From Runner to Shepherd

September 10, 2008 at 12:22 pm 4 comments

Ever since I have come to South Africa, I have made the 5:00pm evening run a daily ritual.  In all the countless miles and hours I have run around the flat, dusty, African bush, I have rarely encountered anything worthy of remembrance.  [Of course there was the one time that I got an offer from a prostitute on a donkey cart, but aside from that, I can’t say much about the others.]  Well, last night’s evening run proved to be different from all else.  Not everyday does a person go out for an easy 60 minute jog and return nearly 2 hours later with a baby goat slung under one arm.   If you know anyone else that can say the same thing, I would like to meet them. 🙂

Throwing on my running shorts and top, lacing up the shoes, I dashed out through the front gate towards the field where I typically spend my time running.  Everything seemed to be ordinary…turn the corner past the soccer field where the boys are kicking around a ball, meet the man on the donkey cart as he heads into the village, scare up a few large, noisy birds from the tall grass, and pass a horse and a cow who barely acknowledge my presence anymore…nothing unusual here.  As I approached the same grove of trees that I have done hundreds of times over, I heard something new.  Out in the newly plowed field to my left there came the sound of baby goats bleating uncontrollably…almost in desperation.  I turned my head and stopped. There among the broken corn stalks and mounds of dirt stood three young goats, two fully white and the other white to the shoulders and brown from there up.  The three made hesitating steps towards me and almost, as if begging with there small black beady eyes, asked me for help. 

At the time, the sun was still hovering in the sky and I imagined that soon a shepherd or a mother goat would come to the aid of these helpless, crying babies.  I decided to continue on my run, which I did for another 15 minutes.  After reaching 30 minutes on the watch I turned around and headed back the same way, hoping that the three baby goats would be in a better position than when I last saw them.

As I came back to the grove of trees, I kept my eyes on the place where I had last seen the three.  Then, the same bleating sound came again, but this time from the opposite place where I had left them.  I turned to the sound and there stood the three again.  They continued their sad, pleading sound and moved closer towards me again, this time with more eagerness.  As I stopped again I started to ponder the situation…the sun now had reached the horizon line and soon darkness would fall.  If anyone or thing was coming to care for these animals, that should have been done by now.  However, how could I possibly manage to carry or herd these three baby goats back to my house, which was nearly 3 miles away? 

As I stood there in contemplation, the deciding factor came to my ears.  From among the group of three baby goats I heard them call my name.  “Aaaaadaaaaaaam!  Aaaaaaadaaaaaaam!  Pleeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaseeeeee!”  When their cries reached my ears and sank deep into my heart, I knew that I could not proceed alone; the only way back to my village was with three baby goats. 

I stepped from the dirt road and into the plowed field.  I jogged towards the three goats who did not move from their position.  I was able to come within 10 feet of them, closer than that was not accepted.  I decided to swing around them and force them towards the road.  From there I imagined herding them towards the direction of the village, back to my house, and safely in the kraal with the other animals.  I quickly found out that there was going to be a difference between what I was imagining and reality. 

There appeared to be one baby goat that was in charge.  As the other two would dash into the grass or look towards the field, this one would stick to the road.  The others would quickly turn and follow.  However, I soon realized that much of our energy was not spent on going straight.  Most of my movements were left and right, not forward. I was desperatly trying to push them forward, but they seemed to be insistent on going back to the field.  I soon realized that my method of herding was not working, possibly because I had never herded livestock before and I was unaware of the methods effective on three small goats.  I made a new plan.

Realizing that the one was somewhat of a leader, I chose to capture it in my arms.  From there, I imagined that I could run ahead and the two would follow behind me all the way back to the village, to my house, and into the kraal safely with the other animals.  I targeted the baby goat and dashed towards it.  It made a move to escape, but was too slow.  With my first attempt I had it clutched in my hand, easier than expected.

Now that I had the one goat I decided to implement my second plan.  I ran ahead with the goat in my right hand and my left hand flailing off to the side to keep balance.  After 50 yards I stopped and turned around.  The other two had not moved from their position.  Thankfully, after I stopped the little goat in my right hand started bleating again.  With his sounds and call to the other two, they came running head long towards me. It was working!  They managed to get within 10 feet of me again.  Once they were there, I dashed off again…goat in right hand ,left hand flailing…for another 50 meters.  I stopped and soon the other two followed. 

I continued with this repetition for some time (I was not consciously aware of an exact time at this moment).  I soon realized that despite my exhaustion I had gained little headway.  I estimated my distance to still be around 1.5miles to go.  This is when I first started to notice the darkness that was enveloping me.  The sun had long shrunk below the horizon and the sky was a dark gray blue.  Soon it would be black.  Already the first planets and stars were making their appearance in the sky.  

That is when it happened.  Out of the corner of my right eye I saw him, a jackal.  With his black and gray hairs, full tail held high, he made his way towards the two baby goats now about 50 meters behind me.  My heart stopped for a second, then soon beat hard, pounding against my rib cage.  I think the small goat in my hand sensed my anxiety because he too also stopped making a sound.  I watched as the jackal approached the two unsuspecting, praying for the best.  When the jackal was within 10 feet of the two baby goats, it stopped.  It turned its head towards me, put its eyes into mine, and turned back from where it came.  It swiftly slid back into the field and made a round sweeping circle into the broken corn stalks and crouched out of sight. I knew that it was not gone for good.  

