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raja_manuel@rediffmail.com

This story is very personal as it dates back to my childhood, when I was a mere slip of a lad. My grand aunt used to seat me on her lap and read to me from a book of Christian stories for young boys and girls, meant to make us grow up to be fine upstanding young men and women. Guess she wasn't very successful :) Even at such a tender age I rather cynically dismissed most of the stories as being written by well meaning but weak-minded people, trying to make the world seem a better place than it actually is. However, one story fascinated me and I would never tire of hearing it, and once I was able to read, I read the story over and over again. It is the story of

The Boy who could Sleep on Stormy Nights

A rancher, who had a small farm, went to the cattle fair to sell some of his stock and hire someone to help him with the upcoming harvest. He spoke to several young men who were experienced farm hands, but liked a young boy the best as he seemed to be very sincere, though lacking in experience. When speaking to the boy, the rancher asked him what he could do, to which the boy replied, "I Can Sleep on Stormy Nights". Feeling rather disappointed that such a nice boy should turn out to be more than a little weird, the rancher went on his way. However, he wasn't satisfied with the other prospective candidates and came back to the boy and again asked him what he could do, to which the boy again replied, "I Can Sleep on Stormy Nights". The rancher once again walked away, but didn't find anyone else to his liking and eventually hired the boy.

The first week passed and the rancher had no complaints against the boy or his work. Then one night, a freak storm suddenly blew up. The rancher, awakened by the howling wind, grabbed his lantern and hurried to fetch the boy. He found the boy sleeping like Rip Van Winkle, snoring away, blissfully unaware of the gale. Despite the ranchers urgent pleading and pummeling, the boy continued to sleep soundly. Cursing the day he hired the boy, the rancher hurried out into the gathering storm to secure his property. To his surprise, he found every window latched, every door locked, all tools and implements locked down, even the straw tied down with sacking, nothing loose to be corralled, no loose ends to be tied up. Tired, wet and shivering, the rancher slowly walked back to the ranch house and suddenly realised what the boy had meant about sleeping on stormy nights. He always did his work conscientiously, so he didn't have any need to be a light sleeper.

If I were to read this story for the first time today, I would be too cynical to be impressed by it but as a kid it had quite an impact. I don't think I have read the story after the age of six, and the book in which it appeared has doubtless gone the way of all paper, but I don't need to read it as it's message is still very clear. It set an example for me to live up to, a goal to achieve, a benchmark to meet, but mostly, it inspired in me the desire to put duty first. I won't say I have achieved it, but I definitely try. So maybe those books written by weak-minded people do serve some purpose after all :) And yes, it's perfectly okay to be wierd.

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