A Short Story: Of Sheep and Spoons

When you hire a good contractor you’re getting more than just another resource. A good contractor will seek to understand your problem better than you do. They’ll bring a fresh perspective and a breadth of experience to bear. They should ask questions that make you reconsider your assumptions. If you’ve managed to hire a good contractor then it’s to your benefit to listen to their suggestions.

The Outside Looking In blog series is a collection of semi-fictional stories and articles based on real life experiences and industry observations as a Software Engineer.

Here is a short story to depict the necessity of working hand in hand with your contractor.


I’ve looked forward to being a shepherd all my life but first I’ve got to deal with the small problem of where to keep my sheep at night. A man's gotta sleep sometime after all. So today I get to spend my time working hard on digging a hole. It seems like a solid plan. I used to dig holes all the time and I think I’ve got a pretty firm handle on it. I’ll dig my hole and then I can put my flock in the hole while I sleep at night. Provided the hole is deep enough, no sheep should be able to get out. Yup… definitely a solid plan.

A Few Hours Later

It has been several hours now and I’ve got a pretty deep hole going. Not as deep as I’d like but I’ll get there someday. I do seem to remember digging holes having been easier but that’s ok. I’m comfortable with the work. I’ve done this sort of work before. Still-- I’m getting tired and I’d like to finish this hole sooner so I’ve hired a contractor to help me.


The new contractor arrived around lunchtime and we’ve been at it digging this hole for two hours now. I gave him a perfectly good spoon to use to dig my hole for me but he keeps asking me to let him use his new-fangled shovel he brought. I told him he doesn’t need to use his fancy-pants shovel. The spoon is perfectly good for the job. I’ve been using that spoon all morning and look at all the progress I made on my own. I’ve dug holes with spoons before. It's rough work but I know it can be done. No need to take risks on shovels.


I admit it. I’m tired. Even with the two of us digging this hole it’s taking a much longer time than I had imagined. What’s worse is that around dinner time my contractor asked me what my plan was for the hole. When I told him I wanted to keep my flock of sheep in it he pointed out a few potential flaws in my plan. I don’t remember them now but I’ve got this nagging feeling that I should have listened better. I was just so busy digging at the time. I remember he also had a few other ideas for how to keep my flock of sheep without needing to even dig a hole. Something about “building fences”… <sigh> but I don’t want to scrap the idea. We’ve spent the whole day sweating away in the sun and clawing at the dirt. That’s a big investment to throw away just to try some new idea.

I know all about digging holes. This is gonna work.

Late Evening

We finally finished the hole and I paid the contractor. Even as he left for home he kept warning me about this plan for keeping sheep in the hole. I’m just glad it’s dug. I’m so tired and I can’t wait to sleep. I’ll ask him for his suggestions again tomorrow. He seems adamant about them enough. I’m sure he’ll be happy to explain them to me in the morning.

I herded my flock of sheep into the hole and its working just as I planned. The sides are steep and without my help they won’t be able to escape. Time to sleep… I’ve been working so hard.


I awoke to the sound of heavy rain this morning. I went out to check on my sheep to make sure they hadn’t escaped the hole I’ve dug for them. None had escaped. They’ve all drowned.


It’s been several weeks since I lost my flock. I’m now working for another shepherd friend of mine and he’s facing the same problem I did regarding where to keep his flock at night. Before we made any concrete plans I reached out to the contractor I had worked with before. This time we’re trying the fence idea.

I’ve had to learn a lot of new things about building fences but the contractor is patient with me. We still have to dig a few holes for the fence posts so I handle that part on my own. Meanwhile, the contractor has introduced me to a plethora of tools and techniques we’ll be using to assemble the fencing. I now recognize that the contractor and I work best as a team.

With my shepherd friend’s resources, my previous experience, and my contractor’s guidance I’m confident that we’ll be successful this time.

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