Many are familiar with the tale of The Boy Who Cried, Wolf! But there is a lesser-known tale in a nearby village that carries some similarities, but one notable difference.
Shelby Sitback was a young shepherdess in a small village. It was common for there to be only 12 or 13 children living in the village at any given time.
While Shelby was young, she was quite skilled. She was chosen because of her skills with a staff and her unique care for the animals she watched. This job was different though. The main source of income for the village was from their production of wool and she had never been in charge of a flock before. The loss of one sheep could expose a weakness to prowlers, like wolves, but even more importantly, a band of thieves who sometimes camped in nearby caves.
Shelby had astutely managed chickens and goats before but she felt anxious about this new position.
“It’ll be fine. You’ll be fine,” many villagers told her.
She didn’t feel fine.
Shelby made her way to the pasture and began to walk among the sheep. This pasture was large but the sheep mostly stayed close together. She could see most of the pasture except the area that was closest to the caves. There were a few sheep over there so she walked over to have a look. She noticed there was a small break in the fence. It wasn’t large enough for a sheep to get through but it looked like it was cut. She quickly mended the fence as best she could, counted the sheep, and then ran into the village.
“The fence has been cut!” She told several villagers. “That happens from time to time. Just fix it the best you can,” they replied.
“But what if the thieves cut it on purpose?!”
“They know better than to mess with our sheep. Just make sure you let us know if you see them snooping around the pasture.”
After a few days without incident, she noticed that another place on the fence was missing a rail. She looked all over for it but couldn’t find it. She noticed footsteps leading back toward the caves. She counted the sheep and there was one missing! She found an extra rail with her supplies and replaced it and immediately went to the village again.
“There was a rail missing and I saw footsteps going back toward the caves. One of the sheep is gone too. I think the thieves are trying to coax out the sheep. Shouldn’t someone go talk to them?” She pleaded.
“That sheep is probably just grazing down by the creek. You better go grab it before the thieves realize it’s out,” they dismissively replied.
“But the thieves are letting it out! That’s the problem! Why aren’t you listening to me?!” She cried.
“Now Shelby, we won’t have you making trouble and being disrespectful,” the villagers demanded. “We have a new shipment to get out this week and we don’t have time to investigate every little fear. Just watch the sheep and let us know if you see a real problem.”
Shelby went looking for the lost sheep and found nothing. She searched for hours. “Maybe they’re right,” she thought. “Maybe it’s just a coincidence and I’m just being worried for nothing.” She came back to the pasture and went into her cabin to sleep.
While she slept, the thieves came out and removed the rails from a section of fencing. They lured two sheep through the opening, replaced the fence rails, and guided them back toward the caves.
Shelby woke up and went to look at the flock to find two sheep missing. “That’s three sheep now I’ve lost! This job is impossible!” This is the day to bring the sheep to the shearers to collect their wool. She gathered them toward the entrance where a few villagers awaited.
“You’re missing three sheep Shelby. What happened?” One villager asked.
“I’ve been trying to tell people that the thieves are opening the fences and letting the sheep out,” she indignantly pointed out.
Another villager quickly and sternly said, “I think you need to monitor your tone of voice when talking to other people. These sheep are your responsibility. We won’t have you blaming others for your problems Shelby.”
Shelby crossed her arms and said, “This isn’t fair! I’ve done my best and no one is listening to me. Thieves are taking down the fences and letting the sheep out.”
“There’s no reason to be upset Shelby,” replied another villager. “We’ll just take the price of the sheep out of your pay. These things happen. But you’ve really got to let us know when these sheep go missing.”
A few weeks went by. Occasionally she would notice a sheep went missing and think to go tell someone but, “What’s the point?” She thought. “No one ever listens.”
She walked into the village to get more supplies with a sad look on her face. “What’s wrong Shelby?” The villagers would ask.
“Nothing.” She said.
They muttered as she walked away, “This generation of children is so sad and needy. They think everything should just come easily to them.”
Other villagers would say, “Good job on the flock, Shelby! I haven’t heard of any missing ones lately. I knew you would figure out the problem.”
Time to collect came again. The villagers counted the sheep and there were two 19 sheep missing from the flock. “What do you have to say for yourself, Shelby?” They demanded. “We give you this opportunity to work and this is how you repay us.”
“Why didn’t you tell us there was a problem?”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“How can we expect to have enough wool for our shipments now?”
“I think it’s time we find someone that can actually handle the responsibility.”
The villagers were visibly angry. Shelby’s head hung low. She didn’t know what to say. She waited until the villagers left and then walked away on her own. She was greeted by an elderly man near the caves.
“Where you headed?” He asked.
“Nowhere,” she replied.
“Won’t you come in and have a talk?” He said. Shelby agreed and had a chance to share her story. The old man listened and shook her hand as she finished and said, “It’s difficult for people to hear you when they think you’re incapable of the truth.”