Many years ago when I was a little girl, there were lots of shepherds with their flocks of sheep. It was very strange not to find one in each village, for being a shepherd was a very normal job in those times. These days, very few children have seen a flock of sheep, except in stories and photos.

The little sheep in my village lived in an enclosure where they had a basin of water on one side for when they were thirsty, and straw on the other side for when they were hungry. Inside the enclosure was a shed that the sheep used as a shelter on days when it was rainy and cold.

The shepherd looked after them very well. It was he who gave them the straw to eat and water to drink. He also milked them and went out into the fields with them all.

Short stories - The little village sheep

What I remember most about this time was the noise of the little sheep coming back from grazing in the fields, for Nino the shepherd would put a bell on them and you would hear a tinkling “ding ding ding” sound as they trotted by, and all the children would run behind them laughing and jumping around.

The flock of sheep always passed in front of my house, and I have to admit that I was a little scared when I saw the shepherd go with them, for Nino also had a couple of goats and they frightened me a great deal – for these goats had horns.

Despite the shepherd’s humbleness and his kindness to the villagers (for he would give them milk and cheese that he made himself), there were some people in the village who disliked him intensely.

Whenever he herded the flock down the main street towards the fields, the sheep and goats would leave a mess as they passed. Each villager was in charge of sweeping his own patch, and that was how they kept the village clean. But two of those neighbours, the ones I’ve mentioned, hated Nino and refused to do any sweeping for they believed that the shepherd should be responsible for whatever mess his flock made.

But when it came to sharing out the milk among his neighbours, Nino never excluded anyone, not even the villagers who spoke badly of him. And he did it because he knew that it was a bother to the neighbours to have dirty streets every day, and this was his way of thanking them.