Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Black Sheep of the Family (10/03/13)
By Ernest Yoder
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A modern adaptation of the parable of the lost sheep – with an added twist
Jimmy had never been so dejected in all his life. His spirits matched the descent of the crimson sun that was settling gently over the western horizon in the high country of Wyoming. With his faithful dog, Spot, he had spent his after school hours searching for Rambler after the lamb had strayed from the rest of the flock. At this moment Jimmy had to admit the obvious. Rambler was a lonely lost sheep out of his family’s flock of one hundred.
Jimmy took his responsibility seriously. His parents had taught him well. He knew from experience that some sheep had a habit of getting distracted and wandering off in some meandering direction looking for whatever it is that attracts sheep. Rambler was one of those sheep.
Rambler was different from the other sheep. He was an orphan. His mother was killed trying to defend him against a hungry wolf shortly after he was born. While all the other lambs had mothers to suckle, Rambler had to be raised on a bottle by Hannah, Jimmy’s little sister. Besides all that, Rambler was a black sheep, the only black sheep. It wasn’t that his wool wouldn’t be as good as the other sheep’s wool. In reality it was a beautiful deep black. It was just that Rambler felt he was different. At times some of the other lambs took advantage of him, butted him around, and wouldn’t play with him. So he got into the habit of rambling off by himself which finally gave him his name.
Jimmy was a natural born shepherd. When a sheep or lamb was hurt Jimmy was there to provide first aid or comfort. However, not all the lambs understood the shepherd’s heart of Jimmy, including Rambler. He had gotten into the habit of ignoring Jimmy’s warning call and his piercing whistle, which now had resulted in his current lost condition.
Jimmy knew what he had to do. Commanding Spot to “stay” with the ninety-nine sheep Jimmy ran inside a storage shed a hundred yards away. Replacing his hat with a battery powered headlamp and coiling a rope around his shoulder he hurried back to where he had left Spot with the ninety-nine sheep. They were settling down for the night. “Stay,” he ordered a whining Spot once more and trudged off into the gathering dusk.
Jimmy quickened his pace when he heard a wolf howl. Repeatedly Jimmy would call, “Rambler,” and stop to listen. Then he heard a faint bleat. He ran toward the sound but suddenly had to pull up short at the top of a fifty foot cliff. In the light of his headlamp he glimpsed the shape of a wolf at the bottom of the gully before it slunk away.
Then he spied Rambler. Rambler had slipped over the edge and was snagged by one hind leg in the crooked branch of a scraggly pine shrub. Otherwise Rambler would have fallen to the bottom and become a meal for the hungry wolf.
Jimmy swung into action. Fastening one end of the rope to a boulder at the top of the cliff he rappelled himself over the edge toward the frightened lamb. Navigating around thorns and cacti he finally got to Rambler. Ignoring his own cuts and bruises he gently pulled Rambler off the pine shrub. Working with his one free arm he lifted Rambler over his shoulder and made the difficult ascent back up and over the top of the cliff, sustaining even more cuts and bruises.
“Thank You God,” he prayed as he lay quietly, catching his breath, and hugging Rambler all at the same time.
It was a happy procession of now awake sheep, an excited Spot, and a smiling Jimmy carrying Rambler, that headed back toward the house. Jimmy’s relieved father met them halfway. Hearing the commotion Mother and Hannah ran out the back door of the house with worried expressions on their faces. When they saw that all was well and how happy everyone was and Rambler looking, well, a little sheepish, they couldn’t help themselves. Hannah danced a jig and Momma ran to the house and called their neighbors.
“Ya’ll come over,” she shouted into the phone, “Jimmy’s found Rambler and we’re having a party.”
And that is what they did.
In God’s family there are no “black sheep.”
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