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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "A Man is Known by the Company He Keeps" (without using the actual phrase). (01/31/08)

TITLE: The Gentle Shepherd
By Ann Grover


Thomas watched the ewe pace back and forth in the shadow of the thicket. Occasionally, she’d stop and bleat pitiably, then resume her uneasy pacing.

“That’s it, Lucy, you’ll be borning yer lambie afore long,” Thomas whispered before taking a long sip of steaming tea from his mug. The collie beside him tipped his head to the side, eyed the bleating sheep, and leaned against Thomas’s knee.

“Aye, Kip, another lamb.”

Thomas gazed at the rest of the flock grazing in the meadow below. A few lambs gamboled about, fluffy scraps of white springing lightly in the grass. Thomas finished the tea with a few swallows and set the mug on the window sill of the cottage.

“Let’s go, Kip.”

The two ambled in companiable silence toward the sheep, and as they neared the animals, Kip trotted on ahead. A few curious lambs bounded out to greet the dog, touching noses while Kip sniffed their woolly bodies. Thomas caught up and wandered through the feeding sheep, reaching out to pat a back here, fondle an ear there, speaking in low tones.

“Mornin’, Ruthie. ‘Allo, Elsa. How are you, sweet Maria.” The ewes lifted their heads to his gentle caresses and went back to their eating. Kip roamed the perimeter of the meadow, alert for predators and stray sheep. Thomas kept one eye on Lucy, lying down by the thicket.

“Good girl.”

By then, the ram was turning an arrogant eye on the approaching Thomas. “Take it easy, Midas.” Thomas ran a hand over the ram, pulling a few twigs and leaves from the thick fleece. “There ye be, handsome fellow.”

Thomas headed up to Lucy, now in full labour, both bags of water broken. “Not long now, girl.”

Two tiny hooves appeared, followed by a nose. Lucy strained and the small head was exposed, then suddenly the whole body slithered free. Thomas pulled the membrane away from the nose, then let Lucy begin licking her lamb dry.

“It’s a fine lambie,” Thomas murmured as he wiped blood from his hands on a knot of grass. “You done well, Lucy.”

He made sure the wee lamb could stand and suckle, smiled and went back to the cottage. He came out shouldering a wool bale and whistled low for Kip who circled the flock and ran to Thomas.

“Mind the sheep, Kip. Stay.” Kip panted and his tongue lolled in a dog smile.

Thomas sauntered down the narrow path to the village, enjoying the sunshine, the breeze, and the melody of the birds in the trees. He was exultant over the successful birth of the lamb, indeed, the health of his whole flock.

“Good day, Thomas. What ‘ave ye got, lad,” Mistress Agatha asked when she saw Thomas.

“Wool, as usual. Enough for a blanket, methinks.”

But before Thomas and Mistress Agatha could discuss a trade, a trio of rough looking boys surrounded Thomas.

“Well, if it ain’t the sheep boy,” said the black haired one.

“Come for a sight o’ the city? Tired of being in the hills, are ye?”

The bushy bearded one circled Thomas. “Can’t speak? Are ye dumb like those sheeps you tend?”

The black haired boy stepped close. “He be sheepish, all right. Smells just like a sheep, he do.”

“Oh, ye be witty, Bart.” The boys guffawed and smacked each other.

“Move along,” encouraged Mistress Agatha. “I don’t need no trouble.”

“We’re just funnin’ ‘im,” said the red head.

“Y’oughta come to town more often, sheep boy, git yerself some civilized manners,” suggested Bart. “Might learn to talk.”

“I can talk, sir, and I suggest you do as Mistress Agatha asked before I call the constable.” Thomas spoke quietly, but the boys backed away, then disappeared down the lane.

“Thank you, Thomas. Them fellows are trouble everywhere they go. You’ve more manners in yer little toe than they have put together. Methinks living with yer sheep has made ye a kindly and gentle young man. Can’t be rough and loud like, can ye?”

“No, Mistress, not iffen they’re to trust their shepherd. I must be calm and watchful of danger.”

“Aye. Well, let’s see yer wool and do some tradin’. What’ll ye have?”

“Not much, Mistress. Flour, sugar, butter. And, Mistress?”

“Aye, Thomas?”

“When I’m carin’ for my sheep, I think o’ me own Shepherd, how calm and quiet He is with me. He don’t ever get excited and loud, just gentle, like. Ain’t that a marvel?”

