Kate sat in a field of lush green grass and
stroked the stubbly gray fleece that grew
on Shep’s body. He bleated and nuzzled the palm of her hand, looking for
She giggled at the prodding of his
wet nose that sent shivers down her spine.
“You are a funny little lamb. Once your fleece grows in, you will be the
pride of the flock.”
Shep rooted around in the grass and nibbled at a
couple of strands next to her shoes.
Kate twisted at a piece of fleece that stuck up
on his back and cringed at the coarse texture. She stared at the puffy
clouds that drifted across the sky and glared at the farm house nestled in a
valley at the end of the field of wild heather.
Shep walked over and lay next to her. He snorted
at a fly that buzzed around his head.
Kate continued her glare and narrowed her gaze
as two women, holding bolts of colored cloth, walked into the nearby barn.
“I can’t believe those two said I was too young to weave.” She sputtered.
“Why, I’m the best weaver in the county.”
Shep looked at her with his liquid brown eyes
and munched on a blade of grass growing next to her feet.
She was working herself into a fine fit, when a
flock of sheep passed by. Shep stood to join them, but the sheep herder,
Jonathan, shoed him away.
“Why don’t you stay with Kate? Your fleece is
too scruffy and you don’t need to be around my prize winning sheep.”
Kate huffed and tucked a stray strand of red
hair behind her ears. “What makes you think Shep isn’t a prize winning
Jonathan waved at the missing patches of fleece.
“Look at him. He’s bald in spots and the fleece that he does have is black
and brown, not white.”
“Just take your sheep and leave us alone,” said
He shrugged and continued down the path toward
the pastures, the flock of sheep following along.
Kate scratched behind Shep’s ear. “He’s a rude
boy. I can’t believe he said those horrible things about you.” Kate rubbed a
bald spot. “All though, I will admit, your fleece needs to grow in
Clouds drifted across the pale blue sky. Kate
closed her eyes for a moment and inhaled the sweet fragrance of heather in
Half an hour later, she
sat with a start. “You know what Shep? Why
do we let people tell us what we can and can’t do? If I want to weave cloth,
I will and if you want the best fleece in the land, you will!” She climbed
to her feet and ran toward the pen where the sheep were kept at night. Shep
ran along side, bleating the entire way.
Tiptoeing up to the barn, Kate pressed her ear
to a crack in the wall. She listened for
the two women who sat at looms, weaving cloths from the sheep’s fleece.
“Good,” she whispered in Shep’s ear, “they’re
busy. Follow me.”
Together, they crept toward the back of the barn
where the shorn sheep’s fleece was kept. Kate gathered stray clumps of wool
and stuffed them inside her shirt. Once the floor was clear of every stray
bit of fleece, Kate and Shep snuck out the back door and fled toward the
brook that ran through a clump of trees in the distance. She rinsed the bits
of wool in the chilly water and set the fleece out to dry in the late
“Let’s sit under the tree while these dry.” Kate
patted the top of the his head and flopped to the ground. They spent the
afternoon together as the wool dried.
Later that night, Kate pushed her plate away
from the dinner table. “I’m so tired. I think I’ll go to bed.” She pushed
her chair away from the table and washed her plate and cup, setting it on
the counter to dry. Standing behind in the hallway, she waited for the rest
of her family to leave the kitchen so she could slip out back. Her muffled
feet, tiptoed across the wooden floor. One of the floorboards groaned under
her weight and she stopped to see if anyone noticed. A minute later, she
breathed a sigh of relief and continued out the door.
Cold evening air blew over her small body and
she shivered. Whispering into the dark, Kate said, “Shep, are you there?” He
bleated once and trotted over toward her and a grin split across Kate’s
face. They crept toward the barn and once inside, she lit a candle and
spread the fleece she had gathered onto a table against the far wall. “I
hope this sweater keeps you warm for the winter. They can be brutal. I
remember you shivering in the snow and I’m not going to let that happen this
Several hours later, the candle was beginning to
sputter. Kate hovered over the loom, weaving a coat of fleece for Shep, who
slept soundly at her feet.
This went on for several weeks. Kate would sneak
from the house and weave the wool by candle light until the early hours of
morning and Shep would sleep, keeping her company all the while.
A month later, Kate was napping in the field of
heather, when Jonathan approached with his flock of sheep. Startled awake,
she snorted. “Oh, hey Jonathan…been standing there long?”
He leaned on his staff. “No. I just thought I’d
come over and tell you about the sheep judging contest this Friday and see
if you were going to enter Shep?” Jonathan eyed the patches of bald fleece
on Shep’s neck and back.
“Are you being rude?”
“Now Kate, why would you think that?”
“Because you always say something about Shep
every time you come by.”
“Well since you brought it up, I was hoping you
wouldn’t embarrass your pitiful looking sheep by entering him in the
Kate jumped to her feet and put her hands on her
hips. “I can’t believe you just said that. Why, I’m going to enter him in
that contest and you know what?”
Jonathan raised his brow. “What?”
She narrowed her gaze and growled. “He’s going
The sheep surrounding Jonathan bleated in hunger
and Kate listened to his laughter as he led them to a pasture to feed.
Kate crossed her arms over her chest and tapped
Shep stared at her from beneath clumps of matted
“Don’t look at me like that Shep.” She chewed on
her bottom lip. “Have you forgotten about the sweater I’m making for you?”
