As can be expected from the creative folks over at Harvest Finance we've got a bit of a different challenge this time with the writing contest. To honor this I've written a short story. While creative writing isn't really one of my strengths it was fun to come up with this tale, I hope very much that you enjoy reading it too.
A Cautionary Tale
In a way Techville was just like any other place, there were good bits, and bad bits. The folk in the surrounding areas always said it was like the Wild West and in a way they weren't wrong. But it wasn't the Wild West of movies, the lone gunmen shooting from the hip, no it was more like the real Wild West the expansion and migrations of people just looking for a better way of doing things, people looking to get more from life. Quite often when we think about the Wild West our minds inevitably wander to nostalgic the gold rush scenes, hopeful souls lining rivers pans in hand, the crack of dynamite in the hills. However, the true draw for folks to Techville wasn't gold, diamond, or rare minerals it was land itself. More precisely it offered space to expand, room for everyone and fertile soil that, if you knew how to work with it, offered exceptional yields for your crops.
The people of Techville were, for the most part, farmers. And, while there was considerable community spirit, atleast from outside looking in, there was actually in fact an underlying rivalry between them. Often the farmers were secretive about their growing methods. Everyone knew the soil was good but to get the most out of it you need to factor in so many thing that it felt to newcomers like they wouldn't ever be able to achieve the crops that those early settlers had. Indeed, some newer settlers even upped and left to try their look with striking oil because it was so difficult to understand where and what it was best to plant. It was this very problem that old-man Chad saw happening time and again that moved him to action.
Old-man Chad wasn't actually that old, but nor was he young. The town folk just called him old though because he often seemed to have that grumpy demeanour that you associate with an old man. His face was weathered from working in the elements, skin tanned as old leather and brow almost permanently furrowed. Despite his grumpiness he had a kind heart, which was why folks often came to see him. Chad wasn't afraid to share what he knew of the land he worked, not protective or defensive. In fact, if you managed to get him talking, he often volunteered advice almost to a fault. So, this is how folks came to know the land they worked and increase their yields. However, as time went on Chad was finding more and more folks coming and then leaving for other pastures because it was so hard for them at first to find their feet.
One particularly gloomy day, when Chad had just finished clearing the weeds in the yard, he spotted another caravan of new folk leaving the town. He was sure they only arrived last week and they had a great bit of land, he shook his head and, with a resigned sigh headed in to start work that he should have done a long time ago. See the idea Chad had was a simple one, folks lacked the knowledge, it was difficult for them to weigh up all the variables, like the season, the soil types, the amount of light their crops needed, what planted well alongside others. The things he had learned through years of trial and error. Sitting at his table, the one by the window with the view of the whole town, Chad took out his dusty writing box, the one he never thought to use. In fact, he'd said to his is wife, when it was gifted to him, "What does a Farmer need to write for?", to which she had playfully replied "I'm sure you'll think of something, you always do.". Well now he had an idea and as with all ideas it has been sitting too long and needed to stretch its legs.
Chad worked on his book for six long months. He had commitments to his farm so it was usually only evenings he could write, but when did it was often late into the night. The people of Techville had started to notice what Chad was up to, no-one knew what he was writing but they often saw him late into the night silhouetted by candlelight looking much older and, somewhat wiser, with the shadows dancing dark wrinkles over his face.
It was finally, after some considerable effort and many late nights, that old Chad gather together the towns for to show them the fruits of his labour. They all met up in the town square, one lazy afternoon, after all morning chores had been done, arriving to see Chad holding in his arms a sizable stack of bound papers with a simple but effective covering. Chad held the book up for all to see and read the lettering had been stamped into the leather binding in black ink:
A Detailed Encyclopaedia of Farming Innovation
The crowd glanced back and forth between one another with puzzled expressions. While still holding the book forward for others to see Chad began to explain. "Remember all those times you've come to me for help?", he said looking at the farmer in the first row, "Remember all that advice you've often passed along to each other so sparingly, always afraid that another farm would do better than you come harvest?", he went on, "Well this is it, all of is, or a much as I'm able to remember.", he conceded, "This is our success and it is here to be SHARED" he said putting emphasis on the last word. The towns folk now seemed to be shifting their feet looking a little sheepish. Before losing momentum he ploughed on, "By writing down this information everyone will be able to make the most of our fertile land, and we can share this knowledge with those newcomers, giving them the help and welcome they deserve. This land was, and is, supposed to be shared with all that need it, this is our chance to honour that." despite the restlessness of the crowd Chad could see from the looks in their eyes they at least agreed. "That settles it then.." he said abruptly nodding his head with certainty, "The book will remain here in the centre of Techville for anyone and everyone who needs it. Make of it what you will." and with that he put the book down on the covered speaking podium and left, heading back up the hill to his farm.
