On the shimmering horizon, a cloud of dust hovered menacingly. An endless sky, ever-watchful, knowing everything, yet revealing nothing. A flock was herded through the gate to opens plains. Tired and thirsty, and having already covered some distance, the sheep were pushed forward by the drovers on horseback and the expertise of their dogs. They, too, were tired, hot and thirsty.
The drought forced them them to seek food and water for their stock. The ‘long paddock’ beckoned but held no promises. The flock was two hundred head strong, the majority lambs and ewes, still vulnerable to heat and predators.
Four drovers kept watch and pushed the flock forward, but they knew they could not push too hard. In the midday heat the lambs could collapse from dehydration and exhaustion, but for everyone’s sake, they must find water soon. If the drovers could keep a steady pace, they should reach the next waterhole before the sun rose much higher, scorching skin and sapping energy.
Without notice, the entire flock broke into a run. They sensed water ahead. Choking on dust, the drovers battled to keep their eyes free of grit but they urged their horses on to keep up with the sheep.
On reaching the waterhole, sheep, horses, drovers and dogs lapped at the tepid water. Their thirst sated, they sought shade where they could.
The sheep settled for the night, huddling together for warmth as the air cooled in contrast to the searing heat of the day. The horses were fed, brushed down and tethered nearby. Finally, after the animals were attended to, the drovers relaxed around the campfire, exchanging yarns over a mug of billy tea. The drovers’ dogs listened nearby, tired heads resting on weary paws, but alert to their masters’ voices.
Eventually, all was quiet as the group slept under the stars and the moon.
Dawn broke, clear and cool. The sheep stirred, the horses made their way to the watering hole and the drovers packed up camp, getting ready for another day on the long paddock.
As the sun rose in a blindingly clear blue sky, the party of two-hundred sheep, four drovers, horses and dogs began their long trek, grazing along the way, to the next resting place before the sun became unbearable.
A young lamb had foolishly wandered from its mother in the cover of darkness, watched the last of the flock disappear into the horizon.
If he leaves now and runs as fast as his little legs can carry him, he can be re-united with his mother before the harsh environment takes its toll.
Run little lamb, run….