This is a story about a boy named Will and a sheep named Rio.
(Oddly enough, it's also a story about EBay. Be patient--I am going somewhere with all of this. Really!)
Rio came to live on my farm when she was just a little lamb. Inky black with white socks, cap, and bib, she was just about the cutest thing I'd ever seen.
As she grew up, even though both her parents were horned, Rio's horns never grew. All she had were a couple of little nubs (called "scurs") about the size of the tip of your finger.
Icelandic sheep come in both horned and polled (naturally hornless) varieties, but I specialize in just the horned type. So, cute as she was, Rio was no use to me. I put her up for sale.
Before long, I had a buyer. A woman contacted me, interested in buying Rio for her son Will who had fallen in love with her from the pictures on my website. We were ironing out the details when personal circumstances came up that forced them to withdraw their offer. Within a few months, Rio was purchased by someone else. It seemed that young Will had lost his sheep.
The man who bought Rio was in the process of buying a farm and moving to Virginia. He wanted me to hold onto Rio for him until he was able to move to his new farm. Time passed and again circumstances intervened. The man decided he couldn't take Rio either. So once again, I put her "for sale" ad back up on my website.
Almost immediately, Will's mom contacted me. Will still wanted Rio, and his parents decided to buy her for him as a birthday present. I was so happy to hear that he was finally going to get his sheep, that when his mom started asking about breeding Rio, I offered her one of our nicest proven breeding rams for half price, so Will could start his flock right.
Today, 8 months after their first inquiry about her, Will and his mom came to my farm and Will finally got to meet his new sheep. As I write this, Rio and the ram are riding in the back of the family's van, all the way home to New York.
That's the first part of the story.
The second part is that I have just recently started selling things on EBay. Encouraged by my first sale (I sold my long-neglected Argent Fox harp for $700), I spent yesterday afternoon posting a few more items to my auctions.
One of these items was something I had received as a wedding gift many years ago but had always secretly hated. I knew how much the thing was worth, but similar kinds of items listed on EBay seemed to be selling for less than 1/10 that. Still, I figured I didn't have much to lose, since I didn't like the item anyway.
I posted it with a "Buy It Now or Best Offer" price of $100, figuring that was a good midway point between what it was actually worth and what I could probably get for it.
To my astonishment, less than 8 hours later, it was bought (and paid for--thank you PayPal!) for my full asking price by the 7th person to look at my ad. Far from hating the item, this person was quite excited to get it.
That got me thinking. (See, I told you I had a point... Here it comes now!)
After the EBay sale, I was counting up how much more money I have to make to finish paying for the two new rams I'm importing from Frelsi Farm in Maine this fall.
For some reason this got me thinking about Jack and the Beanstalk. Like Jack in the story, I'm trading conventionally "valuable" items for something a bit riskier, because I believe the trade will improve my prosperity. The two new rams will improve the quality and saleability of my flock. Those two new rams are my "magic beans."
Then I got to thinking how much my EBay buyer wanted that item I disliked, and how much young Will wanted the hornless sheep that was no use to me.
And I started thinking, maybe the magic isn't in the items at all. Maybe it's in the love. Maybe in anyone else's hands but Jack's, those magic beans would have been just BEANS. Maybe that cow he traded, in the hands of it's new owner, became a magic cow who gave chocolate milk and gave birth to golden calves.
Maybe the wedding present I hated will bring years of joy to its new buyer. Maybe Rio will be young Will's "magic bean."
After the sheep were loaded in the van, just before they pulled out of the driveway, young Will reached onto the dashboard and handed me a present. "Here," he said. "This is for you."
It was a tiny velvet pouch he'd gotten on a previous day's trip to Skyline Caverns. I tugged the drawstring and peeked inside. It was full of shiny, polished stones: green, blue, red, orange, pink, and speckled.
They were about the size and shape of beans.