When our people first came to these lands, they brought with them the original sheep from the south that founded the flock you see here now. To support these sheep, we cleared pasture and paths and put up fencing and shelters, and a few young trees, most barely saplings, were cut down.
The sheep ate a lot of that green foliage, which in turn helped grow their fleece, that in its turn became a skein of wool yarn, and after perhaps a blanket or a hat. But that’s a story for another day.
That first year, before the cottage itself was even livable, an elder named John picked out three of the straightest, stoutest trunks of the cleared saplings, measuring their girth by wrapping his hand around them, guessing at their weight, their strength, their flexibility. There were two oaks and a maple.
John’s thought was simple. A staff, in these parts, while herding sheep, might not go amiss. One can lean on a staff, use it to intimidate a horny ram, brandish it against marauders, offer it to guests in case they want to wander the countryside.
The trunks were free, as it were. John had admired finely crafted country staves in those kinds of shops, but here he stood on land of his very own, with wood product to spare. He cut them to a suitable length, and left them about the farm where they might find a use.
Truth be told, he felt a little embarrassed doing all this. As if there were a way to equip a staff, and being an outlander, he was doing it wrong. Or worse, as if it were exactly the right way to do it, except you weren’t supposed to think about it or remark upon it.
And these were very plain staves.
Also truth be told, they didn’t get a lot of use. They went on some walks, especially before we knew the neighbors and their dogs, donkeys, horses, and cattle. Mostly, we carried them in the sheep paddocks, to aid in herding. In such a moment, a staff is so purely utilitarian.
You may wish for a crooked staff when herding lambs.
John’s oaken staff has weathered eight years. Its ends are blunted. Its grip worn smooth where the bark has worn away. It has lost but little of its heft in drying out, and in the right hands would still be a formidable defensive tool.
From the passage of time alone it seems to have gained far more in patina and character than any Gandalfian pole he might have admired in a outdoorsman boutique.
Is it so unseemly to love such a thing?