THE FASTIDIOUS GOURMAND


   "While the water is heating up," Rakhim-aga said, "let's go out to the field. The melons are ripe. We'll take a look at them and, the main thing, we'll see how the sorghum is doing."
   The sorghum had formed a tangled wall around the melon field. The panicled stalks towered up three meters above the ground. It was a living fence - protection against uninvited guests. The seeds of the sorghum resemble millet seeds.
   Rakhim-aga raised honey sorghum. Inside its tube-like stalk was a sweet, sugary juice. At one time the honey sorghum was a favorite treat of children, but then sugar and candy ceased to be a rarity, and the honey sorghum was forgotten and left to go to seed.
   Rakhim-aga wanted to bring back the forgotten sorghum and had finally located a single plant in the garden of an old farmer. In three years' time he had succeeded in bringing back the sweet sorghum, and now he dreamt of selling the seeds to the collective farm.
   Rakhim-aga surveyed his plantings and decided:
   "It's time to harvest. The grain is ripe, and the birds will waste no fime getting to it."
   "Grandfather, look!" Arslan picked up a melon rind from the ground. "Someone's been in the melons."
   "That's a true sign that they're ripe!" Rakhim-aga said, bursting into laughter.
   "But who ate it? And here's another rind! It was probably a boar."
   "If it was a boar that had paid us a visit, it would have trampled up the whole patch. No, it's a jackal that's been eating our melons. Jackals are great gourmands. They sniff out the ripest melon of all and then eat it, and very fastidiously at that."
   "Ah, that jackal again!" Arslan cried. "First it gobbled up a hedgehog and now it's feasting on our melons. Grandfather, set a trap for it."
   "Jackals are too clever to get caught in a trap, and some entirely innocent wild animal will get trapped and perish. We'll set up a scarecrow. The jackal will think it's a person and keep its distance."
   And that is exactly what they did. They drank some tea and then made a scarecrow out of some dried reeds to frighten away all of the jackal's tribe.