He continued to stare at her.
Kate stomped her foot and walked toward the
house for dinner. Shep followed behind.
At the end of the week, Kate was pacing back and
forth behind the judges stage, wringing her hands.
Jonathan approached with four of his best sheep
who looked bathed, powdered and brushed.
She cringed, unsure of herself.
He leaned over on the fence post next to her and
sneered. “So, I see you are going to embarrass Shep by entering him in the
Coughing to cover her nervousness, she said, “I
think he might surprise everyone here.”
“Sure he will. And I bet the bald spots on his
side will make the judges take pity and give him last place so he’ll feel
Kate stomped her foot and walked away. She
yanked open the door to the room where she kept Shep hidden. “Are you ready?
We’re up next.”
Shep bleated and stood still for her as she
stuffed him into the woolly sweater she made.
Kate peeked out the door and waved him forward. “Come on. No one is near by,
so let’s get going.” Together they crept out of the room, down the hall and
toward the back of the stage. Kate stopped him as they came up to the
curtain, hiding from Jonathan.
The announcer’s voice boomed over the intercom,
startling Kate. “And now we have four sheep that Jonathan would like to
present to us. He has won every contest for the last five years. Please give
him a round of applause.”
Cheers and clapping came from the crowd and an
occasional whistle as the sheep were led onto stage.
The announcer cleared his throat. “And we have
one challenger from Kate. A sheep named Shep.”
With trembling hands, Kate pulled the curtain
aside to let Shep pass and then she joined him on stage.
The crowd exclaimed over the quality of the wool
growing on Shep’s body. The gray, white and brown were interwoven in a
subtle pattern that caught the light coming from the stage. The wool was
soft to the touch and the thickest that anyone had ever seen.
“What trickery is this?” Jonathan narrowed his
gaze at Shep’s fleece.
“It is no trick,” shouted Kate.
“I don’t believe you. A couple of weeks ago his
fur was matted and patchy, now he had the most beautiful fleece in all the
land. It’s not natural!”
She turned on his and growled. “You’re just
“No I’m not.”
“Yes you are.”
The judge stepped between them. “Now, now. Let’s
not have any bickering. It’s obvious that Kate’s sheep is the winner.” He
handed her a ribbon to place around Shep’s neck.
At that moment, clouds converged on the contest
and rain poured from the sky, soaking everyone on stage. Kate ran off stage
to avoid the downpour, but it was too late for Shep. His sweater of fleece
shrank, revealing his mottled and patchy fur beneath.
Kate ran onstage to grab Shep and disappear, but
Jonathan’s hand on her arm, stopped her in her tracks.
“I knew it was a trick,” he said as the rain
Kate hung her head and Shep’s pitiful bleating
drew sympathy from the crowd. “Everyone always made fun of Shep and they
told me I was too young to weave the wool. I wanted to prove them wrong.”
The announcer put his hand on her shoulder. “You
did that young lady…you did that. Shep had the most beautiful fleece I had
ever seen. You made his fleece look natural and the shading of the wool was
Hope shone in her eyes. “Really?”
“Yes dear.” He turned to the crowd and held up
her hand. “I declare Kate the finest weaver in all the land.”
A grin split her face and she stuttered. “I-I
don’t know what to say?”
“How about ‘thank you’?”
She wrapped her arms around his waist. “Thank
you.” Shep’s bleating drew her attention. “What is it?”
Shep hung his head and looked at the pitiful
mess of fleece that grew on his body. Kate removed the remnants of the
shrunken sweater. “Don’t worry my friend. I make you a new sweater, come
next sheep shearing season.”
Tears filled Shep’s eyes and the other sheep on
stage gathered around.
Each of the four other sheep bit off clumps of
their prize winning fleece and dropped it at Kate’s feet. She scooped up the
growing collection and stuffed it in her pockets and inside her shirt for
safekeeping. Kate patted each of the sheep’s head, thanking them in turn.
Shep nuzzled the others and bleated with excitement. He no longer had to
wait a year for a new sweater.
Jonathan approached and picked up a tuft of
fleece to hand to Kate. “Here you go. You missed some.”
“Thank you Jonathan.” Confusion marred her brow.
“I was just jealous of Shep’s fleece, but I see
how you took his ugly fleece and turned him into a prize winner.”
She grinned. “I really appreciate this.”
“Not a problem.”
Kate and Shep waved toward the crowd as they
dashed off stage.
“Where are you going?” Jonathan called out over
the cheering mob of people.
“To weave Shep a new sweater. Winter is coming
and it gets cold here.”
The next spring, Kate and Shep stood under the
porch as the rain fell from the sky. Jonathan jumped up the steps and shook
his head to remove the excess water dripping into his eyes.
“Don’t get Shep wet.” Kate handed him a towel.
“I don’t want his sweater to shrink again.”
“I see you’ve worked out quite a system.”
Kate nodded. “Sure did. He stays in the house as
my pet and he only goes outdoors when the sun is out.”
Jonathan grinned as his flock joined him on the
porch and he leaned over to pat Shep’s head. “I always thought you’d make a
nice dog rather than a sheep.”
Shep licked Jonathan’s hand and Kate giggled.