Small Town Sheepdogs

I’ve noticed that we seem to have lots of human sheepdogs keeping an eye on things

By Diane Smith

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the tale of the wolves, the sheep, and the sheepdogs. You might recall this story from the movie “American Sniper,” although it originated In Lt. Col. David Grossman’s book, “On Combat.” As the story goes, most people are sheep; kind and incapable of intentionally harming others. Then there are wolves who feed on the sheep without mercy; the evildoers in our midst. Lastly, there are sheepdogs, those who “live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.”

I think most folks would lay their lives on the line for their loved ones without hesitation, but I don’t believe that makes them sheepdogs. The sheepdogs among us that I’ve come to know have an innate sense of responsibility toward others that goes well beyond the norm. They believe that life unprepared for is dangerous. They are typically vigilant, aware, and their preparation for the seemingly mundane is often intense. It’s tough work being a sheepdog.

When we lived in the city, we knew some of our neighbors but none well. Our lives were mostly about work; we were pretty much disconnected from anything beyond our families and small group of friends. If any of our neighbors felt particularly protective toward those of us living nearby, we had no idea.

In the small town we live in today, I’ve noticed that we seem to have lots of human sheepdogs keeping an eye on things. Maybe it’s because I’m more connected to the other people in our town or maybe it’s because we’re just more dependent on one another in rural and small towns. We’ve helped each other through car accidents, sports injuries, bear encounters, and weather crises. We know each other’s kids. Maybe it’s those connections that create a deeper sense of responsibility for each other that explains why so many small town folks seem better prepared and more willing to “confront the wolf”. No matter the reason, I’m grateful for it. We should take time to thank the sheepdogs living among us.

Chris Mintz, the Army vet who heroically tried to stop the gunman in Roseburg, Oregon was raised in a small town in North Carolina. Maybe his small town upbringing is just a coincidence. I don’t think so. Thank you Chris for putting your life on the line to protect the flock. Thank you for being a great sheepdog. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Learn more about Diane by following her column here or visit American Rural at

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