Ntate Moabi was tired. He had spent the past year working hard on his small farm to get a good crop of maize. Taking care of the farm animals was a big job too.
‘Let’s go to Durban on holiday,’ he said to his wife.
Ntate Moabi could not leave the farm animals alone. Who would make sure that they eat and drink well? Who would clean their stalls?
“Ask Cousin Makhele to help,” his wife said.
Cousin Makhele, who worked as a school teacher, agreed.
“I want to buy a farm one day, he said. “Helping you will show me what it’s like to own a farm.”
Cousin Makhele was shocked to find out how spoilt Ntate Moabi’s animals were.
Lolo the Cat ate only canned cat food.
Cousin Makhele tried to teach her how to catch mice.
“Come on Lolo, go catch the mouse. There’s a good kitty-cat!” he said.
Lolo refused to pounce on the mouse Cousin Moagi caught for her.
Lolo complained about their new caretaker to her friend Foxy the dog.
‘He tried made you catch your own food? Eeeeeeew!’ he said, scrunching his face in disgust.
‘Imagine how humiliating it would be to chase one those creatures and then killing it! Gross!’
Foxy also had a problem with their new caretaker. Cousin Makhele said Foxy had to watch the sheep and make sure they didn’t wander away. He also said Foxy had to sleep outside, not in the kitchen where it was warm and cosy.
“Now that is really mean!” Lolo said. “How can that man do this to us?”
“The question is: what are we going to do about it?” Foxy said.
The two friends decided to call for a meeting for all the animals on the farm.
All the animals attended the meeting.
Even the rats came: if Lolo hunted them, they would have to find a new place to live!
Lots of animals had something to complain about.
Manana the Mother Sheep said: the sheep don’t like Foxy watching them. He is big and looks scary to the lambs. And today he chased the lambs that had trouble keeping up.”
“He doesn’t let us run about and have any fund either,” one of the lambs piped up.
‘You’re lucky,’ Tsana the donkey said enviously. ‘I work from sunrise till sunset, pulling a wagon. We must have hoed everyone’s farm by now.’
The animals decided to go on strike and refuse to do any of the jobs that Cousin Makhele gave them.
Lolo refused to catch mice.
The lambs ran anywhere they liked.
Foxy didn’t chase them back. He didn’t bark when strangers came to the farm either.
The cocks did not crow in the morning.
Nia was still bored in her stall because there was no one to ride her.
Tsana didn’t want to go on strike.
“Makhele can easily replace me with a tractor if I’m useless to him,” he said.
“He can’t do that,” the other animals said. “It’s not his farm.”
Mice, on the other hand, were encouraged to run through the house.
“Make sure that Ntate Makhele sees you in the house,” Lolo told them.
”We will win this battle,” Foxy said.
Cousin Makhele eventually gave up and decided to treat the farms animals just as they were used to.
“Soon Ntate Moagi will come back to the farm and its lazy animals will no longer be my problem,” he said.
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Their victory did not last long.
A week before Ntate Moagi was to come back home from the holiday, Cousin Makhele received a phoned call from him.
Ntate Moagi said he and his wife had decided to sell the farm and live in Durban. He explained that he and his family enjoyed the coastal city so much that they decided to live there.
Cousin Makhele was shocked.
“Sell the farm?” he exclaimed. “What about the animals?”
Ntate Moagi said he had tired been of farming for a long time. As a result, he allowed the animals do what they liked, he said.
“Would you like to buy our farm?” he asked Cousin Makhele.
Cousin Makhele said he needed to think about it.
“Ok. I’ll phone you in a week then,” Ntate Moagi said.
When Cousin Moagi finished talking, Lolo came out under the sofa and ran outside to tell the other animals the bad news.
“Foxy! Foxy!” she meowed as she run through the house looking for him.
He was not in the kitchen, so she went to the stalls.
“What?’ he whoofed when she stopped next to him.
“Trouble,’ she said, panting for breath. “We are in deep trouble.”
Lolo told the animals that Ntate Moagi and his family are not coming back to the farm to live. He wants to sell the far, to his cousin.
“Oh no! What about us?” Foxy asked.
“Moagi will sell us the place, move on and forget us. That’s what people do,” Tsana said.
Tsana said there was nothing the animals could do. They all had to accept the change and hope the new owner was kind to them.
Lolo told them that Ntate Moagi offered the farm to Cousin Makhele to buy the farm.
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“I think it’s time we all changed our attitude to Cousin Makhele,” Tsana said. “From now onwards, we must do what he tells us, when he wants it, no questions asked.’
“Do what he tells us? Do you mean I have to start hunting mice? Are you crazy?” Lolo asked, her face scrunched in disgust.
Tsana said he didn’t like giving up their fight either, but there was no choice.
“Now I will have to work all the hours God gave,” he said.
“You don’t have to catch the mice yourself,” Nia said. “Invite those wild cats that Foxy likes chasing. Tell them they can come visit on the farm, as long as they agree to catch the mice for you.”
“Wow! Why didn’t I think of that?” Lolo said happily.
“E-e-e-excuse me!” a big grandfather mouse took a deep breath before he asked: “Are you saying it’s okay for the cats to start hunting us now?”
“Yep!” Lolo said happily.
“That’s not fair!” a tiny mouse squeaked as their mother pushed them out of the stall.
It was also agreed that Foxy would start watching the sheep.
Manana said she didn’t mind.
“I didn’t want to say anything because of the strike and all, but sometimes the lambs got lost, and I had to find them myself,” she said. “I didn’t like that.”
The following morning, Cousin Makhele woke to cocks crowing.
At breakfast, he didn’t see Lolo and Foxy, who usually sat on the floor watching him. The mice that usually scurried round the room while he ate were also absent.
After breakfast, he went outside to begin work.
The sheep were already out in the fields, grazing. Foxy was also out in the field, occasionally running to block a lamb that wandered from the herd.
Cousin Makhele was surprised, but he was also pleased.
“I wonder what changed their minds?”