The Flock of Sheep, the Border Collie, and the Wolf: a Fable for Perilous Times
By David Hartley Mark
Once, there was a flock of sheep. They dwelt in somewhat questionable harmony, enjoying the sunlight and the sweet, fresh grass of the pasture. Occasionally, one group of sheep might gang up on another, or someone would insult someone else for being a different color, size, or wool quality, and then, the Shepherd would have to step in to adjudicate, but this was rare. They were, overall, a happy flock, in a grassy, fertile pasture.
The days, months, and years passed, and the time came for the Elderly Shepherd to retire. He was getting on, and looked forward to the time when he could sleep late, take vacations with his wife to visit their daughters and families, or simply sit by the fire, smoke a clay pipe, and share his exploits and techniques for good Shepherding with younger, up-and-coming Shepherds. He put an ad in The Shepherd’s Gazette & Wool-Gathering Journal for a new Shepherd to fill his place.
Alas, there were no respondents to the ad. Young people did not wish to enter the Shepherding business: most were going into STEM jobs, encouraged by the air-conditioned, indoor lives and the higher-paying economic promise that professions in Science, Tech, Engineering, and Math offered. The days went on, the Shepherd grew older and crankier, and the sheep began to lament their overseer’s failings. They themselves tried to alert the birds of the air and the creatures of the field of the job opening, in hopes that, perhaps, a four-legged applicant might be able to supply their need, rather than a human one.
Indeed, one day, their hopes were answered. A female Border Collie, colored white with black spots, emerged from the woods, and asked the nearest sheep, “Excuse me. Is this the flock of sheep that is in need of a Shepherd?”
“Yes, it is,” said a ram, “just go over to our Shepherd, and he will acquaint you with the details.”
The sheep grew excited: their first job applicant! They crowded around, albeit staying at a respectful distance, trying to eavesdrop on the conversation between the Shepherd and the Collie, who presented her resume to him. He put on his spectacles and began to study it.
“H’m,” said the Shepherd. “You seem to have the credentials… Oh, but wait. What is this here I read, about your once not using the correct sheep feed?”
“Um—well—“ said the Collie, blushing furiously, “that was when I took my first shepherding and sheep-caretaking job. It was unintentional—yes, that’s right. Unintentional.”
“And you corrected it?” asked the Shepherd.
“Yes,” said the Collie, nodding vigorously. The sheep, who had been holding their breath, all smiled and nodded, as well. They liked this Collie. They felt she was trustworthy.
“Ah-HEM!” came a voice, or more like a growl. The sheep turned to the woods, to see who had spoken. It was a large timber wolf, all orange-y in color, who pointed his snout at the sky, and marched into the clearing. The sheep gave way before him; he seemed very regal, indeed.
“I am hereby submitting my credentials for the job of Shepherding these sheep!” said the Wolf to the Shepherd, with a little nod of his head.
“Do you have a resume?” asked the Shepherd. The Collie drew back a little, and some of the sheep who liked her fur color and smell formed a small protective circle around her.
“Resume? Who needs a resume?” asked the Wolf, “let me tell you, my friend—I can tell you a few things about Ms. Border Collie, over there—“
And he drew himself up by a low stump, using it like a podium.
“Ms. Collie—that is to say, Border—is a criminal! When she was in charge of her last herd, I’m not saying she deliberately poisoned several of them. No, I’m not saying that. But I am saying that, if you choose me as Shepherd, I will give you lots of feed. Tons of feed! Millions of tons of feed!”
“Border is a poisoner? Really?” the sheep asked one another, “She seemed so nice.”
“And let me tell you this, my friends—“ the Wolf went on, “stuff she didn’t put into her resume. When she was in her last—no, two flocks ago—it was in Faeryland, or maybe Giant’s Cove—I can’t recall which, one or the other, or maybe someplace else—that is, nearby—I heard from a possibly well-informed anonymous source that she may have been seen putting moose suits on several of the sheep during moose-hunting season, and that these same sheep allegedly dressed as moose were possibly shot by innocent hunters.”
“Goodness!” said the sheep, backing away from the Border Collie.
“It’s a lie!” said the Collie, but no one heard her.
“And furthermore,” said the Wolf, getting louder, and banging the stump with one paw, while making an “O” in the air with the claws of the other, “this seemingly innocent-looking Collie—I mean, your friend Border, with her innocent face—is trying to take away the rightfully-owned guns from these same Second Amendment Gun Owners, on the charge that they deliberately and willfully shot these same sheep, whom Border may have been seen possibly dressing up as alleged moose.”
“That’s a lie, too!” cried the Collie, but, by this time, two of the beefier rams were muscling her to the edge of the flock, stuffing grass into her mouth to prevent her speaking, and pushing her toward the forest. Two or three of the younger sheep kicked at her with their hooves as she was being doghandled away from the flock.
“Oh! Ow!” cried the Collie, “Wait a minute—he’s not telling the truth—“
“Now, I’m not suggesting we do this, Folks,” said the Wolf, as the sheep nodded at his every word, “but, what if we were—just a suggestion, you know—to take Border to the edge of the cliff that’s over by Mulberry Ridge, and, again, just a possible hint of what we might do that I’m not necessarily suggesting—push her over? I mean, not really push her to her death, but just a suggestion?”
“Great idea!” hollered all the sheep as one, rushing at the Border Collie, and binding her, body and feet, with tree-vines that the Wolf helpfully and cordially supplied.
“Help me—help me! I’m being murdered by innuendo!” screamed the Collie, as the gleeful, robotlike sheep hauled her to the edge of Mulberry Ridge, and certain doom, as they pushed her over, to perish on the sharp rocks below.
The Shepherd was gone.
“What’s next?” asked the sheep, returning to the meadow, as the sun began to set.
“Next,” said the Wolf, taking out a freshly-pressed linen napkin, and tying it about his neck, “we can begin to discuss dinner.”
“Yum!” said the sheep.
Who heeds a leader who threatens by innuendo
Deserves the destruction that will surely follow.