Once upon a time there was a farmer who had a small farm not far from a country village. He owned very little, but from this small farm he was able to support his family. Of the few things that he did own, one was an old mule. For years the old mule had helped him plow his field, carry his produce into the village, and, harnessed to a cart, drive his family to church every Sunday.

The village near where the farmer lived liked to celebrate all the annual festivals, and for the coming New Year decided to have a fireworks display. Nobody stopped to think about how this might affect an old mule in a nearby paddock.

The mule was standing in his paddock, head drooped toward the ground, eyes closed, slumbering peacefully on New Year's Eve when suddenly the sky exploded with weird flashes of light and cannon-like bangs that could have heralded the start of a war. The poor mule, thinking the world was coming to an end, fled in terror, blindly running across the paddock. As it happened, there was an old well in the paddock. It was dry and unused, having failed to continue its supply of water many years ago. Normally the mule would have avoided it with great care. But in the pitch black of the night and overwhelmed by terror, the mule stumbled and fell down the narrow well. Fortunately, he landed unharmed at the bottom.

The next day the farmer was surprised to find his mule missing and began to search around his property. It wasn't long before he heard a faint, echoing bray coming from the depth of the well and to his dismay found his mule at the bottom. There was no way he could safely climb down the old well to get to the mule. There wasn't a long enough ladder in the village to reach the bottom and, even if he had been able to get down, how would he get the mule out? He called his farmer friends to help. They thought of rigging up a winch to lower the farmer down to the mule, but the walls of the well were too old and crumbling. It was too risky. Even if they had lowered someone down, how could he attach a harness to lift the mule out, in such a small space?

The farmers stood around the well peering down, scratching their heads. "It's hopeless," said one. "Impossible," said another. "He is just going to die a slow, miserable death down there," said a third. "Best put him out of his misery." So the farmers picked up some shovels and started to throw soil down the well to bury the mule.

At the bottom of the well, the mule felt this weird stuff, like dry rain, falling on his back; he gave himselfa shake and the soil fell around his hooves. The mule stomped around a little and the soil hardened underneath his hooves. More soil fell on his back. He shook it off and again stamped around some more. He was surprised to find that, after doing this for a while, the bottom of the well had risen an inch or two. He was looking at the wall a little higher than he had been before. The more soil the farmers shoveled in, the more the mule shook it off and trampled it firm under his hooves— and the higher he rose up toward the surface, bit by bit. Yes, as you have guessed, the mule eventually made his way to the top—and was saved.

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