The Wolf Who Cried Sheep

The Wolf Who Cried Sheep

If the village of Union stood for anything, they were for sheep and against wolves. They bred sheep, sold sheep, sheered sheep, and ate sheep. Their livelihood depended upon sheep. Wolves ate sheep and threatened their lives.

Their sheep lived in one large flock outside of town. The Union Shepherd’s Association, to which every villager belonged, managed the communal flock’s welfare, which consisted chiefly in hiring a shepherd to guard the flock while it grazed.

Grady Odell Paine knew that shepherding paid well, even more so when wolves threatened the flock. So, when the Union Shepherd Association announced they would be hiring a new shepherd, Grady Odell Paine applied and was hired.

After his first day on the job, Grady Odell Paine went to the Union Pub for stew and a pint. He told the Union Shepherd Association president that he understood why the previous shepherd had quit and moved across the sea. Grady Odell Paine himself might not be continuing. 

He’d seen a wolf—and not just any wolf. The shoulder of The Wolf came to the chest of Grady Odell Paine. He was a monster, crafty and sly. Grady Odell Paine was only barely able to keep at bay. 

Grady Odell Paine spoke of The Wolf each night that week, of how he feared for his life chasing it off each day. Unless the Union Shepherd Association paid him more, he would not continue. But—Grady assured them—he was so close to killing The Wolf. He just knew it. And, oh, how he loved those sheep. He wept for them

By now, the entire village knew of The Wolf. They praised Grady Odell Paine for his valiant efforts to protect the helpless sheep. They threw their support behind the shepherd, increasing the dues paid to the Union Shepherd Association—and the weekly pay to Grady Odell Paine.

The second week, Grady Odell Paine led the flock to an out-of-the-way valley. While the flock rested secure, he led a lamb into the woods and slaughtered it. He feasted on roast lamb and buried the carcass.

After driving the flock back to town, Grady Odell Paine entered the pub and announced that he must quit. He announced to the village that he was leaving. The Wolf had returned that day—but he was not alone now. The two wolves attacked at once from both sides of the flock. Grady Odell Paine fought off one with his staff. But the other wolf made off with a lamb. 

Grady Odell Paine explained that without more equipment—better staff, a new sling, and more comfortable clothes and shoes—he could not continue. And, besides, he wasn’t sure the pay was worth risking his life each day. But—he assured them—he was so close to killing the wolf. He just knew it. And if he could kill one, he was sure the other would not come back. And, oh, how he loved those sheep. He wept for them. This was the most important week in the history of Union. Their continued support was needed to end the killing.

The Union Shepherd Association understood the concerns of Grady Odell Paine. He protected their defenseless sheep. So they voted to equip him with what he asked for and increased his pay again. 

The third week, Grady Odell Paine ate three sheep. How was he to defend against three sheep? He wasn’t sure he could continue by himself, not at this rate. But—he assured them—they were so close to killing a wolf. And if he could kill one, he was sure the others would not come back. And, oh, how he loved those sheep. He wept for them. This was the most important week in the history of Union. Their continued support was needed to end the killing.

The Union Shepherd Association increased his wages again—and hired his wife at the same rate.

The fourth week, Grady Odell Paine and his wife ate six lambs. The pack of wolves had grown in size and aggression. He told the Union Shepherd Association that they would need more shepherds to help defend against the pack. But—he assured them—they were so close to killing a wolf. And if they could kill one, he was sure the others would not come back. And, oh, how he loved those sheep. He wept for them. This was the most important week in the history of Union. Their continued support was needed to end the killing.

The Union Shepherd Association increased his wages again—and hired his children to join them at the same rate.

The fifth week, Grady Odell Paine and his wife ate six lambs. He told the town’s people that the efforts were working. Six lambs last week. Six lambs this week. They had kept the wolves from snatching more. What’s more, he assured them—they were so close to killing a wolf. And if they could kill one, he was sure the others would not come back. And, oh, how he loved those sheep. He wept for them. This was the most important week in the history of Union. Their continued support was needed to end the killing.

The Union Shepherd Association continued to support the Grady Odell Paine family.

For three months, the Grady Odell Paine family feasted on sheep, while filling their sheepskin purses with the village’s wealth. 

This continued until Grady Odell Paine stood in the village and announced that the wolves had devoured the last six sheep. He expressed his fear that the wolves would now set their sites on the village of Union—and their children. The villagers wept and cried out, “What will we do?” 

Grady Odell Paine assured the people that his family would fight valiantly to protect them, to kill the wolves, and restore Union to the greatness it once knew. This would, of course, require the continued support of the Union Shepherd Association.

The Union Shepherd Association lamented that they had no more money. Their income diminished with the flock. Now, they had nothing.

Grady Odell Paine said that his family—humbly and generously, and out of concern for the people of Union—would buy the houses and property of the villagers for a fair price. They could rent them back for a small monthly fee. The people of Union had no choice but to agree.

One month later, in the newly renamed Grady’s Old Pub, Grady Odell Paine told the people that the pack of wolves had been killed by his family. They killed forty-nine of the fifty. But they were sure the one—The Wolf—would not return.

The people could safely return to buying sheep. But they had no money. So, Grady Odell Paine would loan them money at interest. And, he would be happy to provide a load to the Union Shepherd Association to hire his family to protect the sheep from The Wolf. Oh, how he loved those sheep. He wept for them. The villagers agreed.

Loan papers and shepherding contract in hand, Grady Odell Paine walked home by the light of the full moon. He entered the den to the smell of his wife’s mutton stew. He hung up his sheepskin coat, and he howled.