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Akụkọ ifo - Oral Traditions
The Leopard and the Muskrat
On a hot sunny day, a Leopard, having had a belly full of newly devoured antelope, sat in the hot African sun just doing nothing. Soon a muskrat scurried by and paused long enough to evaluate what the Leopard was doing. A fast runner, he stared at the non-moving Leopard. Any movement from the Leopard will have him poised to make a fast exit. The Leopard looked at him with nonchalance and looked the other way, barely acknowledging him. Sensing that the Leopard was not going to move, the Muskrat spoke.
"So, big fellow, you are scared to challenge me eh? See, even though I am small, I am not as weak as you big cats think. No sir, as a matter of fact I am ferocious, fast and, I hate to brag, but I have been known to pack a whole lot of power when I attack” he gestured as if in an attack mode. The Leopard stared at him, and again looked the other way. ‘Who is this fool’ thought the Leopard, too full to move.
The muskrat was sure that his threatening stance was deterring an attack and continued to pester the Leopard. The Leopard got up and walked towards a shady tree. The muskrat believed that some how he was threatening to the Leopard and cautiously followed behind him.
“What’s the matter big guy, you scared of me? Stand still and fight! I command you to face me. Oh, I get it. You are really a coward, just a big boy by nature and nothing else. Sure, walk away you big lumuks! Tuck your tail under your butt and run. Wait until I tell the boys. They will not believe it. I scared the big bad Leopard. He walked away scared of little old me!” Soon, he scurried way.
The Leopard sat down under the shade of the balboa tree not giving the muskrat much though. It was too hot to argue with anyone. Feeling drowsy after such a heavy meal, he dozed off. It was not until late the following day that he awoke, famished and ready to eat. It was a particularly hot day and the other animals had all wondered off to find water and find some shade. As far as his eyes could see, there were few animals for the picking. He would have to travel a small distance for a kill. He had walked only 200 yards when he heard a familiar voice. He stopped and saw the little muskrat from the previous day a few feet from him. This time he was not alone. He had over 10 other rather nervous muskrats with him. Bemused, the Leopard stopped and looked at the muskrat ‘army’ before him.
“Hey big boy, it is me again. Yeah you know the one you ran from yesterday. I brought the boys with me to see what a chicken you are. The way I figure it, this place is not big enough for both of us. You have to scram from this territory. This is ours and we are laying a stake on it. What you do is move away or it will get ugly around here!”
"I can start the day with a light snack’ thought the Leopard after realizing that the little fellow was on a mission to impress the ‘boys’. Playing along, he said to the muskrat,” Do forgive me but it is not clear to me where the line between where I can roam and where I cannot lies. Could you please show me? I promise not to violate it, you being brave and all”.
"Wow" thought the other muskrats. ‘Skinny Moe sure is tough. The Leopard is scared of him’.
Moe puffed up his chest, noted that the ‘boys’ were sufficiently impressed, and says to the Leopard, “Very well then. However, you let me lead and you follow seeing that you do not know where the line is”.
“Of course, please lead the way,” purred the Leopard demurely.
Moe scampered in front of the Leopard and strutted forward. Suddenly, the Leopard crouched momentarily, leaped in the air, pounced on the muskrat and devoured him. The other muskrats scurried away in horror.
“Now for some real food” growled the Leopard as he sauntered stealthily across the Serengeti in search of prey.
The lesson in this story is that it is never a good idea to ridicule anybody just because you think that person is in a weakened state or to impress others at the expense of the person you are working against. You never know how your taunting could unleash a level of anger that may cost you not just your dignity but also your life. We must learn how to relate to others in loving ways while we are working, serving or playing. It is very dangerous to think that to be ‘all that’, somebody has to be less. If you are not careful in whose Serengeti you are trespassing, you will find out that the first time was a fluke and the second time may find you where you do not wish to be. Do not sacrifice your humanity for temporary gratification!
Let sleeping dogs lie!