He loaded another pebble onto the sling and after a few twirls he hit the same stump again. It was normal for him to practice every day, shooting at trees, stumps, rocks, knots in the trees and last summer killed a few snakes as they raised their heads up. He never killed just for the sake of it, for he had been taught to respect all life and that included all the animals under his care. There was always a level of sadness, mixed with satisfaction when he did bring home game from a hunt. Sadness that he had to take a life; the satisfaction in that it had been a clean kill and that he was providing food for the family. He slung pebbles a few more times, alternating his aim, spontaneously choosing his target as he spun around and releasing it towards it. Twice he missed, once by a hands breadth, the other went sailing clear over the top of it into the hillside. Not bad today he thought, “Yesterday I missed four times, but I still have to improve” He wound the sling back around his waist, and went back to the tree to have something to eat and drink. Sitting down on the rock he looked up at the sun, it had moved from being straight over him and was moving towards the hills. Once it moved to a certain spot over a tree on that hill he knew it was time to start calling his flock and taking them home once again. “Yes”, he grunted “I wouldn’t miss this for the world”.
He thought about the end of the week’s celebration, and how soon things would suddenly change after that. His father was planning to leave to go to Caanan, his brother Abram and his wife, his nephew Lot would be going with him. They were going to go once the lambs and kids were weaned, which normally took about three movements of the moon. On the way through they were going to stop at Haran, the village his brother built and visit their distant relatives there. He thought about Milcah’s sadness that she would not see her uncles or her mother’s parents as she was staying behind with Nahor. It was a difficult decision to make, yet they wanted to settle down. He liked where he was, his wife liked it here and so did his two sons. And it wouldn’t be fair on Milcah to take her on a long trip, as she would be heavy in child. This was going to be his inheritance, and here he would train his sons to use the staff and the sling. He would teach them how to care for the animals, to dig into the hooves releasing the infection when they were injured, to bind up broken and sprained limbs. He would teach them to work and he smiled, soon they would be able to do the bulk of the work and he would be able to rest more like his father.
The sheep fold
Lot grunted, the rock was too big, and he wasn’t sure if he was up for the challenge; though he wasn’t going to admit it to Abram. Struggling to rise to his feet, his face going red, Abram reminded him, “Breathe Lot; breathe” and slowly he gained his footing, stood tall, hugging the rock close to his chest, his arms stretched out wide, fingers barely gripping the rock and staggered to the enclosure twenty paces away. He placed it on top of the pile where it was meant to go, gasping, trying to get his breath back.
‘Come’, said Abram, ‘let’s have a break, I’m famished’ and they both laid under the tree, gasping allowing themselves to rest. Abram opened the water skin, and poured it over his face with his mouth open; allowing the water to wash over him as he drank it.’ He passed the skin to Lot, who did likewise. Grabbing a chunk of bread and cheese he passed it to Lot and broke another piece off for himself and started to eat. He was so hungry that he barely chewed it before gulping it down; he had skipped breakfast and was now paying the price for it. He loved the cheese that was made out of the goats milk; especially before it was fully cured, small soft palm sized lumps, floating in the salt water, full of flavour and which truly melted in ones mouth upon eating. However it was rare for him to eat it that way for his wife would usher him out of the food room, wanting it to cure more. He tore off a piece of dried goat’s meat, and chewed slowly on it. It was like a piece of leather, though salty and full of flavour. It wasn’t something you could gulp down quickly like you did with the bread. Instead you had to chew and roll your tongue around it, and chew some more, giving it time for the salivary juices to soften and hydrate it. Together Lot and Abram sat together, chewing and sucking in silence, enjoying each others company without having to say a word enjoying their time of peace. Abram was tired, the sleepless night caught up with him, and there under the shade of the tree he quickly fell asleep.
Lot had always liked his uncle Abram, and felt he was like the older brother he never knew. He was twenty years younger than his two sisters and so really only knew them like he did his mother. Bossing him around telling him to do this and not do that. He missed his father and mother, but didn’t know how to talk about it, how to express him-self without crying and so he had buried his grief, deep down inside himself in the inner place that only he would know.
He looked forward to the trip to Canaan, even more at the thought of staying in his home town. There he would catch up with his friends and settle a few scores with an old mate, who had once placed a scorpion in his pebble bag. He smiled at the memory of it, they had been out hunting for pigeons and he didn’t realize he had picked up this scorpion, and placed it in his bag. And when he reached into it to grab a pebble, bang it stung him. He started laughing at the memory of his mate bending double, gasping for breath, making, ‘haw haw’ sounds as he couldn’t quite get his laugh out. ‘Funny how time does that’ he thought, he couldn’t really remember the pain of it, though he could still picture his swollen finger that took four days to go down. He was tired; even though he was many years younger than his uncle, Abram always seemed to work harder then he could and he too soon fell asleep.
After about an hour had passed Abram woke up, and stretched out. He always enjoyed his midday siesta; it energised him for the afternoons work as well as kept him fresh for the night’s dinner. He gave Lot a nudge in his back with his toe and walked back to the sheepfold wall. By tomorrow morning it would be finished, they had made good progress today. “”Ouch” he thought his sore muscles groaning as the blood started to flow through them once again, his nephew was becoming a handful and it was starting to take some effort to keep leading the pace. Picking up some smaller rocks he started packing them around the large ones, filling in the gaps. Having to slightly lift a larger one up to place a smaller one under it, tapping one here and there to make it fit more tightly. He at first thought it was a waist of time building such a big fold, especially when they were going to take a third of the flock with them. Yet his father insisted, saying, ‘It would be a long time before Nahor’s sons were ready to help him, and so it is right and proper that we help Nahor prepare for the future.’ Abram agreed with his father’s logic and so continued his work, picking up the rocks, stacking and placing them. Lot continued bringing smaller rocks over to him. They had a cow’s hide that they would pile small rocks onto, and then folding it over would drag it over to the wall, where together they would empty it on the ground.
In what seemed like no time at all, they heard Nahor’s whistling and calling coming up the hill and the noise of the animals following behind him. They hadn’t noticed the sun moving over the hills and starting its downward motion behind. A few minutes later Nahor came into sight and the animals moved quickly into the fold, suspiciously sniffing the new ground and wall, instead huddling together closer to the far corner that they already knew.
‘You two have done a good job’ said Nahor, ‘Come lets go have some dinner.’