Courage is a motherless lamb by Ivan Donn Carswell
For a small child crossing the pen alone was a courageous feat,
occasionally, with a maniacal bleat, the wether would burst from cover
and butt whomever graced his yard. He meant it in fun, something
he had done since his bottle-fed youth, he knew no other form of greeting.
It was useless excusing his deeds as affection, the misguided beast
was a terrorist to small persons, wary or not, and no neat reason
would ease the fear we felt at his sudden charge. By and large
he was fine if pampered and fed, letting us pass with a desultory
glance, but it took just one bump to dispel that romance. Bunty,
an obvious name for the monster we dreaded, would behave
impeccably when adults inspected his manners, meanwhile we
shunned his yard and traversed the fences the long way round
to the hens. At times we forgot our chores, distractions abounded
outside the fences, the chooks were not fed or eggs not collected.
Be bold, stand up to him I was told, tell him who’s boss. I was lost
how to express the stupidity in that, he weighed three of me
and moved with the speed of a runaway bus. The way to stop a bus
best, prudence would suggest, was not by standing in its path.
I didn’t expect sympathy or ask for alms, I just avoided Bunty
and potentially broken limbs by staying clear. The morning I found him
asleep beyond the gate suggested he was still playing games, bound
in dreams of butting boys who crossed his domain, he might even
have sniggered at the terror he caused, at how my heartbeat
soared when he looked my way. I tried to be brave, I found the largest stick
I could carry and gingerly crossed the yard backwards, not letting him
out of my sight, fed the hens, collected the eggs, returning the same way.
He was still on the ground, no sign of his breathing, or of my believing.
When I was told he had died my first unkindly thoughts were of great relief,
of chances missed and vengeance denied, then in shock I cried.
I fed him as a motherless lamb and would not
let my doting dad return him to the flock.
© I.D. Carswell