Once upon a time in Red Willow County
EDITOR’S NOTE: A major portion of this letter was inadvertently omitted in Thursday’s paper. Our apologies to the writer. The entire submission is reprinted below:
Once upon a time, the finest herd of sheep in the land was located in Red Willow County. The reason for their fineness was they were raised on home-grown Nebraska values that had been deeply ingrained. This was because in the beginning, all the residents of the county were involved in watching over the sheep. Everyone took great pride in upholding these cherished rural values and protecting our young. These values had been carefully nurtured, and then with great hope and expectations passed down from generation to generation, father to son to grandson, mother to daughter to granddaughter. This process began at the time the county had been first settled back in the late 1800s. For years, all the young sheep were safe because everyone in the county were constantly in shepherd mode making sure those values were upheld. And as it should be, the wolves discovered the county was no place for wolves. After years of diligently guarding the values and the sheep, the majority of the wolves had been run off and the danger significantly diminished. Rightfully so, the shepherds were very proud with what they had accomplished and decided to redirect all their energies to their full-time occupations of farming, teaching, business ownership, etc. Things had become so calm in the county that the shepherds felt comfortable enough to relinquish the daily task of tending the sheep, so they hired a sheepdog to watch over the flock.
Sure, there have always been a few wolves, but initially, the sheepdog did his job and when a stray wolf was caught doing wrong to our flock, justice was dispensed both swiftly and harshly. The wolves knew the sheepdog meant business and looked elsewhere for their 'easy pickings'. It all worked and the good people were happy! An occasional wolf would work its way into the area but the sheepdog dealt with him immediately and the wolf was run off with teeth marks in his backside and his tail between his legs. The sheep were once again safe, and all the good people were happy!
But, things changed. A random wolf moved into the area and for some inexplicable reason the sheepdog just laid there seemingly uninterested. Then even worse, the people watched the sheepdog do absolutely nothing, and they did nothing as well. One wolf won't do much damage they thought, and even though he wasn't doing his job they did not replace the sheepdog. He's left the flock unprotected and the people did nothing. But for some inexplicable reason they continue(d) to use him as their sheepdog. Why this has been done is one of life's sad mysteries.
Weekly it seems that we are informed by this publication that the felony charges of a drunk driver, or burglar, or a drug dealer, or a child rapist has been pleaded down by the sheepdog to a misdemeanor and ultimately given the laughable punishment of probation. We can only hope that at least the wolf is sternly told as he walks freely out of court 'Shame! Shame! Now you go home and think about what you've done.'
I've heard it said that the sheepdog is just too busy to chase off every wolf. Consequently, the next thing you know the word has spread and we have more and more wolves moving into the area and our flock is less and less protected. Why wouldn't they migrate to an area where with the wave of a wand (or pen), a felony is magically transformed into a misdemeanor?
In conclusion, as we hypnotically watch, the wolves are destroying our values and carrying off our sheep. Mistakenly, we the shepherds feel like we are doing our jobs. I mean, how could it be our fault, we've delegated the responsibility for the protection of the flock to the sheep dog. Unfortunately the sheep dog doesn't seem to be getting the job done. I suspect it is a very hard job and due to the lack of our past actions, there are currently just way too many wolves in the area. The sheepdog might be too tired to chase them all down. Maybe the court system is so broken the sheepdog feels helpless. We may be at the point that no one sheepdog can do the job alone. Maybe we need more sheepdogs. Maybe! Maybe! Maybe! It is probably not a coincidence that it all worked better when everyone felt ownership in the task and took an active role in shepherding the flock. Unfortunately, the wolves are winning! Something needs to be done!