Stewed!

Long ago, in a valley amongst the hills, a lamb was born. His mother, a young ewe, was one of the few animals that brought forth life on that fateful day. The shepherds broke into a dance that night and took beer in celebration of their growing flock. But this one lamb wasn’t like the others. He was more agile than his peers, jumping over fences and sticking his nose where it shouldn’t be. In time, the shepherds took note of the agile lamb and they barricaded the sheep’s shelter even more than they already had. So the older sheep became angry and agitated, and they approached the mother of the agile lamb, “Tell your son to calm his hooves and be like the rest, “they said. “We the sheep don’t do as we please, we do as the flock pleases.”

But the young ewe knew her baby wasn’t like the other lambs. He was quicker than the rest, smarter than most sheep her age, yet they wanted her to stifle what made him different and make him mediocre, like the rest. Either way,what’s the worst that could happen? They were just jealous that their young weren’t as acrobatic and full of life as her lamb. So she ignored their requests and let her son be. And every night, when they returned to their shed, she sang his praises of how better he was than the rest, of how he outran his peers and galloped almost like a horse up the pasture fields and down. He was not your typical lamb, and even the sheep gods knew it.

So the young lamb grew into a fine ram, and his thirst for adventure grew with him. ”Why can’t I go beyond this valley mama,” he kept asking, but his mother feared for his safety and scolded him every time, warning him that although he is the strongest and wittiest sheep in the flock, the forest beyond their grazing fields was no place for a sheep, let alone a domesticated sheep like him. But the young ram felt insulted, for how can his own mother crash his dream like that? He had lived all his life grazing on weeds on this one side of the valley, and only dreamt of what the grass on the other side would taste like.

Every passing day made him grow apart from his flock. His peers felt slower and dumber than they were willing to acknowledge. He stopped grazing with them and began seeking greener pastures by himself, preferring the rare weeds far up the valley’s escarpments where only he could reach. But his mother feared that he was playing too close to the fire. A sheep doesn’t do as it pleases, it does as the flock pleases.  Her pleas and advice fell on deaf ears though, for her son didn’t see why he should conform to the rules of a flock he felt superior to. He yearned for more, more than a typical sheep desired, more than what wet grass could offer, and he knew if he just went out looking, he might as well bump into it, whatever it was.

So when the flock returned to their shed that evening, he hid among the trees on the steepest slopes of the valley and watched as the shepherds scoured the grazing fields looking for him. He was hell-bent on exploring what lay beyond the valley, because what else could be faster and stronger than he already was?

But the forest was darker than anything he had ever seen. The further he drifted from his shed and flock, the denser the forest became. Huge tree branches swaying under the strong gusts of wind looked like arms stretching out to grab him, and he couldn’t help but bleat in terror, fearing the wrath of the creatures that hid in the dark. From a distance, he could hear the summoning calls and shuffling feet of the shepherds that were looking for him, but by this time, his horns were already caught in the shrubs he tried to hide in such that he couldn’t free himself. So he thought to himself… even though I’m stuck, I still can yell and bleat with all my might, that way, they’ll follow my voice and find me. But his cries for help caught the attention of a pack of hyenas that were scavenging on animal carcasses nearby. And the more he bleated, the harder the hyenas laughed, as if mocking his weak attempts at saving himself. However, one of the shepherds found the ram before the hyenas did, and although he knew the forest better than the stupid ram did, they were in too deep to outmanoeuvre these night bandits.

Despite his bravery and life-threatening attempts to save himself and the poor ram, the shepherd eventually got attacked by the blood-thirsty hyenas, prompting him to abandon the young ram to save the rest of himself. He also almost lost two of his fingers fighting off the hyenas, but his fellow herdsmen saved him in time. The ram wasn’t too lucky though, and they could only leave as fast as they could before the ram’s guts and blood could attract any more unwanted attention from predators lurking in the dark. To make soup for the injured shepherd and to celebrate his close call with death, the ram’s mother was slaughtered, ridding the flock of both of them in one night.

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