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Once upon a time there was a village. It was a happy and prosperous place and the envy of all the other villages around it.
Then, one day, the village was attacked by wolves. Several of the people were killed, and the entire village was plunged into mourning.
Then the village shepherd boy spoke up. “We need to go find the wolves in their dens and kill them so this never happens again!” he said.
The villagers loudly agreed and cheered the shepherd boy. They sent their finest and bravest men to that part of the forest where the wolves hid. They killed many in their dens and scattered the rest into the forest. They were going to pursue the wolves and wipe them out, but the shepherd boy said, “Wait! Now we need to go and kill the old bear who lives in another part of the forest!”
“What?” some of the people said. “Why? The old bear isn’t the threat. He's weak and sick. Your own father fought him years ago and left him crippled.”
“The bear is still dangerous!” the shepherd boy insisted. “He’s got long sharp teeth!”
“We doubt that,” some of the villagers said. “His teeth were pulled years ago.”
“I know people who’ve seen his teeth!” the shepherd boy said. “He’s bitten people in the past, hasn’t he? And I know that he’s hiding some of the wolves who escaped!”
“Wait,” the people said, “How do you know that?”
“Someone told me!” the shepherd boy said. When the people still expressed doubt, the shepherd boy grew angry. “The wolf attacks changed everything!” he yelled. “You must want your neighbors to be eaten by wolves! Traitors! Wolf-lovers! Wolf! Wolf!”
The shepherd boy and his friends shouted so long and so loud and were so insistent that anyone who didn't want to attack the bear was putting the village in danger, that eventually the doubters were outvoted. Some even allowed themselves to be convinced by the shepherd boy. So the village’s finest and bravest men went to the old bear's cave with their swords and pikes.
When they got there, the old bear looked up blearily. He wondered why the villagers were coming after him, since he hadn’t left the area around his cave for years. When he saw they were coming to kill him, though, he reared up on his hind legs and tried to fight. He was old and weak and hadn't any teeth, but he was still a bear. The villagers killed him, but a few of them were killed as well.
“Now,” the shepherd boy said triumphantly, “you’ll see I was right about the bear!”
He pulled the dead animal’s lips back to show the villagers his long sharp teeth. But the bear didn’t have any teeth.
“See,” the doubters said, “we were right! The bear was no threat to us! What did those men have to die for?”
The shepherd boy shrugged. “Hey,” he said, “you had the same information I did!”
“What do you mean?” they demanded. “We had the information you told us! By the way, where did you hear that the bear still had teeth? Who told you?”
The shepherd boy shuffled his feet and looked around. “Ummm…” he said “the Town Drunk. “
“What!?” the villagers yelled.
“And the Village Idiot.”
“Are you crazy!? “the people said. “You didn’t tell us that!”
“We’re fighting to the death against the wolves!” the shepherd boy yelled back. “Wolf-lovers! You’re dishonoring these brave men who fought the bear! You’re dishonoring the memory of the people who died in the wolf attacks! Wolf! Wolf!”
Soon things got worse. With the bear gone, some of the remaining wolves actually did come and live in his cave. From there, they raided the surrounding villages and killed many people, including some of the people who lived in the forest.
“Hey,” the shepherd boy's friends said, “Better them than us.”
The people in the surrounding villages began to grumble.
“Who cares what they think?” the shepherd boy’s friends said. “I hear they eat cheese. Ha-Ha! Cheese! That's funny.”
The men of the village had to go into the forest again and again to fight the wolves, and many were killed.
“Because we killed the bear,” the shepherd boy claimed, “we don't have to fight them in the village. They haven’t attacked the village, have they? Huh?”
“That's because we've posted guards at the edge of the forest 24 hours a day, you dolt,” the people responded. “It doesn't have anything to do with the bear.”
“You voted to go after the bear, same as me,” the shepherd boy said smugly.
“Yes,” the people said, “it's our fault.”
“Told you,” the shepherd boy said.
“It's our fault for trusting you.”
“You love wolves, you wolf-lovers! Wolf! Wolf!” the shepherd boy yelled. This time, no one listened. But it was too late.
The moral of the story is: Pick your shepherds carefully or it won’t be the sheep that get fleeced.
Dusty Rhoades lives, writes and practices law in Carthage. He says for the record that he’s not pro-bear.
Terrific. Thanks for for the smile, the eyeroll, and the sigh of patent longing for what was.
That was wonderful.
Right on target, there are so many of us who feel like the villgers who said NO! That shepherd boy has got to go...
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