By Krista Wayment
Samual was seven years old that season, and it was his fifth year with us. He lost both of his parents when he was very young and then we were his only family. Well, we were not really his family. My father had known his, and out of sympathy for the lad we had taken him in. No one else seemed to want him. You see, Samual was a cripple, he had been borne that way. His right leg was bent and twisted. He would try to help out around the house, doing the little jobs that he could. But most of all he loved helping with the sheep. He could not make the long uphill trek to the day pasture with my father and my two brothers. Instead, he helped care for the flock at night and during the colder months.
He would spend hours with them and when he finally came in for supper mother would always ask what he had been doing. Samual would say proudly and promptly, “I’ve been talking to the sheep.” Then he would relate to us the stories the sheep had told him that day. My mother and I were the only ones that believed him. My brothers would laugh and my father would say, “Fantasies are good for lads like Little Peg,” for that is what we called him. When he had finised his wonderful tale we would sit down to dinner. After father said the blessing, Little Peg would walk to the fire and place his small wooden crutch in its special place next to the heart, the dinner could begin.
Little Peg loved that crutch for one reason, his father had made it for him the year before he had died. It was the last and only thing that Samual had left of his fathers. The wooden forms of five sheep were beautifully carved into its long oak leg. The arm rest was padded with sheep’s wool. Samual said that when he held the little crutch in his hand and looked into the sky he thought he could hear his father’s voice singing to him softly. That crutch never left his side. All except for once, and I will never forget that day.
As was their custom, my father and brothers took the sheep up to the Easter most pastures where they would be joined by several of their friends. The combined flock would graze for two days and two nights. On the dawning of the third day the shepherds would part and go their separate ways. The last night of this long grazing was unusually clear and I was surprised to see that my father and brothers had returned early. They were quite out of breath. I think they ran all the way back. Breathlessly they told us that on this very night an angel had come to them and told them of a new born babe. This babe was to be a king and the Savior of all men. The angle had also told them to seek out this child. My father had decided to return to our cottage and put the sheep down. The he would select the best lamb and take it as tribute to the new king. We talked excitedly as we hurried with preparations for the journey.
A small meek voice stopped our busy hands. “Pleas Nana, can I go?” It was Little Peg tugging at the hem of my shirt. I looked into his eyes and saw the deep yearning that they held. “I want to see the new born king.” Tears filled my eyes as I looked down at the poor little soul, crippled and worn. For sure he would not make the long journey. But I could not leave him there.
“Yes,” I said softly, “I will carry you.”
And I did. All the way to Bethlehem which was where we were to find this special child. As we traveled, Little Peg would sing or hum and sometimes the rest of us would join in. Every so often he would ask my father about the angel. He never grew tired of hearing the wonderful tale. Once he said, “I must tell the sheep of this, they will think it is grand.” At last we reached Bethlehem and found the new born babe.
He was laying in a manger wrapped in swaddling clothes. A light seemed to illuminate from his new face. Soft hands reached up as if to greet us. And before the young mother who they called Mary could speak, Little Peg whispered, “Nana, it’s baby Jesus, it’s baby Jesus.” It was the first time any of us had heard the babies name. I smiled and set him down. Slowly he made his way towards the small manger which held the precious child.
My father gave the perfect lamb to the baby’s father and after several hours beaconed to us. It was time to leave. Samual turned from the manger and took four slow and labored steps then stopped. He turned around and without hesitation laid the small crutch which he had held so dear to his heart for so many years next to the baby Jesus. “For you,” he whispered. He turned back around to face us. He took one step and fell. I wanted to run to his side but somehow I could not. No one moved and then slowly but surely Samual stood up his twisted leg dragged as he walked with his head held up in determination.
And from that day on he never had need for the special little crutch with the five wooden sheep carved on its leg, and the soft sheep’s wool.
Merry Christmas, or happiness on whatever holiday you celebrate this season. May you enjoy the company of family and friends and have a full and happy life.