In a land that was south enough to be hot and west enough to be dry, a single river ran between wide muddy beaches. Among the twists and turns of the river, the land was mostly barren. Only small trees and dry grasses ever grew there. And, in this land, a sparse community struggled to survive.
Everyone in the community was employed by a single bullfrog who was so large and ferocious, with his great gaping maw, that everyone was afraid of him. And he owned the river and all its muddy banks.
At first the animals of the community prospered. They were paid well for their work of collecting things for the great frog, especially branches and cones from the piñon pines that grew in the area. From these, the frog had workers strip the piñon nuts and place them in a pile which the frog guarded jealously. From this pile he would pay his workers a reasonable sum of piñon nuts, and these served as the currency of the community. The animals would take these piñon nuts and purchase, from the frog, supplies for their lives, such as mud bricks to build their homes, water and food, which was plentiful alongside the river which the bullfrog owned.
The animals worked hard and earned a fair amount of piñon. They gladly traded piñon for items to improve their lives. They built-up their community, built homes and raised healthy families with the piñon they earned. All was well. The community prospered and thrived.
But the bullfrog was not happy. He had in his employ a possum who followed orders well but also annoyed the frog with a great many questions all the time. But mostly the possum was tasked with delivering whatever bad news was ever needed to be told to the animals of the community.
One day the frog came to the possum and said, “I think we’re paying everyone too much for their work. I want you to start paying them less, and once they get used to that, pay them less again.”
The possum thought he had a problem with that, but did as he was told. And when the workers came to receive their pay of piñon that week, they received less. The workers grumbled and groaned, but not too much, as they needed their jobs and needed piñon to purchase goods from the frog which they needed to live their lives and provide for their families.
After that, the frog’s pile of piñon began to grow a little. The frog loved his pile very much. He kept it resting upon the muddy beach, and always stood nearby to keep close watch over it. Always.
One day the bullfrog came to the possum and said, “I don’t think the animals are paying enough for their mud bricks, their food and their water. I want you to charge them more. And, when they get used to that, charge them more again.”
The possum was perplexed. “But your people already pay plenty piñon for your products. How could you?” he pleaded with the frog.
But the possum did as he was told. And the next time the animals came to purchase mud bricks to build their homes, or to purchase water or food, they were charged more. The animals grumbled and groaned, but it did no good as the animals had nowhere else to purchase things.
And the frog’s pile of piñon grew. The frog often gazed at his pile. It made him feel grand, and he admired himself for having it.
When the pile reached his chin and would grow no higher, the frog went to the possum and said, “We are still paying our workers too much piñon. I want you to give them less, and when they get used to that, give them less again.”
The possum was perturbed. “But you already pay your people a pittance in piñon! They’re paid disproportionately to the profits produced by their labor.”
The frog didn’t care, and the possum followed orders as he wanted to impress the frog in hopes of procuring a promotion in the future. And when the animals came to receive their pay, they received less. The animals grumbled and groaned but only as much as would allow them to still keep their jobs because there were no others to be found.
And the frog’s pile of piñon grew and grew. It grew to the top of his head and then grew some more. The frog’s pile of piñon was now much larger than himself, and he could not quite see around it. The great frog was awestruck with his pile and quite pleased with himself.
Once then, a little bat from the desert flew high overhead, high enough to remain out of sight, and taunted the frog about his pile. “You’re a greedy old frog and you do us no good at all!”
The frog yelled at the sky, shook his fist and shouted his argument that, since piñon was the currency of the community, and since he was the provider of piñon, that he was, in fact, the source of any good that ever came to anyone.
But the frog was also very angry at the bat and insulted at the accusation, so he decided to take it out on all the animals of the community.
The frog called the possum up beside the pile. “The animals are receiving too much in return for their piñon when they purchase products. I want you to provide less for the price of their purchase.”
This provoked the possum to pugnaciousness. “You petty, pinchpenny polliwog! Your people already pay a premium for sub-par products; now you want them to purchase paltry provisions?”
The bullfrog grew very angry at this petulance and opened his great maw to take a bite of the possum, but the possum was repentant. The possum suddenly remembered that he had aspirations and goals of his own — that he pursued a promotion and a pile of piñon of his own, and promptly apologized.
And when the next time came that the animals purchased, they received less than they did before.
And the great frog’s pile of piñon began to grow again, but only for a little while before it stopped growing and began shrink a little.
The great frog panicked and called the possum before him, “Why?” cried the frog, “Why is my pile no longer growing, but going down instead?”
The possum had previously prepared for this probe and was primed to pronounce a prognosis. “You see, great frog, the people no longer possess enough piñon to purchase your products. They’re poor and oppressed. They have no more piñon to put on your pile.”
The fiendish frog dismissed the possum from his company and paced around his pile. The pile was, indeed, considerably taller than he, where it rested on the muddy river bank, but he knew it would grow no more.
Then the frog had an idea, and called the possum up beside the pile to proclaim his plan, “Mr. Possum, we will lend people piñon from the pile.”
The possum was perplexed, and puzz… but… also, immediately suspicious and worried. He decided to be careful and ask some questions on behalf of the animal community for fear of the ramifications and unexpected harm that might befall upon any animal who might agree to this new lending system. “Mr. Frog,” this middle-management marsupial managed, “If I may ask, what happens after animals borrow piñon from you?”
“Why, they pay it back with interest, of course!” laughed the frog. “For every 10 pieces of piñon an animal borrows, they must pay back twelve!” The frog laughed and laughed.
The obedient possum, with a mind full of his own ambitions, could think of nothing other than to implement the frog’s plan.
And the animals borrowed. Each of them borrowed a great deal from the frog so they could purchase mud bricks to make their homes and so they could buy food and water to live. For a while they lived a little better than they had been, but it soon became time to pay their loans back to the frog. They didn’t have the money to pay it back, so the bullfrog subtracted it from their pay.
And the bullfrog’s pile of piñon grew and grew. The giant pile of piñon, which stood upon the muddy, muddy river bank grew so large that the frog could not see its top.
But now the animals of the community were not only poor, but were also frighteningly in debt to the frog. And the frog’s pile of piñon was so large and tall that it could be seen, so obviously, from anywhere in the community.
Eventually, the animals of the community became so angry that they decided to organize and march against… who else, but the possum who was always the bearer of bad news.
So the animals gathered together, locked arms and marched toward the river. When they reached the possum, the possum played dead so there was no messenger to march against, but still they marched.
Arms-locked, desperate and angry, the animals marched up and down the river banks. They were so angry, and their numbers so large, that their marching feet shook the land like an earthquake.
The great bullfrog watched on in horror as his messenger, the possum, lay seemingly dead, and the earth shook and shook with the angry feet of all the animals.
The bullfrog ran to his pile of piñon to watch over it. But as the ground shook, the pile began to sink into the river bank’s soft mud. And as the animals marched, and the ground shook, his great pile of piñon began to sink down, down, into the mud.
Desperate, the frog leapt upon his pile and wrapped his arms around it. And as the marchers came, and as the ground shook ever more, the pile of piñon sunk down, down, down, into the muddy ground.
“Nooooooo!” Yelled the frog, but it was no use. And the frog sunk down into the mud along with his pile of piñon, until both were buried beneath the mud, never to be seen again.