– by David Matthews 2
This is a story about lost sheep.
Now let’s get brutally honest here… this is really about people, not sheep, but in way too many situations we allow ourselves to be treated AS sheep, so the best way to get this message across is to use that which we sometimes behave as.
Well, that and it’s easier to use the sheep analogy than to talk about lemmings… because it’s easier to see ourselves as sheep rather than as lemmings.
But back to the story…
Once upon a time there was a place called the Republic Sheepranch, and they prided themselves in having the biggest and the best flock of sheep in the whole world! They took great pride in showing off their finest sheep, and in showing off the best byproducts of that flock. Their wool sweaters and jackets couldn’t be beat, and of course their lamb chops were the pride of the nation! Famous chefs would swear by the meat that came from the Republic Sheepranch. And of course the ranch owners took great pains to make sure that their flock were the best. No defects. No black sheep whatsoever! Only the best can be seen in their pens.
Unfortunately the ranch fell into a state of disrepair. Years of arrogance and confidence got the better of them. They stopped caring about the sheep and instead rested on their laurels of past achievements. The sheep were being abandoned, abused, malnourished, and once every Saturday night after some hard drinking some of the ranch hands would take some of the sheep and… well, it’s “don’t ask, don’t tell”.
So one day after years upon years of abuse and maltreatment, the sheep had enough. They decided to flee to greener pastures. They knew those pastures were out there. They just had to get past the grazing fence.
Fortunately for the sheep, the ranch hands really didn’t care too much about the fence, and as luck would have it, the back end of the fence was so badly deteriorated that it just took one nudge to topple it over. And with that nudge, the sheep were free!
The ranch hands, of course, were too apathetic to even realize that most of the flock had fled when the time came to bring them back into the pens. It was only when it was time to start sheering that the help discovered that the sheep were free and running loose.
Meanwhile the sheep were enjoying their newfound independence. They were bleating loudly and proudly about how they were free and they weren’t going to take any more abuse ever again!
But some of them wondered what to do next. Sure they all wanted to go find greener pastures, but then what?
“Who cares?” bleated the rest of the sheep. “We’re free! That’s what matters! We’re never going back there ever again! No way, no how! We’ll kick anyone who tries to corral us again! We’ll head-butt and gnaw on them and make them bleed if they ever try to pen us down.”
Every so often some wandering shepherd from another ranch would see the renegade flock, but the sheep made it quite clear that they weren’t going to go back to another pen ever again! They would charge at anyone who tried to approach them and then laugh at their victory.
Back at the Republic Sheepranch, the owners were upset at the ranch hands for their incompetence. They didn’t mind the abuse or the maltreatment or even that little drunken Saturday night “don’t ask, don’t tell” time, but the one thing that they couldn’t tolerate was letting the sheep escape.
One ranch hand suggested that they all go out and bring the sheep back, but the owners knew that it wouldn’t work. The sheep had tasted freedom and they weren’t going to go back without a fight. But the owners knew precisely who to call to resolve this quickly.
Meanwhile, the liberated sheep were feeling a little lost and aimless. They enjoyed some of the benefits of the wild grass outside of the ranch, but they really hadn’t found those promised “greener pastures” that they firmly believed would be there.
But then one of the sheep bleated that he knew where there was such a place. He was there. He knew where to find it.
He was somewhat large for a sheep, and somewhat thick and ugly too… and the other sheep really had their doubts that he knew where this promised place was. But the longer they stayed out in the wilderness, running from the dogs and the people trying to corral them again, and the more and more meager their grass became, the better the story sounded to the flock.
Finally out of sheer desperation, the flock turned to their oversized brethren and said “Let’s go! Show us this pasture before the dogs and the humans catch us.”
And so the large sheep led the flock up the stream and over the hills and through the briar patches that nicked their coats.
“Come on, come on!” bleated the large sheep to the flock. “It’s just over the bend.”
Some of the sheep began to get suspicious. “This looks familiar,” one of them bleated.
“It only appears that way,” bleated the large sheep in reply. “Come on! We have to hurry before nightfall, or else the dogs will find us!”
As the sun began to descend, the flock ran as fast as their little sheep legs could carry them. The larger sheep pushed them further and further into the woods.
“Come on! Come on! We’re almost there! Don’t stop now! We’re so close!”
Finally a hill could be seen through two large bushes.
“We’re there!” cried out the large sheep. “It’s just over the hill! Hurry! Hurry! Get on through! I’ll make sure the rest catch up!”
The sheep began to bleat with joy as they raced past the bushes and over the hill into the clearing beyond. This was it, they believed. This was their promised land! This was their endless fields of green grass and clean spring water and no drunken humans to abuse them. No more talk about mutton soup or lambskin coats or sweaters.
But then the sheep cleared the hill and they stopped in shock and horror at what lay ahead of them.
They were back at the Republic Sheepranch!
They had been led around to a side of the ranch they hadn’t been to in years, tracked around land that seemed familiar to them because they had originally seen it from the OTHER side of the range.
The flock tried to reverse themselves and head back out, but the other sheep were still stampeding in. It was only after the bulk of the flock had made it through the gap that the large sheep that had led them back made it through.
There was a vengeful look on the face of the flock. They had trusted the large sheep with their newfound freedom and he betrayed them.
But that shock turned to horror as the large sheep stood up on his hind legs and said in a very human voice “NOW!”
And with that, two ranch hands came out from the shrubs and closed the gap with all-new fence.
The “sheep” that they believed would lead them to the promised pasture was in fact a human that was especially skilled at appealing to the sheep and in convincing them to do whatever needed to be done. In fact he was so good at his job that some people thought he was half-sheep himself.
The ranch hands weeded out the most aggressive of sheep from the flock, the ones that they knew could lead such an escape. The rest of the flock didn’t know what would happen to those sheep, although they did hear about a new recipe for mutton stew. Besides, they were too busy facing the sheering razors as their coats were trimmed down almost to the skin to get out the briars..
Time would pass, and the whole matter with the “sheep-herder” would soon be forgotten. Any talk of escape would be nothing more than an idle fantasy for these sheep. After all, why would they want to leave? Sure the sheering razors were rough, but life outside with the briars and the dogs was even worse. Here they had grass and water and security, and every so often they would have to endure some abuse… and some of that “don’t ask, don’t tell” time. A small price to pay, they rationalized, for the “privilege” of being there.