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Meeting Mourna

Stephanie Barnhart

We rolled up in two black Mercedes-Benz vans, driven 
by our Scottish adventure guides, and all I could see 
was Mourna. She walked past the quaint farmhouse 
snug between a barn and brown pasture, the Highlands 
air - rain imminent - and the several dozen sheep, wool 
off-white like dirty snow. Her pink rain boots came up to 
her knees, keeping calves and toes dry but drowning the 
8-year-old shepherd.


Her dance around the pack of border collies said she didn't

care. I wanted to be her friend. Too much time with the same

twelve college friends this May, I thought, I need a kid fix.

Neil, her father, head shepherd, whistled a loud, piercing 
cue the collies knew and they sprinted into formation, 
ready to perform for-the visitors. And while the rest 
turned, cameras on, to watch the sheep dog show, my eyes

stayed on Mourna.


She picked up a staff, curled at the end as a 
real staff should be, and stuck it into the soft muddy 
ground - authoritative, like she'd been a shepherd all her 
life. Oh, but she has. My four week escapade into kilts and

castles and mountains and pipes is the backdrop for 
Mourna's everyday Scottish adventure. She skipped 
towards the collies as her father yelled commands in 
old Gaelic and the dogs raced to and fro around the sheep, 

chasing them down the field and back again into 
a huddle where one would be captured and sheared. Mourna

took the tools as her father held the sheep between sturdy legs

in green weathered overalls. With shears too large for small

hands, Mourna shaved the wool from the animal, showing 
the crowd what to do, then stepped away, toward me, as Neil

asked for volunteers. One moved forward to try, and gained 
a souvenir: that small piece of wool he snipped away. I wanted

to try my hand, but I couldn't - I was too busy


asking Mourna her name and age (7) and favorite thing 
about being a shepherd (the collies). Her dimples, innocence,

confidence, made me forget again about the reason we came

to the sheep farm, to meet Neil and see the dogs. We paid Neil

in British pounds, then, for the dog show, and for teaching us

about culture beyond kilts. We took a picture together,

Mourna and me, before we left in our black vans, and I felt I

should have paid more for that moment with her, 
a new friendship I received for free. 

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