Across The Counter
A Grim Fairy Tale
Reprinted from August 1990
Once upon a time there was a group of peacocks. They were handsome and proud and all in the same line of work. As times and events made it advantageous, they decided to band together for the purpose of power, prestige and camaraderie. They called their order the Royal Order of Peacocks and it was, as the name implied, an organization which boasted membership of all male birds.
Since birds of a feather flock together, this worked out splendidly and the beautiful and successful peacocks had a marvelous time strutting around, feeding on choice corn and displaying their fine array of feathers to those less successful and fortunate.
Because they were so successful and accomplished, they looked about for someone to do their labor for them. They found Little Red Hen who met all the necessary requirements. She was accomplished and astute and she soon learned all the tricks of the trade and made the peacocks lots of money.
Now the Little Red Hen knew that the early bird gets the worm so she was out before the crack of dawn, before the rooster crowed, to start on the day’s chores.
As time passed, the Little Red Hen feathered her nest and the nests of the handsome peacocks. Finally, it came to pass that the Little Red Hen started up her own assembly line and began to hire sparrows, wrens, swallows and other birds and compete in the manufacture of gold items with the old established line of peacocks. As she become more successful, she went to the Royal Order of Peacocks and asked to be admitted into their prestigious club. The peacocks discussed this and finally answered that a female birdie could never be admitted to their ranks. This decision puzzled the Little Red Hen since the Royal Order of Peacocks had extended their membership to include a few roosters and a couple of turkeys.
Mad as an old wet hen, the Little Red Hen set out to find out why the Royal Order of Peacocks felt as they did. She went first to the Goose Which Laid the Golden Egg. To her she said “ You furnish this Royal Order with all their eggs, why is it you can’t join their ranks?”
And the Goose Which Laid the Golden Egg replied, “It has long been established that even though we female birds are ‘good enough’ to serve, we are not good enough to be called equal. Therefore we can never join the Royal Order of Peacocks.”
Next the Little Red Hen went to Chicken Little and said, “Chicken Little, I want to join to the Royal Order of Peacocks. But they tell me I cannot. What do you say to this?”
Chicken Little looked stunned, “Oh, Little Red Hen, don’t say such an offensive thing. If they were to let you into the Royal Order of Peacocks, the sky would surely fall! Don’t repeat that ever again! I beg you!”
Then the Little Red Hen wet to the Bird in the Gilded Cage and said, “Little bird, you live in this beautiful gold cage and are admired by all, even the Royal Order of Peacocks. Why is it you have never been permitted to join the ranks of these fine birds?”
And the little bird said, “It is not my finery as I have everything here in my golden cage that they have in theirs. I work hard; I am a progressive and honest bird. Yet they tell me it is because I am a female bird and cannot be as adept or understanding in the ways of business as the glorious peacocks.” The little bird wiped away a tear and went back to pretending not to care.
Next the Little Red Hen went to Mother Goose. And she said to her, “Why is it I cannot be a member of the Royal Order of Peacocks? I’m smart, neat, honest – it is only that I am female that I am banned.”
Mother Goose sighed, “Yes, it is true. Only male birds are permitted in the Royal Order of Peacocks. It is this way in other areas of life. Only Donald Duck and Daffy Duck, Joe Carioca, and Gus Gosling have been permitted fame in our feathered world. I’m afraid you are doomed to lead a back perch life where males feathered friends are concerned.” She patted the Little Red Hen to sooth her ruffled feathers.
Then the Little Red Hen went to the Dove of Peace, and asked her question again. Why could she not join the Royal Order of Peacocks? And the Dove replied, “Since the days of Noah, I have done my duty and yet I have never achieved peace. If you do not want to start another war, you’ll drop the issue!”
A little bird told the Little Red Hen that all female birds were not excluded from Royal Order of Peacock meetings. She knew because a chickadee cousin of hers had gone to one of these meetings to perform in an artistic way for the Royal Order of Peacocks. Just how many feathers the chickadee wore was not quite clear!
Finally the Little Red Hen sought out the Wise Old Owl and said to her, “Why is it I cannot be in the Royal Order of Peacocks? I do everything they do. I run a legitimate business. It is only because I’m female that I’m excluded.”
And the Wise Old Owl replied, “Our American Eagle has been busy making laws which take care of those such as yourself. If an organization has been formed for the true reason of furthering the industry business, there is no reason female birds cannot belong. Now, if this is an order of males, which ban together to have a social function, this is another thing. I think you would find that if a lady bird were truly excluded just because of her gender, there would be reason to fight this problem in the courts of our great American Eagle.”
“Certainly the great American Eagle is not only not afraid of being henpecked, but eager to see justice done. He would champion your cause, but you must first go through certain routes. Enough of your gender must want to belong to this Royal Order of Peacocks to get together and scratch out a solution.”
Well, the Little Red Hen knew that the old birds of the Royal Order of Peacocks would not be caught with chaff. She wasn’t quite sure she was willing to invest the time and effort to take her case up with the Great American Eagle. The whole thing stuck in her craw and she sat back to contemplate the situation, reasoning that trade organizations which barred her gender were for the birds anyway!!
Watch out Royal Order of Peacocks, the chickens are coming home to roost!