After a few minutes once Chad was on his way the towns folk moved forward to get a better look at the book. At first glance it wasn't anything special, there was no flourish to the cover, just simple lettering in a steady hand, though it wasn't poorly made either. It was a book made by a farmer for farmers. Upon opening the pages, the people of the town found everything they could think of for managing their crops and increasing their yields. It was all there, from crop rotation to watering, where to plant specific seeds and how best use the light and space, even the best processing methods for wheat to make bread for the people. A cheerful hum of chatter and sharing of ideas seems to settle over the town folk as if a weight of burden had been lifted from their shoulders. As the afternoon turned to night and the people went back to their farms this positive feeling went with them.
It wasn't until all the town folk had headed off that out of the shadows from between two buildings where he has been leaning a stranger stepped. Thing is this stranger had been in town a few days now and had heard tell of the work being done by farmer Chad and what it was he had to offer. So, to satisfy his curiosity, the stranger had leased a small bit of land from one of the other farmers in the neighbouring town, the land which bordered Techville. The stranger took some time that evening, and the next and every evening after for a few weeks to come visit the book and delve its secrets. You see farming wasn't new to this stranger, but there was a reason he moved around, often the land he worked dried up before too long.
At first the stranger applied the lessons he learnt from the book to his small holding and could see the success almost immediately. The problem was that the strangers mind was sharp as a knife and he could see, from the way Chad had set out the information, there was more to the methods than at first glance. Had the towns folk known the strangers mind then, they perhaps wouldn't have been so free with their advice. The problem was that not only was the stranger's mind keen but he had a wicked unquenchable greed and so, unbeknownst to the people of Techville, the stranger adapted Chad's work and set in motion a harvesting strategy that would have consequences for the town like no other.
It wasn't until later that year, just around harvest season, that the town knew something was amiss. Word had gotten to them that there was a stranger coming to the harvest market and his crops were to put everyone's to shame. The people of the town were amused at this rumor at first, having faith in their book of knowledge, that they had done everything right. But as the stories grew people started to take them more seriously. When they came to the market that day most of the town did so in fear and trepidation. You see, harvest season was when the folk of Techville tried to make the most of their yields from the growing season. This was where they hoped to make enough to see them through to the next year. However, it was apparent almost immediately that this year would be different.
The stranger's stall was laden with what seemed like as many fruit and vegetables as the rest of the town put together. What was worse still was that the price of these was undercutting the rest of the farmers by a long way. It was clear as the merchants from the surrounding towns came to buy goods that the people of Techville were in trouble. The crowds seem to flock to the stranger's stall all jostling for position leaving the other stalls with just a handful of customers. Seeing the problem unfold Chad stepped up to the podium, where a few months prior he had announced his intentions to help the town and coughed loudly.
After a few elbows to the ribs the towns people and even the merchants turned to look where Chad was standing and, when he saw that he held enough of their attention he began to speak. "Those of you that know me know that I asked you some months back to change our way of working the land", he began, "I asked you to learn from one another and share your knowledge with those whom were new to our community.", he paused for a second before continuing, "I wrote this book", holding up the 'Detailed Encyclopaedia of Farming Innovation' in his hand, "so that we could all make the most of the land we work". Now came the difficult part, his own acceptance of blame, "I knew at the time of writing the book that it was possible someone would twist our words as this man has.", he gestured toward the stranger. "Yes it is possible to get more from the land than we were already have. However, this comes at a price...I've been to this man's farm and seen how the land looks now.", he said his shoulders dropping in sadness. "It is dried up, devoid of minerals, land that even the weeds wont grow in. I'd seen it before in my old life, before Techville and had hoped to save you from this. Farming this way is greed in its purest form.". Chad could see the uneasiness that had taken hold of the stranger, it seemed that the more Chad spoke out about this the more merchants backed away from his stall, until there were none left. Finally, Chad raised his voice to the stranger directly, "We know your face now and others will know it too. Leave this town and never darken our doorsteps again". The Stranger whom hand been quietly packing away his goods seemed to take heed of these words and without looking back hurried himself out of the market.
Although the stranger never repaid the the town folk for their loses that season the words that Chad had spoken rang in the ears of every merchant. When they returned to their own towns they passed along this message, telling all who would listen. Before too long there wasn't a town for miles that didn't know the study or about the cheating stranger. As a result the stranger found it very difficult to sell his harvest that season. You see, as the saying goes, you reap what you sow.
Thank you very much if you got this far and for sticking with it. As I said in the introduction, I'm not really a creative writer. If you read this and are thinking "what the hell is he going on about, get back to what you're good at" then don't worry. I'll be going back to my original style of writing. Anyway, thanks to the Harvest team for letting me stretch my authoring legs a little and as always thanks to Publish0x.
Good luck, y'all.