An Australian priest recalls an experience on his family farm. “My nephews and nieces insisted I accompany them up onto the hill so they could show me the ‘mouse plague’. They carried an assortment of containers full of water – jugs, buckets, bottles, depending on the age and size of the carrier. Richard, who was 12, pushed the wheelbarrow up, bearing a  large drum which he had filled to the brim. Three dogs accompanied us.

The top of the hill was completely covered with mouse warrens. Each child poured his water into a hole and as soon a bedraggled little mouse poked his head out of its flooding home it found itself plucked up by a merciless child. By the time the mouse hit the ground again it was lifeless. What that hand actually did to the mouse I could not quite make out but few mice survived those lightning fingers.

My job, it turned out, was to remove thistles from the dog’s feet. They were long, dry, and razor sharp, and embedded themselves deeply in the animal’s pads. Every few steps one or other of the dogs would stop in his tracks and lick his foot. It was endless. As soon as I set one dog free from it’s nasty stinging barbs another would require my help and then I could go back to the first and start over again. I wondered why we had brought the dogs, and I wondered why the children took no notice of the suffering animals.

The next day my brother-in-law told me he was driving some sheep through the hill paddock and asked if I wanted to come. I stood in the back of the ute and closed the gates he had already opened for the sheep. The dogs accompanied us again. They were in the back of the ute with me and barked endlessly, waiting for the command that would allow them to hunt up the dusty mob in front of us.

The order finally came and they were overboard. Back and forth they raced, moving the sheep in the direction they knew by long experience they were meant to go.

It was only when the panting three jumped back into the ute with me that it struck me how not one of the dogs had thistles in its feet, nor did I remember seeing any of them immobilised.

The lesson was obvious. When we put ourselves wholeheartedly into our work we don’t notice the difficulties, even the big ones.”


Source: submitted to OzSermonIllustrations by Fr John Speekman