Mid-afternoon sunshine is casting strong shadows from rocks. Out on the horizon the hills are dark and sombre while above grey blue clouds lie in streaks. Between the clouds the sky shines with a soft translucent blue. Then, without warning, the silver sun glides behind a cloud and the shadows disappear. A sombre feeling spreads across the mountain.
A Shepherd's Devotion
Patrick is still feeling the dark effects of yesterday's grief. However as he whistles instructions to T ir his spirits slowly lift.
"Here T ir, here boy."
Patrick and T ir slowly guide the sheep safely down the slopes of Slieve Miss towards the sheep pen. As he nears the pen he sees Conchubhar standing close by.
"Hello Conchubhar. What brings you up the mountain?"
"I've come to count the sheep."
Conchubhar watches as Patrick directs T ir to guide the sheep into the pen. He is amazed at the close working relationship between Patrick and his dog.
"I have a lame sheep here Conchubhar. I think I will separate her from the flock and see what the problem is."
T ir is skilfully guided to send the flock into the pen while at the same time keeping the lame sheep out so that she can be examined.
"Could you give me a hand here Conchubhar."
Patrick and Conchubhar catch the lame sheep and turn her over on her back. Patrick examines the lame hoof, finds a stone and removes it with a sharp stone. The two men then guide the sheep by hand into the pen.
"That's great Pat, I will just count the sheep now. One, two, three.......forty one, forty two. Yes they are all here. Pat I am much pleased at the care you have for my sheep. Would you like to walk home with me and come into the house for a meal?"
"That would be wonderful Conchubhar."
The two men walk down the slope of Slieve Miss and see the hills of D l Riaghada spread out before them. As they walk Conchubhar shares his appreciation of the work Patrick is doing for him.
"You know Pat, you have become an excellent shepherd. You are very diligent and attentive and you work hard."
"I wasn't always a hard worker Conchubhar." Patrick replies, smirking.
"No. When I was living at home I was often asked by my parents to help with the chores and I was always looking for ways to avoid of doing my duties."
The two men laugh.
"Well Pat my previous slave didn't work anything like as hard as you do. I always felt he didn't really care. I lost a lot of sheep because of his slothfulness. Those were worrying times Pat, worrying times."
Patrick notices Conchubhar look into the far distance with a faint pained expression that hints at an unknown and troubled past. Then Conchubhar slowly returns his awareness to the conversation.
"I need to tell you Pat, my family and I have come to depend on you. I feel we would be lost without you."
A reflective silence descends on the poet warrior and the shepherd as each recognizes how they are mutually dependant. Then Conchubhar breaks the silence,
"The meal won't be ready for sometime, lets walk to the standing stones on Corraig-gilln n Hill and look at the view."
The two men climb the next hill together. At the ancient standing stones they silently look across the moor reflecting on the generations of people who have herded sheep on these hills.
They stand still and quiet, the comfortable silence expressing a well-established fellowship carved in sheep dung and Slieve Miss's mighty presence, a bond of love between them that transcends master and slave. Then, with the whistling icy wind in their ears, Patrick feels this calling deep in his heart, turns to Conchubhar and says,
"Conchubhar I want you to know that your family can depend on my support and loyalty."
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