A long time ago there was young shepherd who lived in a seaside village. While tending his flock, he noticed a beautiful girl admiring a field of wild flowers. Gathering his courage, he introduced himself and eventually asked her to go on a picnic date.
She said in the kindest way, “Thank you handsome man, but I must decline. You are but a shepherd. What possibly could come from a lifetime spent with a man who moves sheep from one place to another?”
“But I’m more than just a shepherd,” said the Shepherd.
“Oh really?” she said.
He quickly realized that she was right, and that he had nothing to offer beyond moving sheep from one place to another. Rejected, he politely tipped his hat and went back to tending his flock.
For the next two days he thought about the pretty girl. He understood her concern, but couldn’t see a way around it. How could he become something more than a shepherd? For a week more, he could find no solution. He decided to go see the Wise Man who lived two villages away.
The Shepherd said, “Wise Man, there is a pretty girl in my village —.” The Wise Man held up his hand interrupting the Shepherd.
He said, “I will tell you the secret to winning this girl’s heart, but only on the condition that you never return seeking more clarity.” The Shephard nodded his head and the Wise Man said, “The thing you seek is called, Lemon of the Okra. Go now and leave me be.”
On his way home, the Shepherd became increasingly frustrated. “What is this thing called, Lemon of the Okra?” he asked himself. “The Wise Man was supposed to help me, yet now I have another riddle!”
By the time he’d arrived back home he was resolute in discovering Lemon of the Okra. He very much wanted to capture the pretty girl’s interest, but he also wanted to defiantly solve the Wise Man’s cryptic advice.
Initially, he thought Lemon of the Okra be a potion or medicine, so he took up chemistry and botany. Then he thought it might be a heavenly body, so he studied astronomy. Then he thought it must be an exotic animal, so he learned biology and zoology. Neither physics, nor mathematics seemed to shed light on the mystery. Over the next year he read, and read some more, but could not find a single reference to Lemon of the Okra.
Having exhausted all the literature and formal knowledge in the region, he thought maybe Lemon of the Okra was not a thing, but maybe a place. He embarked on a quest, and for several years he wandered the Earth. He visited religious sites, wonders of the world, great mountains, vast oceans, dry deserts, and luscious plains. He spoke to priests, medicine men, the rich and poor, scientists, royalty, travelers, and many wise men. They knew nothing of Lemon of Okra. Defeated, he decided to return home and once again take up shepherding.
Upon returning to his village, he learned that an elephant had fallen down the village well. For a week the villagers had been trying to save the elephant. Nothing had worked and they were out of ideas. The Shepherd thought a minute and called the villagers to the well.
He exclaimed that, with the help of God, they could get the elephant out alive. He told the villagers to pray while they dug a shallow trench. The trench needed to run the length of a small field, from the sea’s high-water mark to the base of the well. He said, "If you can complete the trench in the next three days, God would save the elephant."
Just as the Shepherd said, the villagers prayed and dug the trench. On the morning of the third day, an unusually large king tide flowed through the trench and began to fill the well. To the villagers’ amazement the elephant quickly rose with the water level, eventually reaching the top, where it was able to pull itself out. The villagers cheered and thanked the Shepherd for helping to saving the elephant's life.
The young girl, who had rejected him years ago, appeared out of the crowd and looked upon him with amazement. She was now a grown woman and even more beautiful than he’d remembered. Not recognizing him she asked, “Who are you?”
He said, “I move sheep from one place to another. I am but only a shepherd.”
With a smile she replied, “Oh really? It seems you not only move sheep from one place to another, but also elephants. How does a mere shepherd organize a group of villagers, predict the king tide, calculate the size and direction of a trench, and know that elephants can float?
He smiled and said, “I’d be happy to tell you over a picnic,” to which she agreed. In that instant he’d discovered the Wise Man's Lemon of the Okra.
Published by Ruffin Scott, at www.ruffinscott.com