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The Greedy Shepherd

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Preface: A few days ago I received an email from Answers.com inviting me (and other recipients) to write an essay or a poem using 10 words they had selected and link those words back to them — certainly a publicity and SEO stunt. At the end of the contest they will judge the entries and pick a few winners.

I was going to lambaste the tactic in this blog. Instead, for some inexplicable reason, I decided to take up the challenge and write a short story. I'm not much of a storyteller, although I did write a book about financial markets a few years back, but that's a different matter.

This is my amateurish stab at a short story. I know, I won't quit my day job.

SheepThere was a once a shepherd in Belize who took his herd to a field near his house everyday for grazing. The field wasn't the most fertile but there was sufficient grass for his sheep to graze on. His was a perfunctory task, but for all intents and purposes he made a comfortable living from his sheep. He would occasionally visit the local market and sell a few sheep which made him enough money to buy the necessities of life like food and clothes and, on occasion, a gift for his family, like a yo-yo for his young son. On another occasion he made a quid pro quo deal with the local beekeeper to provide him with honey for a year in return for a sheep.

He had vowed never to change his way of life.

One day, while leading his flock to the meadow, he met a stranger who told him about a field farther away where the landscape was more lush and the grass was ubiquitous and plentiful. The stranger insisted that on this new field the sheep would get fatter much faster and the herd would double or triple in numbers at no time. He kept filling the shepherd's head with quixotic ideas of wealth and status until the shepherd agreed to take his flock to this new field, abrogating the vow he had made to himself.

It was an arduous journey but when he reached the new field, instead of the lush grass he found a barren land with scarcely anything for his herd to feed on. Disappointed and ashamed of his gullibility, he set out to make the return trip home, uncertain if his herd would survive the harrowing trip back. Just then a large colony of wasps that had been disturbed by the herd's arrival stirred into action swarming the shepherd and his sheep and stinging them about their faces. His brand of sheep, known for acute melissophobia, panicked and scattered quickly. Soon they were all out of sight, seemingly lost forever.

The bereft shepherd began the long trek home, alone and destitute with thoughts of regret and penitence circling in his head. Midway to his home, he sat by the side of road to rest his tired and wobbly legs. He failed to notice that his head was just inches away from a large brown recluse spider who had become alarmed by the new visitor. As the spider moved closer to defend her territory with a deadly bite, the shepherd heard a faint bleating and quickly rose in excitement to scan the area. In astonishment he saw his herd, back together, slowly trudging back toward their old grounds. His joy was indescribable as he once again took command of his herd and safely guided every one of them back to their old and trusted turf.

As he watched his sheep with satisfaction grazing safe and sound, he renewed his old vow and never again strayed his flock from the trusted meadow.

Moral of the story:
1) Don't abandon a sure thing chasing after dubious promises.
2) Melissophobic sheep don't make good herds, but …
3) They can save a life.


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