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Just dropping by ... Of pigs and grasshoppers

Yevet Tenney Published on 11 March 2014

When I was growing up, back in the Ice Age, moral stories were common and children understood them. The “Three Little Pigs” was not just a story about three pigs building houses in the forest. It was a moral story about work ethic and the blessings of building things to last.

Of course, the moral of the story in modern adaptations of the story are lost in the sweet ever-afterings of the world of Disney. In the Disney world, pigs are not eaten by big bad wolves and wolves don’t die in boiling pots – even if it means getting rid of the moral of the story altogether.



In our society, where every player gets a participation trophy, the watered-down moral of “The Three Pigs” makes perfect sense. Someone’s feelings might get hurt if the ending isn’t softened.

“The Ant and the Grasshopper” used to be a story about preparing for the future, where the pangs of hunger of a starving grasshopper was the reward for playing all summer and the ant’s reward was a warm cozy place with a plethora of food to surround him.

In our modern version, the grasshopper is invited into the ant’s plenty and never has to atone for his folly. He is free to dance, sing and play all next summer. Again the moral of the story is lost in the feel-good, warm fuzziness of our society.

Of course, it is very nice for the ant to share with the grasshopper, but what if 10 lazy grasshoppers moved in with the ant? The ant would suffer. I wonder how many ants would prepare for the winter knowing that the grasshopper would move in? Without the moral, and the truth embedded in the story, the story loses value and meaning.

I would never advocate pig-eating wolves, or wolves dying in boiling water. I would not read that to my children. I like the Disney version, but I would make sure my child understood the real moral of the story. I would take time to explain that the two brother pigs lost everything because they did not build houses that would stand against the wind of adversity.


I would make sure my child understood the folly of the grasshopper was not good for society. The grasshopper lifestyle is all around us. Grasshopper lives, even with the ant’s generosity, never end well. We need to teach our children to be like the ant, willing to work and to share. Charity is good, but it should never foster laziness. Personal responsibility and independence is always the best option.

Traditional morals are going by the wayside along with our understanding of symbols and patriotism. Do our children understand the meaning of the flag and how precious our liberty is? Parents need to make sure their children are being taught about our forefathers and their role in preserving freedom.

Make sure they understand that President’s Day isn’t about our current president and a fun day off from school. They need to realize that Flag Day is about our Star-Spangled Banner. Children need to be taught the Fourth of July isn’t about rodeos, picnics and fireworks. It is about soldiers paying a price to secure the “blessings of liberty.”

They need to learn that the Constitution is a precious document, and the rules contained therein are inviolate or our freedom is lost. The Big Bad Wolf is real, and the Constitution is a brick house with a boiling pot in the fireplace designed to let bad wolves know that they cannot blow our brother’s house down without consequence.

Teach your children that the ants of this country are the ones that keep it alive. Grasshoppers are plentiful, but they will always be the object of welfare or charity, not the object of honor or praise. Ants build for the future and make sure that “all is safely gathered in ere the winter storms begin.” Grasshoppers seldom think of the future or the past; they just sing and dance and play all day until the first blast of the winter storm slaps them in the face.

As a teacher, I am instilling in my first graders those traditional values. It is an uphill battle because the rigor of state-mandated standards take precedence. Taking a breath to teach values is sometimes merely a pant.


We are blessed at our school that we still have a chance to do a patriotic program, so I was able to write a poem that will give our first graders a taste of what our flag means. We will present it as a choral reading, each of the four classes taking part.

I want to share it with my readers. Perhaps they will read and discuss it with their children to help them remember why the flag was made. Let it be a beginning of future patriotic studies.

Betsy Ross’s Flag
Betsy Ross sat down in her chair,
She put on her thinking cap
And straightened her hair.
She had her scissors right there on her lap.
It was time for working, not taking a nap.
Betsy had something wonderful she had to do.
She had to make a flag – red, white and blue.
But she sat there and sat there into the night,
She just couldn’t get that special flag just right.

Betsy thought about squares and triangles too.
She thought about ovals and shapes like a shoe.
She thought about hearts and octagon shapes.
She thought about roses, olives and grapes.

But these things were common and ordinary.
This flag had to be wonderful for all to see.
It would wave in the breeze above all the rest.
It had to be better than the very very best.

Betsy was ready to throw up her hands.
She could never make anything so wonderfully grand.

Wait Betsy! Don’t give up!
Flowers are beautiful all lovely and white!
We’ll be on the prairie when the pioneers cross.
We’ll bring them happiness and instant delight!

We’ll be on the graves of those left behind.
We’ll dry up the tears and be mercifully kind.
Flowers like daisies and lilies and such
Will give your flag the right kind of touch.

Oh no! Not flowers. They won’t say the right thing!
Round balls from muskets and round cannon balls,
Have won the great fight! They must be remembered
For thousands of winters, springs, summers and falls.

We must remember the soldier who died on the field.
We must think of the widow left with her child.
Your flag must be a banner for all to see.
That war is a sad thing for you and for me.

We need to forget sadness, misery and pain.
We need to remember that honor and courage remain.
All who live under your grand flag this day
Must be equal to work and equal to play.

A square is a symbol of all equal sides.
We might be common, but don’t deride.
We stand for honor, trust and integrity.
We will stand foursquare for eternity.

A star is like heaven watching over us all
who takes note of even the sparrows that fall.
We twinkle over the prairie where the pioneers go.
We see the soldier, and the widows we know.

We see all the children missing their dad.
We see all the weary, the happy and sad.
We look down from the heaven and wish to be there.
To care for the lost ones their sorrow to share.

“Now I know what to do,” said Betsy that day.
“I’ll take the white from the flowers and make a white stripe
To go over the prairie so far and so wide.
It will remember the purity of our nation’s desire
All that is right and good for us to aspire.

“I’ll take the red from the muskets and cannon balls too
And make them a river between the white stripes
So we’ll always remember sorrow follows a fight.

“I’ll make a blue square to fill with white stars.
For us to remember our God looking down
On a nation of people in whom He delights
This nation of freedom he gives his bright crown.”

So Betsy stood up with scissors in hand.
She snipped and she cut the flower-white cloth
She measured the red from cannon-ball dots.
She cut and she sewed stars into the blue.
And made an awesome banner for me and for you.