Greek Myths 4 Kids Presents: CASE FILES
FROM THE HERCULES DETECTIVE AGENCY
CASE FILE: The Water Rights
No Problem Too Large or Too Small, Reasonable Fees
Proprietor Hercules (Roman name), also known as Heracles (Greek name), also known as Herc (Nickname)
Hercules was fixing his courtyard wall and having quite a hard time of it. His good friend, the Minotaur, who shared his courtyard, had planted many plants in front of the brick wall. They were very nice plants to be sure, but they were full of branches and prickles and sharp pointy things. Some had flowers. And bees. Hercules was trying very hard to make the needed repairs to the wall without damaging the plants in front of it. Although he agreed with Tor (the Minotaur) that they added a great deal of beauty, they were, most definitely, in his way. Hercules was not in a bad mood, exactly, although he did seem to be full of deep massive sighs. But other than the many plants in his way, and a few extremely angry bees, it truly was a beautiful day.
"You can do this," Hercules told himself.
"Sir?" Hercules heard behind him.
Hercules turned his head. Several people were huddled together at his gate. He stared at the people. He glared at the wall. He sighed at the many scratches on his massive arms. He waved away two angry bees.
"What can I do for you?" he asked, perhaps just a bit more eagerly than normal.
"We need to hire you."
Hercules put down his tools and joined the group at his gate. They took a quick step back.
"Sir," said one, looking up at Hercules. "It's the river, you see. They're taking more than their fair share."
All the people nodded.
"Not all the time," said another, trying to be fair. "But when they do, we worry."
"It's the only source of fresh water around."
"We need your help to protect our water."
Hercules looked at the group with a confused look on his face. "I'm not sure I..."
"Two towns, sir. Across from each other. One on each side of the river. The other town, the one across from us, is stealing all the fresh water."
"That's not good," Hercules agreed. He flicked a glance at the wall he had been repairing. "You know what, I'll come with you right now and see what I can do about this."
By the time Hercules arrived, all the people of both towns were crammed together at the river, one town crammed together on one side, and one town crammed together on the other side. The people from both towns were all shouting at once. Things had most definitely gotten out of hand. Hercules was not interested in discovering what had started this particular screaming match. He was interested only in solving it.
Hercules shouted louder than any of them. "QUIET,'" he bellowed.
"I am the leader of this village," a man announced angrily. "These men hired you without my permission. I told them not to bother you, but they ignored me. But, since you are here, they," he pointed for emphasis, "have been taking more than their fair share of water." All the townspeople on his side of the river nodded in agreement.
"Not another word," he told the townspeople, "until I hear from the other side."
With a giant leap, Hercules jumped across the river. "You," he pointed at one man. "Do you have a side?"
"Let's hear it," Hercules invited.
"It's not us. It's them," he pointed across the river. "Things will be going along fine and suddenly, they take more than their fair share of water. They take so much that the river sinks."
"It's not right," people from his side of the river interrupted. "They need to be stopped," said another.
The volume grew loudly on both sides as the villagers from each village accused the other.
"Stop," bellowed Hercules. "NOT A SOUND or you will feel my wrath."
Things quieted down immediately.
"What I want are answers to my questions from the people I select. Is that understood?"
The townspeople all nodded in agreement, but not a word was spoken.
"Let me think," Hercules told the crowd. "Not a word," he added, holding up a warning finger.
While Hercules was thinking about how to divide the river, he considered getting a water nymph to volunteer, if he could find one, to make sure the river was shared equally. No, that wouldn't work. She would just entice all the young me to come to the river and spend time chatting with her instead of doing their chores. As everyone knew, water nymphs craved company. Perhaps he could build a fork in the river, a sort of sandbar, so that each side would pull water from only their fork. Hercules thought it over. No, that wouldn't work. If he divided the river, it might more easily spill over its banks and flood the farmlands. He could build a wall down the center of the river with some narrow bricks. That would take up far less room than a sandbar, but no, that would not help either because the spring floods would destroy the wall and pieces of the wall might block the river, which then would not only flood the fields but quite possibly the towns as well.
"What I need," Hercules said to himself, "is more information.
Hercules asked each side the same questions. "Just shake your heads yes or no. Here is my question. Does the river ever go dry?" he asked.
The townspeople on both sides shook their heads no.
"Is there enough water for everything you do?"
The time, the townspeople on both sides nodded their heads yes begrudgingly.
So it was a matter of perception rather than need, Hercules thought to himself.
He raised his voice. "Listen to me carefully," he told both towns. "Rivers do go up and down depending upon the flood levels and the run offs from the mountains. It has nothing to do with one side taking more water than the other. But sometimes, rivers receive so much flood water that they spill over their banks and flood fields and even towns. Trust me when I tell you this. I've seen it happen. To keep your towns safe and have an ample supply of fresh water available, what you need is a small group of people, representatives from both villages, whose job will be to keep an eye on the water levels of the rivers - three members from one town and three members from the other town - working together for the common good. That way, if the river begins to rise too high, they will get the word to all of you, and both towns will work together to keep the river inside its banks. If the river gets too low, they will alert you that you briefly need to be sparing of your water use until the river returns to its normal height. Up and down, up and down, that's what rivers do. By working together and keeping an eye on the water levels of the river, you will keep both your towns safe and amply supplied with fresh water for all."
With that one solution, which was gratefully received and carefully followed, Hercules established a water commission.
That's how things are invented - inventions are not only structures and things, but also ways to manage them.
"For my payment," Hercules added. "I expect fresh vegetables when in season. Not forever, but certainly some."
"But I didn't hire you," argued the leader of one town.
"We'll deliver vegetables," shouted the leader of the other village.
"And so will we," announced the men who had called on him, was it only just this morning?
"Good," nodded Hercules, quite pleased with the way things had worked out. "What do you grow?"
"Asparagus, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, celery, fennel, garlic, and leeks."
"That sounds delicious," Hercules told them.
By the time he got home, he found the courtyard wall neatly mended, and the Minotaur cleaning up the remains of the branches he had snipped.
Hercules gasped in amazement. "What a great job!"
The Minotaur beamed. "You won't believe what I dug up on my walk this morning!" The Minotaur pointed at a short, freshly planted tree. "A fig tree! In time, it will provide shade as well as figs, just like our olive trees provide shade and olives."
"What a lucky find!" Hercules told his friend. "And the courtyard wall is mended, too. What would I do without you?" he added, which made the Minotaur blush with pleasure. (It is always nice to be appreciated.)
Hercules named this case The Water Rights. He marked the cover NOT YET PAID: FRESH VEGETABLES IN SEASON FROM TWO TOWNS. He filed it away with the other case files from the Hercules Detective Agency. He looked at the pile. It had already fallen over twice. What he needed to do, Hercules realized, was to sort the cases into two piles - one paid and one not yet paid. That was a very good idea. He would have to do that someday. But right now he decided to join his friend, the Minotaur, in their shared courtyard, spend some time oohing and aahing over the Minotaur's latest find - a fig tree! - and enjoy this beautiful day.