I now realized what I had to do.  The darkness was creeping in all around me, just as the jackal was soon to do upon the baby goats.  This method of run and follow was working but far to slow.  At this pace I would never get back before night fall and besides, it seemed that the other two goats had gone their limit.  They refused to follow anymore.  I decided on my third plan for the day, I would go and try and capture one more goat, then surely the remaining would follow the majority back to the village, to my house, and into the kraal safely with the other animals. 

I dashed towards the other two goats, still with the one in my right hand, left hand flailing to keep my balance.  I targeted the smaller goat, the one with the brown from the shoulders up.  I ran at him with full speed (well at least as fast as can be done with a goat in one hand).  I seemed to only be able to match its pace, never able to overtake it!  I stumbled through the plowed dirt and corn stalks.  At one time I was so frustrated at the small creature that I managed to kick its hind leg knocking it off balance.  Before I could grasp it though, it was up and running again.  I stopped to catch my breath and realized that this whole time we had been running away from the targeted direction, further into the field, and directly towards the jackal!  I yelled at the little goat…”you stupid thing!  Don’t you know what is good for you? I am trying to save you!  Your stupidity is going to put you right in that jackal’s mouth!”

In my frustration I decided that this was useless.  Already the sky was being filled with speckles of star light and there was nothing else I could do.  I decided that I would try to walk towards the village and hoped that the others would follow in line.  They did not! Now that I had given them chase, they looked at me as if I were the jackal!  They started to graze upon the cornstalks appearing to settle themselves in for a night’s sleep.  It was hopeless.  I realized that despite my best efforts, I could not save all three.  I retreated back to the village with the one goat in my right hand, the left hand still flailing.  Occasionally I glanced over my shoulder hoping to hear the bleating sound of two more goats…silence.  They had decided to stay where I left them.  I could only hope that they were safe. 

I dashed back to the village as quickly as I could.  I had to stop occassionally to walk and catch my breath.  The weight of the small goat seemed to increase by the second.  I estimated that I had been clutching it in my arms for over an hour.  Eventually I returned back to the village under the cover of night, hoping not to be seen, for the sight of a running white man with a bleating baby goat in his arms, would certainly cause suspision and gossip.  I did happen to run into the same man on the donkey cart, now leaving the village, and the group of boys leaving the soccer field.  I stopped to explain the situation to all of them and wipe the confused look from their faces.  

I returned home, my right arm numb, the baby goat looking exhausted and confused as the boys I met while passing the soccer field.  I burst through the kitchen door to find my host mother and friend sitting at the table.  They looked up and their faces transformed into the same confused look as those I had just seen.  I explained the whole situation to them and they agreed that what I had done was right.  Certainly the jackal would have gotten them; it would not have been the first time.  This settled my fear that I had broken some cultural or civil rule that says it is unlawful to take another person’s goat without their permission under any circumstance.  I felt the present situation justified my actions.  Before I left the kitchen room to place the goat in the kraal with the sheep, my host mother said, “When you leave to go home, you will have to take that goat with you on the plane.” We all laughed at the thought of me sitting on the plane with a goat. 

Presently, Sherman, the name of my new pet goat, is safely in the kraal among the sheep.  It will take him some time before he adjusts to his new environment and before the sheep accept him as their own.  It will also take some time before I become a true shepherd.  I am sure, when it is all said and done,  we will be family. 

I still hold onto the hope that Sherman’s siblings made it through that first night and were retrieved by their rightful owner in the morning.  I am sure they are both safely with thier mother and herd.

And that is the story of how one man went for a run empty handed and returned with a goat.  If you ever thought it wasn’t possible, now you know the truth…anything is possible here.


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Unexpected Spoken Appreciation

4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joy Boitumelo  |  September 10, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    I love this story, Adam. I am right there with you the whole way. Of course, they said “Adam, please”. No question. Sherman is going to open a door for you in ways you don’t expect. Any good Motswana will tell you that.


  • 2. A.J.  |  September 11, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Heh, these last three posts are great. All very inspiring. You are definitely making a big impact in your village. TIme to kick myself back into gear 🙂 Keep up the good work and hopefully we’ll meet up in the not too distant future.

  • 3. Faith Wilson  |  September 23, 2008 at 2:52 am

    Hi Adam. I too love this story. I just can’t believe that you didn’t go back to check on the other two little goats, knowing your caring! at least the next day. But peryhaps you did and they were gone. I have seen the jackals running in the bush and know how it all would look. I am so glad that you had such strength. Hugs, Ben’s Mom

  • 4. Faith Wilson  |  September 23, 2008 at 2:56 am

    Hi Adam. I too love this story. I just can’t believe that you didn’t go back to check on the other two little goats, knowing your caring! at least the next day. But peryhaps you did and they were gone. I have seen the jackals running in the bush and know how it all would look. I am so glad that you had such strength. Hugs, Ben’s Mom

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