A Christmas Story

This story was written by the author Christalene Loren, in reaction to the song titled: “Nothing Happens to a Shepperd” Anyone who raises livestock knows that the writer of that song knew nothing about shepherding or how this nomadic shepherd could have stumbled on to a mystery on that special night…

NOTHING HAPPENS TO A SHEPPERD

We was a still long way from home. We was following the sheep back northward searching for the last of the pasture in the great yearly circle we make on our tribal homeland. Me, Shola and Ja yil, my two older brothers, works this flock of sheep for our wealthy uncle. He is one of our tribal elders and he owns many herds of sheep, goats and horses. My brothers and me is too poor have sheep of our own.

This year as we traveled we was loosin’ too many animals to sickness and wolves. The sickness was bad enough. We had no herbs this far south to help them so the sheep they just coughed until they dropped. But the wolves were worse. They had been followin’ us for a number o’ days cuttin’ out a stray every few nights no matter what we did. A sheep lost is a terrible thing. We works for how many sheep we bring home in the spring. There’ll be less for our families next spring ’cause of the wolves.

I hates the wolves but a part of me knows they’s hungry too. It’s been a hard winter and much of us died.

We had been workin’ the sheep with a dog ’til a few days back when the wolves had bitten the dog too sorely to be saved. So our older brother had gone down to the village below to barter for a young dog we could train to watch the sheep. A shepperd without a dog is like herdin’ blind with one leg. It just don’t work.

Sheep are not as stupid as you think. They just got themselves wrapped around the idea that if they run as fast as they can in every directshun the wolves can only get one of ’em and the rest can be saved. It’s every sheep for itself.

Tonight we was out keeping watch over the flock. We sat in a little lean-to made of a couple a sheep hides strung together and poled up against the wind. We ate the last of our cheese and dried mutton and passed around the bladder sack filled with fermented sheep milk. We was laughin’ and thinkin’ of Ja yil stuck for the night in that bad smelling little town below us while we was out under the stars listening to the music of the bells on the lead sheep and thanking our gods of wind and sky for not being born and livin’ out our lives in some little village.

It was my turn to go out and circle the flock. My brother passed me the bladder sack and I took a last swig, settled my sheep hide cape around my shoulders and set off.

When we round the sheep we sing a little song to quiet ’em down and let ’em know that it’s just us walkin’ by. I sing this little chant trying to keep my voice even while as I walk and stumble through the dark.
“Ho yah, ho yah. Sleep little ones.
Night is high but dawn will come
The sun will rise
All is well. All is well”

But all was not well. I knew right away from the sound of the bells on the sheep. They was not settling down to cud. Somethin’ was on the wind. This time of year the ewes ‘ill wander off to drop their lambs and that’s when the wolves ‘ill take ’em.  Before you know it you got yourself two sheep lost.

I knows all the different bells and I could tell one of ‘um was missing and which one it was. She was a lead ewe which meant she bossed a small band of her offspring within the flock. There’d be confushun for weeks if I lost her. A bunch of her offspring wanderin’ around without their leader. The other ewes be pushin’ em to the outside of the flock where they’d be easy prey for the wolves.

I was crossing along the lip the gully. It starts small on top of the hill where the water runs in the Springtime. But it quickly opens up into a deep ravine jammed with rock and boulders that drops down the face of the hill. We was workin’ hard to keep the sheep from strayin’ into the ravine. I’m glancin’ down into the gully when behold the gods gives me a sliver of luck. I could hear her bell jangling in the darkness below me.

“Ah!”   I gnash my teeth “What ever makes ’em go this way?”  I  starts down the rocky face. It’s a steep climb down.  I’m tryin’ to be as careful as I can but from the sound of the bell I know somethin’ worryin’ her. It’s gotta be the wolves.

I throw some rocks ahead of me shoutin’ as I scramble faster. Suddenly my feet go out from under me and I’m tumblin’ down into the bottom of the ravine.

I land almost on top of the ewe with the lamb hangin’ outta her, and a couple of wolves workin’ her from the rear. They back off from me and I use the moment to cut the lamb free and wipe the birth sack from it nose. It takes its first gasp ‘o air into the world as the wolves close in.

I back away as they grabbed for the ewe. I’m hollerin’ and swingin’ my sheep skin cape at ’em but it does no good. Shouldering the lamb I escape in the only directshun I can go and that’s downward. I’m leapin’, then slippin’, then slidin’ further down that ravine. Behind me, high above, I think I hears the wolves fighting over the ewe. They’s no longer interested in me.

I slide to a stop on a small outcrop o’ rock. I’m scrapped up pretty bad but nuthin’ is broke. And I still got the lamb and my sheepskin cape. I bend over breathin’ hard and set the lamb down on the ground. I know I got to make my way back up that ravine to my brother and the flock but there was no way I’m gonna do it in the dark. The only way is to go on down and find a place to bed for the night and hope the wolves had their fill.

I follow the steep walls of the ravine until they open out into a rocky meadow. It was then I see it. A star in the sky is on fire. Not like a comet. This was brighter than the pole star and bigger than a full moon. It’s burnin’ high in the sky over the village in the valley below me.

I first thinks it’s gotta be a fire in the village; but there’s no comoshum. Then I think its some kind ‘a gatherin’. There ‘ll be drink and Ja yil be down there somewhere.  But the light is going out the wrong way. It’s comin’ down from the sky. I think it’s gotta be a band ‘o fog: and I don’t know what I’s thinkin’.

I craddles the lamb in my arms and kneels down in awe.

But the lamb should be hungry and searching for its mother’s teat. It’ just lyin’ too quiet in my arms. This is no good. I shoulders the lamb across the back of my neck. I’m afraid. But I’m more afraid I’m going to loose the lamb. I reach for my sheepskin and throws it across my shoulders. I take one last look up the mouth of the ravine. I’m thinkin’ of the wolves and of Shola who would soon be lookin’ for me. There’s nothing I can do ’til daylight. I gotta save the lamb. Find some ewe in a stable and get some milk for it. I turn and starts down the slope toward the village and the strange fire  in the sky.

Copyright(c)2010 Christalene Loren  All rights reserved.

Best wishes to all and of course comments are always welcome.

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Posted on December 24, 2013, in Holidays at PsiKeep, Psi Keep Center for the Arts, Uncategorized, Unforeseen Events and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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