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Rule of Thumb

Words & music by Cindy Mangsen

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Before the clock was ticking, before the Big Bang boomed
All the animals-to-be were gathered in a conference room
Where, spread upon a table, laid out in vast array
Were all the attributes of life, to be divvied up that day.
Each one approached with wonder, faced with such elegance, 
To imagine what he might become when given half a chance.
Surprisingly, proceedings went quite smoothly in the hall
As each critter had her own idea of the choicest gift of all.
Birds chose feathers, rabbits wanted fur
Lion got the growl and kitty got the purr
Sting for the scorpion, stink for the skunk
Unicorn leaned on the horn while elephant packed the trunk.
Webs for the spiders, bears picked the claws,
Cheetah got the speed and sloth got the ... paws/pause.

When everything was sorted out and the table nearly bare
The human being, out of breath, burst into the affair.
“What's left? What's left for me?” he cried, “I got here soon's I could,
But my swimming is abysmal and my running's not so good.”
The animals all turned away, embarrassed at the sight
Of this puny little biped, all shivering and slight, 
Who had no fur to keep him warm, no claws upon his foot,
No fins, no fangs, and no prehensile tail, and featherless, to boot.

The animals all stepped aside, and there it was revealed,
One attribute remained unclaimed, the one with no appeal.
An afterthought, a whatsit, a gift with no excuse,
Something called a Thumb they said, with no apparent use.

They perused from every angle, possibilities were bandied, 
And finally the Owl proposed the thumb might come in handy:
Helpful in removing trash and fixing what is broke,
"You can maintain the whole shebang!" the wise old Owl spoke.
"But I'm designed for greater things, for building up of nations
Surely you can see that I'm the crown of this creation!"
There may have been a chortle, at the very least a twitter
To think this guy believed he was above collecting litter.

But seeing how the human sighed with desolation in his eyes
The Owl announced the granting of a special consolation prize.
“By natural selection, you're the one to win.
I here bestow the gift of tongues to you and all your kin.”

The little man concluded (with his new linguistic flair)
That armed with Thumb and gift of gab, he'd run the whole affair.
And thus commenced our history, the era called Anthropocene
With humans at the forefront powered by hot air and gasoline.
We paved all over paradise, our cites rose up high
Until the earth began to groan and smog filled all the sky.
With water that could not be drunk and air too thick to breathe 
The human took a look around and said, "I do believe

I've let things go a bit too far, this train has jumped the track,
The engineer has lost his mind, this place is out of whack.
And I suppose it's up to me to clean up all this mess
Since I'm the one who made it," he sheepishly confessed.

The animals all gathered 'round forgiving his offenses,
Relieved at last to see the little man had found his senses,
And all began to sing and howl and bark and mew and chirp
And cheerfully began their task of cleaning up the earth.
And truthfully, he'd found it rather lonely at the top,
Found contentment as a janitor, proud to wield the mop. 
And waxing philosophical, he declared he'd been a jerk
And never thumbed his nose again at doing honest work.
We're all in this together on this spinning little ball,
When we care for one another, we bring blessings to us all,
And thus concludes my story, just one more thing I'll say,
That everyone was happier when the Rule of Thumb gave way.

©2018 Compass Rose Music, BMI

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