Friday, January 9, 2015

Cattle, Sheep, and Shepherd

While I might have grown up in the country next to a river for much of my youth, and while I lived, taught, and coached for five years in Wyoming and Nebraska, I am a city slicker at heart and by nature.  Picture Billy Crystal without being the comedian and you’ve pegged me, though I have to admit I’ve done my share of really stupid, boneheaded stuff along the way that would qualify as rather comedic.

For example, I inadvertently started a stampede that wiped out a lot of electric fence and scattered a herd of cattle for a mile or so.  My employers were not happy, but their kids got a kick out of it.  I single-handedly killed a field of corn, but part of that is the employer’s fault.  You see, I had never, ever driven a tractor in my life, and one day, they wanted a field plowed.  They set me on a tractor, showed me how to drive it, and away I went . . . along with many rows of corn because I had difficulty driving forward while looking back over my shoulder.  In any case, the field was a mess.

But in the three summers I worked for that family, they taught me about cattle and sheep.

Cattle, like other animals, are not led.  They are herded from the sides and from behind.  Slowly.  Stick a bull in front, point it in the right direction, and the cattle follow as long as a rider rides on each side and another one or two ride drag (bringing up the rear).  Riding drag really is a drag.  It’s dusty and dirty.  Guess where they put me?

Sheep, like some animals on the other hand, are led.  Sheep by nature aren’t really all that smart.  They follow their appetite- literally.  Head down, munching away on grass, they will traipse all over a hillside or field as they eat, not watching where they’re headed, which is why one or two can be easily lost.

Which brings us to the Shepherd.

A solitary job.  A lonely job.  It begins early in the morning and can run all day and into the night.  Sometimes, a full twenty-four hours or longer.  A Shepherd can be about as attractive as riding drag on a cattle drive.  Not a lot of folks clamoring for either job.

But a Shepherd is valued nonetheless.  The Shepherd’s job is to protect from natural predators, such as coyotes or wolves, and unnatural predators, such as a rustler.  The Shepherd’s job is to keep track of the sheep and make sure one or two don’t wander off or stray too far away.

Which leads me to this week’s thought . . .

I think there is value in all three roles: Cattle, Sheep, and Shepherd.  All three roles have a purpose.  At times, each day, sometimes at different times of the day, I think each of us find ourselves in one of these roles.

Like cattle, some are content to move along with the herd, to follow and trust that whomever is in front knows where he or she is headed.  There is guidance, of course, from the side or behind, but the herd moves along at a leisurely pace and it arrives at a destination, hopefully pleasant, where it they will be taken care of.

Like sheep, some are content to be led.  Some have the need to be protected.  Some are rather skittish and it takes time before there is trust, respect, and knowledge that whomever is watching over them has their best interests at heart.

And like the Shepherd, there are some who want to protect, to nurture, to watch out for flock.  There is risk involved in being the Shepherd, because it can be and often is, lonely. 

So I think we can take solace in the fact that at times, it’s okay to follow.  There is peace.  It’s relaxing and we’re moving along with the rest, trusting that we’re all safe and together.  And I think we can take solace in the fact that at times, it’s okay to be led.  There is comfort knowing that someone is watching over us, protecting us, has our best interests at heart.  And, I think that at times, we can take solace in the fact that, like the Shepherd, we watch over, and protect, and comfort, and care for one another.  I think that’s our nature, our purpose.  Perhaps.  Something to think about . . .

Live Your Life, and Make A Difference!

To My Readers:

I received some wonderful news from my publisher.  My book, Taking Lives, the prequel to my Lives Trilogy, ended up #84 for the year 2014 on UBAWA’s List of Top 100!  Thank you for taking a chance on it and giving it a read.  Taking Lives introduces me to you, and introduces you to the trilogy.  It is a taste, a beginning, and it doesn’t have a very satisfying conclusion- because I didn’t intend for it to have a satisfying conclusion.  That is where the first book of the trilogy, Stolen Lives begins.  It begins two years after the last scene in Taking Lives and brings you to a resolution.  I hope you give both a chance and give them a read.  Thank you to those of you who have already.



  1. Sometimes I like being the shepherd and sometimes I like being the sheep. I think being able to fluctuate back and forth is an important part of happiness.

  2. I agree! I think the role we take is dependent upon the situation. Thank you for reading it and for your comment. I appreciate it.


Thank you for your comment. I welcome your thought. Joe