The Love of a Shepherd
by Kelly F. Barr
A knock at the door startled Stella. She wasn’t expecting anyone. She laid her book on the table next to her and rose from her blue wing-back chair. She stepped from the living room into the short hallway that led to her front door. She peeked through the long narrow side window.
Surprised to find a tall man with jet black hair, piercing blue eyes, and a five o’clock shadow standing on her porch, she paused. As she considered whether or not to open the door, the man turned to look toward the front pasture and ran a hand through the dark waves crowning his head, then knocked louder.
Curious, she opened the door a few inches. “May I help you?”
A look of relief washed over the man’s face, and he said, “Oh, thank goodness someone’s home. One of your sheep has it’s head stuck between a couple of the wires in your fence down by the road. It is bleating quite loudly. I wasn’t sure if sheep bite or not, so I thought I’d better let someone know.”
“I’m sure it will be fine. I’m sure if it got its head through the fence one way, it can get it back the other way.”
“No, ma’am. I don’t think so. I’m not even sure how it got its head through in the first place. The wires don’t look far enough apart for its head to fit. Won’t you please check on it? I’d hate for it to get hurt.”
Stella couldn’t help but smile. “Well, thank you for letting me know. I’ll be right out to check on the sheep. You can just climb back into your car and drive on outta here.”
The man looked at her and hesitated for a minute. Then he turned and left the porch.
Stella waited until she heard a car start, then she stepped out onto her porch and looked down her long gravel drive. There was a silver convertible Ford Mustang at the end of the lane. She started to walk down the driveway. The closer she got to the pasture, the more she slowed her pace. That Mustang wasn’t moving.
Was this man up to something or was he just really that concerned over her sheep? She decided to enter the pasture’s gate and walk through the pasture to the sheep. That way, if this guy was up to something, the fence would be separating them.
As she approached the pasture’s fence line near the road, she could hear the distressed bleat of a sheep. The other sheep seemed uneasy and walked around one another, bleating from time to time as well.
When Stella reached the fence, sure enough, there was Lulabelle, the oldest ewe of her flock with her head stuck between two wires in the fence. Stella spoke to Lulabelle before getting too close to avoid startling the old sheep even more. “Oh Lulabelle, what have you done? Calm down. Everything’s going to be all right now. I’m here. I’ll get you out of there.” She continued talking to the sheep as she placed a hand on its back and moved to the fence. Stella was able to pull the wires apart, but had to untangle a wire from Lulabelle’s wool. As soon as Stella extracted the wire from the wool, Lulabelle pulled her head free. The old ewe ran to the flock letting out a much happier bleat.
Stella noticed that the wire she had taken out of the old ewe’s wool had come loose from the fencepost. That is what had enabled Lulabelle to get her head through. However, when she had tried to pull her head back out, the end of the wire had tangled in her wool and drawn tighter, creating a trap.
Stella grabbed the loose wire, moved it to its proper place, and began winding it tightly around the fencepost to prevent this from happening again.
“That sheep seems genuinely happy to be free.”
The voice startled Stella and the wire end slipped in her hand and cut a small slice in her index finger. It began to bleed. She looked up at the man, now standing outside the fence, the car door of his convertible Mustang open behind him. “You still here? I thought I said you should go.”
“I’m sorry. I just wanted to see the sheep freed. I don’t know much about sheep.” He looked at her through squinted eyes as the sun shone down on him.
Stella finished fastening the wire, then pulling a handkerchief from her pocket, wrapped her finger to stop the bleeding. She moved toward the stranger. She paused about four feet inside the fence.
“Sheep are stupid animals. That’s why, in the old days, there were shepherds who worked moving the flocks from grazing site to grazing site. The sheep came to know the shepherd’s voice and learned they could trust the shepherd. The shepherd not only herded the sheep to provide food, he protected the sheep from predators, and he loved the sheep. He made sure each and every sheep in his flock had a name, and he knew each one by name.”
“I heard you call the one that was stuck, Lulabelle. You named all your sheep too, didn’t you?”
“But how can you tell them apart? They all look the same to me.”
“When you raise sheep, you have to spend a lot of time with them. Sheep still need shepherds today, and when you spend time with them and love them, it’s easy to tell them apart. Thanks for letting me know about Lulabelle.”
“You’re welcome, and thank you for the sheep lesson.”
Stella smiled and nodded to the stranger, then walked up through the pasture toward her house, the sheep following her as she went.