Saturday, May 16, 2015

Tree Sheppard

Once there was a small boy whose job it was to protect the young tree that grew outside of the village where he lived.

Every morning, his mother would send him off into the early dawn with some food for lunch and his little spear to fend off anything that might come to threaten the tree before it was strong enough to protect itself.

He would make his way sleepily along the pathway out of the tiny village of sturdily built huts out to the plains where the sapling stood alone against the rising sun of the horizon.

Once there, the young boy would sit with his legs crossed beside the green tree and watch vigilantly for any danger that might come across the open plains.

Every evening, after the long hours in the hot sun or drizzling rain, he would head home to share a humble meal with his mother and then fall exhaustedly to sleep on his simple straw mattress bed until the next day when he would begin his routine anew.

From time to time a small animal or two would come along and the boy would dutifully fend them off with his little spear and then proudly tell his mother the tale of how he defended his tree from a desert fox or burrowing badger that night before he drifted off to sleep.

There were other children in the village, but they all either went out to work in the far fields or hunt in the plains to the south with their fathers, so he kept to himself and his task of defending the tree and he was happy with his duty, such as it was.

As the tree grew tall and strong so too did the boy and each day he still went out to stand guard in the growing shade of the tree's lush foliage. Filling his days with practice with his spear and bow and arrow he became a skilled marksmen and an agile fighter, though the biggest animal he had faced was a lone hyena; he occasionally brought home an antelope that had passed near his spot by the tree.

Years passed and the village prospered and grew and the man that the boy had become continued to go out each day to his tree to defend it from any threats that might still come.

There came a night when a fierce storm came rolling across the sky and lightning struck one of the thatched roof huts and caught ablaze, causing the entire village to come out into the night to try and stop the flames from spreading.

While the others brought pails of water from the well to dowse out the fire, the man rush to his tree to make sure he had not been struck as well. However, when the tree came into view on the horizon he knew it was still standing unharmed; its branches now stretching out expansively in a canopied dome that sheltered a large circumference of ground beneath it.

Soon his mother grew old and frail and he would take her out to the tree with him so she could be with him and rest under the tree's full shade. When the time came, she passed away under its boughs and he buried her at the foot of the tree's thick trunk so she could continue to be near him as he stood on watch.

Years went on and the strong young man became old himself, but he came out to the tree each morning still, slowing making his way out as the sun rose in the sky.

All of his life was devoted to making sure the tree was safe from harm and he never once resented his duty, for he had life a peaceful life with the beauty of nature all around him.

When finally his time came, the people of the village buried their old tree Sheppard beside where his mother and father lay, and there they rest today, the ancient tree now doing its duty of standing guard.

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