Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Staff (01/31/13)
TITLE: With This He Watches Over Us
By Michelle Knoll
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It happens a lot, but our shepherd seems to take it all in stride. Once a very young lamb got caught in some rocks on a hill where we grazed. The shepherd approached the terrified one slowly as it kicked against its rocky prison. In painstaking manner, he maneuvered the crook around the little one's body while the mother ewe watched, bleating her anxiety. The shepherd lifted the lamb from its pitiful perch, and eased it back to level ground. Happy it was free, the little lamb innocently trotted back toward the rocks.
Then it came: the horrible thud of the rod. Oh, the shepherd didn't hit the little one with the rod. Not at all. He tossed that heavy club precisely so it would land between the little lamb and the rocky outcrop, scaring the young one away from the rocks. And it scared all us sheep who were nearby. We don't like the sound of the rod at all. I watched as the little one cried out in shock and ran for its mother, half chuckling to myself because it reminded me of days gone by when I was slow to learn. On the trip back to its mom, the tiny lamb met up with the shepherd's stick again, but this time it was a smack on the lamb's leg, a reminder to stay with the flock. The shepherd isn't mean to the young ones at all, but he certainly is firm with them.
As I grazed on the juicy green grass, I remembered my younger days. I seemed to meet up with the crook of the shepherd's stick a lot. I experienced the gentle prodding with the straight end a lot, too. Always prodding me on, to follow the flock, to stay with the flock, to feed with the flock. Prodding was necessary for I had not yet learned to hear his voice. There were some days when I obstinately rebelled, marching off to eat where I chose or to investigate some curiosity I had noticed. However, those days were few because I didn't want to hear the sudden, frightful thud of the rod as it landed near me. And though the shepherd smacked me on the leg many times, it was never harsh, and he always spoke tenderly to me afterward.
The sun is hanging low in the western sky, round and red, and the shepherd is singing again. Like the rest of the older sheep, I look up to see if we are moving on to another place for the evening. The shepherd walks down the hillside to an open valley below, using his stick to check the ground for holes as we proceed. We older sheep know his voice, and follow in his footsteps. The little one that was caught in the rocks earlier is right by his mother's side. I smile as I think perhaps he's learning far earlier than most to keep a watchful eye on the shepherd, so he won't have to meet up with the corrections of the stick.
With more gentle prodding, the shepherd gathers the younger ones with us in a level place for the night. We watch as he then takes up his lookout position, back up the hill just a ways. There he places his mantle on the ground for his bed, and places his stick right by his side, just in case it's needed during the night. He'll sit and watch over us as we settle down to rest under the stars, and then he will sleep, knowing we'll raise our voices if there's a need for his help. And no matter the reason, whether it be to guide, to save, to assist, or to correct, that stick will be there in his hand.
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