The Lost Goat

Long ago there was an old patriarch who wandered about the desert with his kinfolk and their flocks of sheep and their herds of goats. They led a simple life, but God always provided for them. They would graze in one place while the grass was green, and then they would move on to new pastures. 

Now it happened that the old patriarch had many children. But he had a favourite son who tended a certain herd of prized goats. And among all those goats, the son himself had a favourite goat. That goat was dearest to the boy’s heart. It had black and white markings and big floppy ears. 

The old patriarch loved to see his son enjoying the favourite goat, but the goat was always running away from the rest of the herd. The old man would often say, “My son, that wicked goat is forever getting lost, scampering among rocks and leaping across crevices. Watch yourself when you go searching for the goat.” And then he sighed as he added, “For what would I do if anything happened to you?” But the boy dearly loved the little goat and paid no heed to his father’s warnings. He searched for the goat whenever it was lost. 

One day it was decided to break camp and set out for fresh new pastures. The flocks and herds were gathered in by the kinsmen and the other children of the old patriarch. The tents were taken down and folded away. The entire clan was ready to leave when someone noticed that the boy, his father’s favourite, was not there. The old patriarch searched among his son’s herd, and saw that the black and white goat with the big floppy nears was missing. He frowned and angrily shook his head. “No, my son has gone looking for that worthless goat. We shall wait here until my son returns.” 

They waited one day and then they waited two days. The old patriarch stood vigil the entire time, standing at the edge of the camp always scanning the hillsides. By day he watched by the light of the sun, and by night by the light of the full moon. On the third morning, the old man heard the bleating of a goat. Looking up, he saw his son’s favourite goat leaping from rock to rock and descending toward him. But the old man did not watch the goat. He squinted. His searching eyes kept looking toward the distance. He kept shouting out his son’s name, louder and louder. But there was no sign of the boy. 

The goat came down to the old man, stopped, and bleated. The old patriarch cast his glance down at the goat, and then cursed the goat. “You have led my son to his death. He has fallen into a crevice, or been devoured by wild beasts! You have brought sorrow into my life. You are a wicked goat.”  And with that, the old patriarch pulled his sharp dagger from his belt and slit the goat’s throat. The goat tumbled to the ground. As the little goat hit the ground, one of its floppy ears fell back revealing a tiny scroll tucked underneath the ear. 

The old patriarch dropped his dagger. He reached down with trembling hands, and pulled the small scroll open. Tears filled his eyes, and he held his breath. He recognized his son’s writing. The scroll with its small cramped letters read: “Father, I have followed the goat into a remote cave high in the hills. I came out the other side where I have found the land of milk and honey. I have found the Promised Land we have been looking for. I cannot leave here, but will await your arrival with all of our people. Then we will laugh and dance! My little goat knows the way. For now, dear Father, all you need to do is: Follow the Goat.”

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