Once, during the days of the old west, there was a simple farmer who owned but one horse he called Ben. One summer morning, as the farmer was leading Ben along a lonely road, he grew tired from so much traveling. Tying the horse to a small tree, he lay down in a shady place for a nap.
A short while later, two thieves (both dudes) happened along. Seeing the farmer sound asleep, and Ben unattended nearby, they determined to steal the horse.
"But the man is on his way to the same town we are," said one. "He'll go for the sheriff as soon as he gets there."
"Leave it to me," said the other. "I'll take the horse's place. You take him to town and sell him for whatever you can get right away."
Quietly, the two untied Ben. The one thief slipped the bridle over his own head while the other lead the horse away with a halter.
When the farmer awoke, his eye fell upon his horse ... or what used to be his horse. His amazement quickly turned to terror, however, when "Ben" spoke to him.
"Don't fret, boss," said the thief who was now wearing the bridle and was tied to the tree.
"Who are you?" said the trembling farmer.
"I was your horse these many years," came the reply. "But before that I was a man, as I am now once again. Because of my evil ways, I was condemned to lead the life of a horse."
"Terrible," said the farmer.
"Yup," said the thief. "I was once a preacher, but my heart weren't pure. I drank, gambled, stole from the poor, and fell into disreputable company."
"No wonder," snapped the farmer. "You got what you deserved."
"Sure," said the thief, "but now I've been forgiven. Seeing as how you're just a man, maybe you can forgive me, too."
"Well, I guess I can't do less," said the farmer. "You're free, go!"
The thief thanked him with appropriate humility and went quickly away to find his companion, who had already sold the horse.
When the farmer arrived in town several hours later, he went looking for a corral where he could buy another horse. There he found his own stolen animal. No question about it.
"Ben," shouted the outraged farmer. "So you're back to your reprobate ways ... and so soon ..."
---------------A Final Thought ...
"A burglar who respects his art always takes his time before taking anything else."
- O. Henry (William Sydney Porter) (1862–1910), U.S. short-story writer