Just for Kids / The Little Goatherd


By Margo Wayman



Thamir lived in a large black tent in the desert. His family were Bedouins, nomadic Arabs who lived in the deserts of the Middle East. Thamir and his family lived in Egypt. Thamir's family owned a small herd of goats and a few camels. The goats were very important to them. They drank the goat's milk, made cheeses with it, and used the hair to make their tents. Thamir, the only boy in the family, had the job of taking the goats to graze every morning and bringing them back to the tent at night.






His mother and sisters spent their day making bread, weaving, embroidering and making jewelry to sell at the souk. Thamir's father worked taking care of the camels and other things that needed to be done.


One morning, as Thamir was preparing to take the herd of goats to graze, he looked up at the sky. It looked as though it might rain that day, which was very unusual in the Egyptian desert. He gathered his little flock and off he went, the goats following him.


Each goat knew Thamir. They knew his voice, they recognized his looks, and they always obeyed his orders and followed him wherever he went. After walking a few miles, Thamir arrived at his destination. There were acacia, tamarisk, and eucalyptus trees growing all along the wadi, and sprigs of mint and chamomile clustered around some large rocks, their roots digging for hidden moisture. A small pool of murky water was not far, a good place for the goats to drink.


Thamir let his flock disperse and sat back in the sand to watch them. Sometimes he got very bored, sitting there all alone. Sometimes he sang some songs, just like his ancestors had done thousands of years ago in the same desert. Sometimes he threw rocks at a tree, trying to hit it. Today he was very bored. He slid down onto his back. His bare feet dug into the hot sand. He looked up into the sky. There were a few clouds floating overhead. He thought one of them looked like one of the Great Pyramids. Another one looked like a ferocious lion. One looked like an old man, bent over with age, holding a cane. Thamir laughed at some of the formations he saw in the clouds.


He looked at his herd. He counted them to make sure they were all there. He saw several of them nibbling on the mint leaves. Thamir liked mint too. He walked over to them, patted them on the head and pulled a few leaves off for himself and popped them into his mouth. Some of the other goats were lying down in the shade of a tree, resting, filled with leaves and scrub they had been nibbling.


While he was walking around, Thamir saw a pretty rock. It glittered like gold. He picked it up and looked at it. He rubbed the sand off of it and put it into his pocket. Just then it began to rain. Drops splattered on his head. The goats all started to baa and bleat and run for cover under a tamarisk tree. The rain fell harder and harder and soon the ground was soaking wet. Thamir loved the rain.


After a while, Thamir heard a noise. It sounded like the deep roaring of a camel when it was angry, growing louder and louder. Soon he saw a wall of water coming towards him and his flock. He rushed up on the banks as water filled the wadi. It rushed past, tearing up tree branches and carrying them off in its torrent. Thamir was worried. His flock was on the other side of the now swiftly flowing river. He hoped they would stay away from it until it subsided.


It rained and rained for hours. The river raging down the once-dry wadi, became deeper and deeper and the water flowed faster and faster. The little herd of goats moved back, away from the banks of the ever-widening river and found shelter in a small cave, hidden among the rocks. Thamir sat on top of a huge boulder and sat on it, drenched from the cool rain.


After several hours the rains stopped. The river began to recede and soon it was just a gentle flowing stream. Thamir carefully crossed over the stream until he was at the other side with his herd of goats. They jumped all over Thamir, licking him with joy and excitement that he was with them again.


They walked back to the tent. Thamir's mother, sisters and father were happy to see him and all their goats.


The next morning when Thamir was going to take the goats to graze, he looked up at the sky. There were no clouds. He was relieved. He headed off with the flock and much to their delight, the entire wadi was filled with fresh grasses and leaves. The rains had brought new life to the wadi and to the desert. Wildflowers bloomed everywhere. As the goats grazed and nibbled on the tender shoots, Thamir knew he wouldn't be bored today. He walked through the flowers, smelling them and marveling at the beauty of the desert.


That night he picked a bouquet of sweet, fragrant flowers and took them back to his mother and sisters. Mother put them in a jug of water and set the jug on the wooden slab they used as a table. The family ate goat cheese and fresh bread that night. Thamir snuck a few pieces to his goats. That night he went to bed, a happy little goatherd.


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