Byron's Babbles

A Whisper In The Wind

file 8The pigs are running the farm. So begins the story of Farmer Able. Everyone on his farm — people and animals alike — are downright downtrodden by him. He’s overbearing and compulsively obsessed with profits and productivity. He’s a typical top-down, power-based manager, forever tallying production numbers in his well-worn ledgers. But the more he pushes the hoofs and horns and humans, the more they dig in their heels. That is until one day when he hears a mysterious wind that whispers: “It’s not all about me.” Can he turn things around and begin attending to the needs of those on his farm, thus improving their attitudes and productivity?

The following is an excerpt from chapter 9 of Farmer Able.

A Whisper In The Wind

31PMR15bDfL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_In this oily, oaty shack, the farmer would lay out his bulky ledgers. He meticulously transferred numbers from the little book in his bib overalls’ pocket to the hefty registers. The farmer found strange comfort in the ruled pages as he ground his pencil ever sharper and wrote out the pluses and mostly minuses of his accounts. He stored the ledgers, marked year-by-year, in file cabinets that stood like metal testaments to his many failures. His less-thans and could-have-beens were committed to ink and paper and encased in steel.

This simple little exercise of keeping his accounts was exhausting. Every entry took a heavy toll. The good farmer spent so much time worrying over the numbers that the only thing that was adding up was his anxiety. His overworked mind—not to mention the day-to-day grind to get all his jobs done—would regularly cause an overstressed stomach. Farmer Able had developed a persistent bellyache.

As Farmer Able stared at the penciled numbers, trying to avoid the acid in his stomach, he noticed something quite strange. The old barn siding, which had become weathered over the years, always had a creaky sound to it. However on this night, the spring wind that blew outside conspired to create an odd whine and wail as it forced itself up against the old boards.

Moan went the wind, then groan went the boards at an even higher pitch as the gusts accelerated. The effect was like breath across the reeds of a harmonica. Adding to the sound was a singsongy whistle.

The farmer put down his pencil. He just had to fix that irritating sound, so he went outside and stumbled along the shed trying to locate the shaky boards. However, he could find nothing that fixed the spot of the strange reverberation.

With one particularly strong gust of southern wind, his attention was turned to an even more unusual creak. It came from the old walnut tree standing as it had for some 80 years in the lot just outside the granary. The moan and groan were even more pronounced in the tree as the branches moved in the wind. It had a distinctive tone to it that the farmer hadn’t heard before. The sound went beyond a rustle or even a swoosh.

Adding to this display was a light dance on the tree itself. The full moon that shone down that night lit up the old walnut with a curious luminescence. The branches were silvery and appeared to glow.

Farmer Able thought “What the dickens?” as old leaves left over from autumn swirled at his feet. There appeared to be something stirring, a conspiring of sorts between wind and light and tree. As he stared dumbfounded, the sounds took on even more definition. From creak and moan . . . to oooh-weee-oooh to aaaa-ble.

Did the wind just say his name?

And then—sweet molly moonlight!—Farmer Able heard a most distinct English word: It’s.

The word faded with the wind. The farmer wiggled a finger in his ear. Surely he wasn’t hearing what he was hearing. He was about to leave, when suddenly the wind gathered itself again, and through the branches came words with even more particularity: It’s . . . not . . .

Accompanying the words was that unmistakable twinkling from moon to branches. The sounds of the words were in rhythm with the pulse of that light. The articulation came from the wind, across the tree, and then it resonated on the creaky boards of the granary. He was hearing it coming and going, inside and out.

It’s . . . not . . . about …

The wind sound trailed off like it was taking a breath. Then summoning itself again, a gust built up.

It’s . . . not . . . about . . . me.

The reverb echoed off the granary: . . . about . . . me . . . me . . . me. The wispy resonance faded into the night.

Suddenly the wind stopped dead. All was still. Farmer Able just stood there in the silence. Mysteriously, he could still hear the words inside.


Art Barter believes everyone can be great, because everyone can serve. To teach about the power of servant leadership, Art started in his own backyard by rebuilding the culture of the manufacturing company he bought, Datron World Communications. Art took Datron’s traditional power-led model and turned it upside down and the result was the international radio manufacturer grew from a $10 million company to a $200 million company in six years. Fueled by his passion for servant leadership, Art created the Servant Leadership Institute (SLI).

To learn more about Art and his new Servant Leadership Journal, as well as his book on servant leadership, Farmer Able: A Fable About Servant Leadership Transforming Organizations And People From The Inside Out, endorsed by Stephen M.R. Covey, Ken Blanchard , and John C. Maxwell , visit .


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