This week's Minden Times column
It was the beavers, those clever, industrious engineers, who had the idea: Turn house building into an industry that would create jobs and build a strong economy benefitting all forest creatures.
The industry boomed. Prefab modified beaver houses were sold to forest communities around the world. Profits flowed like the creeks in spring.
There were jobs for all. Beaver were employed as tree cutters. Moose and deer hauled sticks and mud. Foxes took charge of administration and the birds flew the marketing initiatives.
Prosperity grew throughout the forest. Every forest critter had his or her own new home and all the conveniences that make for a happy life.
Industrialization brought the financial resources to build a flourishing modern society. A council, called Parliament, was created from animals elected across the forest. There was a justice system, managed by the owls, and police services staffed by the wolves. The rabbits set up health care and other social services.
Banks, operated by the raccoons, offered mortgages for bigger houses and loans for televisions, computer tablets and to pay monthly electricity bills.
Life in the forest, once a miserable paw-to-mouth and claw-to-beak existence, was good. Until the grumbling began.
The bears complained they were working too much to enjoy their usual winter vacations. They demanded more paid hibernation time.
The nervous squirrels called for shorter work weeks to ease the stress of modern living. Still others said they must have higher wages to offset the taxes jacked up by their new government to pay for a burgeoning bureaucracy.
The forest echoed with howls and squawks about high prices and high taxes.
Wages rose steadily to quell the workers demands. So did the prices of beaver houses and other products because businesses needed more revenue to cover rising costs. The businesses also needed to satisfy the stock market lust for higher returns.
In another land far away beyond the lake, workers toiled in wet fields just to fill their bellies and did what their government ordered them to do. They learned of the industrialization success in the forest and began producing modified beaver houses and other goods at much cheaper prices.
Soon the forest animals were importing cheaper goods, and even some of their services, from the lands beyond the lake.
The forest industries could not compete with the prices from abroad. Their factories slowed production, soon gathering moss and rust. Workers were laid off and those who could not find other work spent their days playing video games and watching streamed reality shows.
Forest jobs continued to shrink as more business shifted to the lands across the lake. The only jobs available were in the fast food industry but many of the animals found they were gaining weight and becoming depressed.
Parliament decided the government should get into the casino business to create jobs. Casinos also would provide entertainment, ease the animals’ worries and bring more money into the government coffers.
Depression, suicide and violent crime became common. The rabbits operating the health service began prescribing cannabis leaves, which they said would ease the forest society’s pain. Costs soared beyond control, so the Parliament got into the cannabis business to raise more revenue.
It was the skunks, nosing the damp forest floor, who discovered the magic mushrooms. They learned that chewing the mushrooms relaxed the body and sent the mind off into other worlds. They created underground networks for distributing the mushrooms and sold them to stressed out buyers at secret rendezvous points.
The wolves soon ran out of spaces in which to confine loopy animals they found acting crazy or passed out along the forest trails. Their patrolling packs became exhausted trying to keep up with increasing crime.
The rabbits opened more mental health clinics and rehab centres. The costs became overwhelming so they cut back the services provided for traditional illnesses.
The forest society suffered a complete breakdown for which even the loon songs on the lake did not provide comfort or relief.
Eventually the happy loon songs stopped and the only loon call heard from the lake was the ‘tremolo’, that shrill and insane loon laugh signalling danger and despair.