Sheep and Mountain Goat
by Laryea Nii Laryea
During a sunny and dry day, a mountain goat scaled down the rocks, descending the hill. This was to get a better look at the stranger walking by. Surrounded by rolling hills and jagged stones, his home was not used to the likes of humans.
Curiosity got the better of the mountain goat and he started to follow the man from a distance. He was not that tall but not too short, had no beard and his hair was stubble. He wore a grey sack and carried a staff and on his feet were sandals made of leather. Nothing remarkable except for the fact that he was human. The mountain goat bet he could take the man on in a fight.
When the man stopped by the river, he took a satchel from his waist belt and filled it up. At this time, the mountain goat had been following him for a while now and descended from the heights of the mountain to converse with the man.
“Where are you heading?” asked the mountain goat.
“I lost my sheep,” the man said. “You see, I am a shepherd with a flock. One fled my watch and I hope to find him soon.”
Knowing there was nothing around them but empty fields and stone, the mountain goat asked, “How do you lose sheep so far away from your flock? Were you not paying attention?”
The shepherd laughed as though it was a joke, and he said, “I lose sheep now and then. Sometimes, they run off before I can catch them.”
“I don’t understand why they need you in the first place. I have lived in the wild all my life. It is only natural that your sheep run away.”
They walked together across the plains, the mountain goat waiting for a response. The shepherd seemed to consider what his newly appointed counterpart had said. It made the man frown deeply, thinking. “Is it all that better to live in the wild?” the shepherd asked.
“It is!” said the mountain goat. “I live in the mountains and sleep in caves. I wake up when I want and go out to graze on whatever bush I find. No one tells me what to do.”
“And what about the wolves and foxes that hide behind the shrubs?”
“I have horns and my hooves can kick.” He kicked the dirt to show off. “I’m tough. I fear no one. It is part of life to be strong and cunning or else you won’t survive for long.”
“You are tough,” the shepherd agreed. “And you have fought many times. My sheep, on the other hand, have me to fight for them. That is why I carry this staff. My flock grazes on green grass while they drink from pools. And at night, they gather by my fire when the night is cold. They talk to me, and I listen. Who do you talk to when night comes?”
The mountain goat did not have to think for long. His answer was plain as the marks on his face. He had no one to talk to. “Why would your sheep leave your flock and run if it’s so great?” the mountain goat asked instead.
And the shepherd answered, “When you find my sheep you can ask them yourself.”
They walked the length of the dry land for a long time, and eventually, they split up to find the sheep on their own. The mountain goat searched behind rocks and stones, not paying attention to the heat of the sun. He got thirsty and made his way to a river. When the mountain goat arrived, he found a sheep bobbing on the surface.
“Are you a sheep?” the mountain goat asked just to be sure.
“No,” the sheep said. “I am a fish.” The sheep did not sound sarcastic.
“You do not look like a fish,” the mountain goat said. “You have wool. It is white though it is wet. You are a sheep.”
“What if I am?” the sheep asked.
“I have a question that has been bothering me all day. Why did you leave your flock?”
The sheep did not answer for some time. Whether he was contemplating what his response might be or whether he did not know himself was beyond the mountain goat. “I looked over the mountains and wondered what was here that I could not have,” the sheep said.
“Did you get lost?”
“I did get lost, but I don’t want to go back anyway. It has been so long since I left, I know the shepherd would not want me back.”
“Are you alone when night comes?” the mountain goat asked. “Do you fight the wolves by yourself?”
“They have not caught me yet,” the sheep said. “If I try hard enough, I will not die out here.”
Since you won’t be returning to the flock, can you teach me how to bleat like a sheep? Can I ask for your coat as well so the shepherd may think I am one of his?” The mountain goat did not want to be alone. He did not want to struggle to survive each night when the wolves appeared.
“You are mine,” a voice said above him. The shepherd stood beside the river. He got down on one knee and patted the small goat on the head. “You will come home with me.” It was a promise that the mountain goat believed in.
The shepherd then turned to the sheep bobbing on the surface and called out to him. “I am not leaving you behind.” As he approached the water, the sheep bobbed away.
“No, don’t come for me,” the sheep said. “Don’t let the water wet you. I will swim to you instead.” Whenever the sheep tried to swim, the river would pull him away. He tried again to the same end. Having had enough, he asked for the shepherd’s help.
The mountain goat stood by the shore and watched the shepherd wade through the river, beating the current and getting hold of the sheep. Carrying the sheep on his shoulders, he waded back to the riverbank without trouble.
It was a long walk back home, wherever that was. With the sun setting, shadows grew taller, and night opened its many eyes. The shepherd took them through a stretch between two mountain ranges, both long and jagged and curving downward as though about to devour them. They kept close to his feet as they scampered on.
“You will never belong,” the wind whispered. “You know what you are. You know you won’t fit in.”
“Listen to no voice but mine,” said the shepherd. “I have chosen you to become my flock.”
Before the mountain goat, the slope was covered in swaying green grass. The shepherd had been truthful the entire time. Sheep from atop the mountain rushed down to meet the shepherd. When they saw the sheep and the mountain goat, they stopped to examine them. “You found him,” they said. “We thought he was dead.”
The lost sheep bowed his head and took a few steps back. Bowing, the shepherd carried the sheep who had been lost and walked up the slope. “I thought you would rejoice that your friend had come back home. Would you not be glad if you were lost and I came looking for you?” When the shepherd set the sheep down, the others were more welcoming.
After walking for so long, the mountain goat’s tired legs could not keep him up any longer. The shepherd was conversing with the sheep near him, so he approached the closest one and asked, “Ask the shepherd where I should rest for the night. And if it would not be any trouble, can he show me a well to drink from?”
“If you have something to ask, you can talk to me any time you want,” the shepherd said. “And yes, I have a place for you to rest, and I have water for you to drink.”
The time came to sleep, and the sheep were made to rest. The shepherd sat on a hilltop with a harp, playing a lullaby for the flock. The mountain goat knelt at his feet, looking across the fields. A few looked like him. Rough around the edges but with smaller horns. He supposed a mountain goat’s horns would grow smaller when he no longer needed them. Yet the sheep still had bruises and bite marks. Even on this slope, the sheep suffered from wolves. The attacks had left them broken and disfigured, yet they stayed and rested in the shepherd’s presence. “My flock is perfect, isn’t it?” the shepherd said.
“I suppose it is,” the mountain goat said in turn.
About the Writer
Laryea Nii Laryea is a passionate writer with a love for storytelling. Raised in a Christian home, he has found the need to bear fruit for the gospel through short stories.
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