they found, and the squirrels eating half what they found and saving the rest, and then giving half of that to the crows who immediately ate all of it.
The following year, only half as many sunflowers grew as the previous year, and only a quarter as much as the year before that, and there was only a quarter as many sunflower seeds to gather and eat as when it all began.
The crows gobbled up what they found, and the ground squirrels, staying true to their way, always ate half what they found and saved the rest, but still giving half of that to the hungry crows who quickly gobbled all of them down.
The ground squirrels began to starve. Many grew skinny, unhealthy or ill.
The lead ground squirrel, again, went to the lead crow, “Mr. Crow, do you not see what our arrangement has done to the community? And what it will do to our future? Can we, please, please, renegotiate our deal?”
“Times are, indeed, hard,” admitted the crow, “and, us crows get a bit hungry as well. As hungry as we are, surely, you don’t expect us to renegotiate our deal with you, as hungry as we are?”
And that year, again, half as many seeds were planted as the previous year and, again, half as many sunflowers grew.
The next year, so few sunflowers grew that there was not enough seeds to eat for anyone. The ground squirrels perished and the crows flew away to find another sunflower plot.
When one side is completely wrong, you compromise at your peril.