The donkey and the load of salt

There is a story about a rich merchant and his donkey who went to the seaside markets to buy salt. On the way home they had to cross a river. There were no bridges across the river, so the merchant drove the donkey across the river. This donkey was not as sure footed as his breed is reputed to be, and so he lost his footing on the rocks and accidentally fell in the river. Very quickly he got back on his feet, and noticed that his burdens were considerably lighter as the water melted and dissolved the salt.

The merchant noticed that the packs on the donkey’s back were hanging with more slack, and so he turned the donkey around, when back to the seaside, bought more salt, and reloaded the donkey.  Then they turned home ward again.  When they came to the river, the donkey (who was more wily than sure footed) once again slipped on the rocks, pulling his packs under the water and once again melted most of the salt. As he rose to his feet the donkey shook his head and brayed in triumph. The merchant suspected what the donkey had done, but thought to bide his time, in dealing with his delinquent donkey. They continued on their way home and the merchant did the best that he could selling the bits of salt that remained.

A short time later the merchant and the donkey returned to the seaside markets. This time however the merchant bought a large load of sponges rather than salt.  On the way home the donkey recognized the place on the trail leading up to the river, and as he entered the river, once again the donkey intentionally lost his footing, slipped into the river and soaked the packs on his back. But this time the salt did not dissolve, rather the sponges absorbed great quantities of the river water, doubling the weight of the donkey’s load!

And the moral of the story? Just cause it worked once, doesn’t mean a strategy will work every time.  Don’t be a donkey! Stay awake to the details of the situation!

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