Now only one person was worried. Who? The landlord's
stooge Guo Rui. I must find some
way to wreck the co-op before these paupers set it on its feet, he told himself. I shall compete with
the co-op and outdo it! My family has a donkey, three oxen, thirty sheep, four pigs, and over five
acres of good land. With all my livestock and capital, I'm sure I can show these paupers where
they get off.
Part of his land lay next to some of the co-op's fields. He decided to sow the same crop and do
whatever the co-op members did. Like them, he sowed an acre to maize. At first, both crops did
pretty much the same. In summer, when the co-op manured its plot with sheep droppings, Guo
Rui used pig-dung instead. But whereas the co-op's twenty-three families had plenty of hands to
carry manure and spread it, only three of Guo Rui's family worked on the land. It was a long way,
uphill and down, from his home to the field; and he and his sons were so busy carting manure that
they had no time to spread it. That afternoon Guo Rui noticed that the co-op had just about
finished, while he still had a good deal of dung to carry. He gritted his teeth and filled basket after
basket to the brim. His two sons sweated under their loads till they felt that their backs would
break; the donkey's legs nearly buckled under the weight; and Guo Rui himself panted as he
staggered along. Though they worked with all their strength, they got only half their dung to the
field by the time the co-op was spreading its last lot. Guo Rui dumped his load and went back for
more without even stopping for breath. But before he reached the village the co-op members had
knocked off and started home singing and chatting. Fuming inwardly, he decided to make one last
trip. But his back was aching, his two sons were worn out, and however hard they beat the
donkey it would not budge. They had to take lighter loads and stop every few steps to rest. At the
end of this trip it was dark, so they left the dung piled by the field to spread the next day.
When they reached home and sat down to supper, it started to thunder. Then for over an
hour there was a downpour of rain. Guo Rui cursed and swore and could not sleep all night. First
thing the next morning he and his sons dashed to the field. Their whole pile of pig-dung had been
washed away -- into the co-op's land, too, which was lower than theirs. The maize there was green
and sturdy after its soaking, thanks to all the dung, while Guo's by comparison was lank and
droopy. In his rage, he sold two sheep and bought some chemical fertilizer in the town.
When Du Hong saw this he asked, "Why don't we buy some fertilizer too?"
"We must stick to our poor man's way," said Wang Guxing.
"Let him fertilize his fields; we'll hoe ours well. Loosening the soil is as good as a dressing of dung.
Take my word for it, a few extra hoeings will do more for the crop than his fertilizer."
Guo Rui wasn't worried when he saw them hoeing. All you paupers can do is work your
heads off, he thought. Just wait till you see what this fertilizer does to my maize! Little did he
know that he applied too much. As the sun blazed down, the leaves of his maize started wilting.
Father and sons made haste to water and weed the field, but it was too late. And when Guo tried
to hire a laborer there were none to be found. Why not? Because all the paupers had joined the
co-op, and the peasants working on their own had no time to spare.
The co-op's maize grew tall and strong. By harvest time each cob was about a foot long, as
plump as a pestle, and covered with symmetrical golden kernels the size of horses' teeth. Guo
Rui's cobs were no longer than a fountain-pen, no thicker than a man's thumb, and only had a few