“To be sure, Thomas, to be sure.”

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This article has been read 1024 times
Member Comments
Member Date
jodie banner02/07/08
I loved this, the last lines about his own shepherd brought the whole story to a very satisfying conclusion.
Lynda Schultz 02/07/08
This was very satisfying.
Judy Bowers02/07/08
A lovely, gentle story. I expected the one true shepherd and you didn't disappoint! Super!
Sharlyn Guthrie02/09/08
Well done! Excellent tie-in to the topic.
Ann Renae Hair02/10/08
I really enjoyed this. Great dialogue. I envy his sweet and gentle nature as I have had to work for mine! Very nice.
Patty Wysong02/10/08
I loved this. Peace oozed out of it and the dialect was perfectly done. (flavorful yet readable) A beautiful piece!
william price02/10/08
Great gentle flow. Good use of dialogue and enjoyed the tie in to the topic. Me thinks, another reason he goes to town is to share about his Sheperd. He is also a man who understands authority and apparently, even though mild mannered, carries himself as one of authority to scatter the trouble makers like he did.
God bless,
Jan Ackerson 02/10/08
Oh, how wonderful! You know what I liked most? The collie leaning on Thomas's knee. Such a beautiful liitle detail that adds a whole new dimension to your writing. Gorgeous ending, too.
Shelley Ledfors 02/10/08
Wonderful! Well written and left me with a warm, peaceful feeling.
Karen Wilber02/10/08
Beautiful story - you created such a soothing atmosphere that the rough boys were an unwelcome intrusion into the narrative as well as into Thomas's life. I couldn't wait for them to move along. Excellent tie in with the topic.
LaNaye Perkins02/10/08
Your story pulls the reader into a realm of sweet serenity. This was very soothing to read, and like the others I was glad to see the bullies move on too. Well done.
Joanne Sher 02/10/08
Nobody can paint a scene like you can, and this is as stunning as always. Love the dialog too - another of your specialties. Beautiful in every way.
Holly Westefeld02/10/08
This has such excellent detail. I could feel the sheep, the grass, etc.
My favorite, poetic line was:
"Thomas sauntered down the narrow path to the village, enjoying the sunshine, the breeze, and the melody of the birds in the trees."
Dee Yoder 02/11/08
You just take these little slices of life to a level that is clearly masterful. I love everything about this gentle story. The details put me right into the scenes being played out and they all ring true. I absolutely love this entry!
Sherry Castelluccio 02/11/08
This is a quite a work of art. Very stunning.
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/11/08
This story told so masterfully lingers peacefully in my mind to savor again and again. You really do know how to tell a story!--This is one of the best I've read this week.
Beth LaBuff 02/11/08
This is a beatifully written story with a wonderful lesson! I love your creative idea for this.
Loren T. Lowery02/11/08
I could just keep reading and reading this. I loved the setting and the characters and your writing style. The message was an added and much appreciated spot-on bonus.
Kristen Hester02/12/08
You put me in the middle of the scene. I loved the dialect/dialogue. Charming. Great job.
Leigh MacKelvey02/12/08
Your writing never disappoints
the reader... at least no this one.You can really push words around until they sing a song!
Sara Harricharan 02/13/08
I like this. I really like this. You paint a lovely picture of a mountainside and a shepard with his flock and a little bit of adventure, it reads like a first chapter that I want to read more of and to see where the story goes and what happens next! This is a favorite of mine. Awesome writing! ^_^
Beckie Stewart02/13/08
I really liked the way the Lord as our gentle shepherd was weaved into this story.
Debbie Wistrom02/13/08
Loved the lilt of his voice, and his interaction with his animals. Wonderful tie in as well. Keep up the good words.
Maxx .02/13/08
Another masters entry that is just soo strong and polished. wow. I liked the visuals here. It just "felt" real!
Lyn Churchyard02/14/08
I loved 'listening' to this story; it was so picturesque, and masterfully written.
Jan Ackerson 06/22/08
Ann, I just re-visited this piece, and I love it even more. I'm going to feature it for the Front Page Showcase for the week of July 7. Look for it on the FW Home page, and cangratulations!
Joanne Sher 07/07/08
Just superb (as I said before). I was curious which entry would be selected for the showcase when you became a 500 member. A wonderful choice with a wonderfully vivid storyline and message.
Beth LaBuff 07/10/08
How great to see this on the homepage this week. Congrats on being the FW 500 Showcase author.