Simon the shepherd boy was bored. “Who wouldn’t be bored,” thought Simon, “having to stand around a field all day in every kind of crummy weather watching stinking sheep eat grass. I can’t even get a cell phone signal up here on the mountain. No video games, no surfing my social media feed, and I can’t text that girl Trixie to see if we can hook-up this weekend. This job sucks! Why didn’t I study computer programming instead of animal husbandry? What was I thinking? That the future of humanity was dependent on lambchops and wool?”
Then he had a brilliant idea. He made a video of his German Shepherd, Gretchen chasing around the herd to try to keep them from falling off a small cliff, which being as dumb as they were they very well might have done. Then he set his phone on a tripod and got footage of himself chasing Gretchen away from the herd, which was easy enough to stage after he threw a frisbee for her to chase after. Later at home on his laptop he altered the images of Gretchen to make her look just like a wolf. Then he posted the video “Wolf attacks my flock!” on TikTok under his handle “shepherdboy22”.
Within twenty four hours his video had received over one million views and his followers increased from 100 (basically the kids he went to 4H with and a few dozen people with a sheep fetish) to 50,000 overnight. Lots of users reposted his video with comments like “shepherdboy22 saves our sheep!”, “the wolf threat is real!”, “What’s our government doing to protect us from invading foreign wolves?”
Simon was delighted by all the attention he was getting. A girl sent him a private message saying how brave and cute he looked in the video and asking if she could meet him in his barn to pet his sheep. A reporter wanted to interview Simon for the evening news. But the director of the local farm bureau was also interviewed as part of Simon’s TV spot and was very skeptical. “We haven’t had any wolves in this area since they were all killed off in 1947. I find it hard to believe that one suddenly showed up now. That video was pretty grainy and to be honest that animal didn’t look big enough to be a wolf. Maybe it was a stray dog.”
Simon decided to double down. He made another video titled “The Wolf is Back!” This time he squirted ketchup all over one of his lambs and pushed it over before taking a photo of her lying in the ground. Later he photoshopped in a picture of a real wolf he found stock footage of standing hungrily over her. Then he turned the camera on himself in front of his flock telling how he had managed once again to chase away the big bad wolf, but not before an innocent lamb had been maimed.
The new video got over ten million views and prompted him to get offers from several media specialists who wanted to help him increase his presence on Instagram, YouTube, and WhatsApp. They each offered to do the work for a percentage of the fees they assured him he would receive due to the incredibly popular nature of his content. Meanwhile his followers demanded government action. “There seems to be millions of dollars available to save Snowy Owls and Mississippi Gopher Frogs not to mention Red Wolves. What’s the federal government doing to protect small farmers?”
Tucker Snarlson played up the controversy on his Fox News show. “How many innocent lambs must die before this so-called President calls off his wolves?” he asked his audience. The next day the head of the EPA responded to a reporter’s query at a news conference. “We have not had any independently confirmed sightings of wolves in the area that these reports refer to. However, if we did it would be a miracle, as the wolf has been decimated to the point of extinction in most of our states. We should never forget that wolves remain a vital part of our native ecosystems, and their presence, when proven, actually indicates a return to health of these systems.”
Meanwhile Simon, the Shepherd Boy, was fast becoming a media sensation. He appeared on several talk shows to tell his story and ask for help in capturing the wolf. The owner of a large pillow company offered to make him a spokesman for his products. His latest video moved into the top ten on TikTok. Then disaster struck. Some enterprising reporter found the stock photo of the wolf that he had used and accused him of faking the shot. Of course Simon had no choice but to strenuously deny the accusation and in turn accuse the reporter of trying to make money off of his Fake News reporting. A wave of stories followed accusing Simon of lying in order to get attention. His followers on TikTok turned against him. “shepherdboy22 turns out to be another wolf in sheep’s clothing,” commented one. “If you’re so brave and there really was a wolf, why didn’t you kill it?” asked another.
Simon knew he had to do something or his fame would disappear as suddenly as it had come. Then he had a brilliant idea. He located an animal dealer on the dark web who could secretly obtain almost any animal that you wanted for the right price. Simon spent much of the advance he had received for his ShepherdBoy autobiography to purchase a gray wolf that someone had illegally caught in Montana. When it arrived in its cage he took it onto the mountain with his flock. But he left Gretchen at home, worried that she might try to defend the sheep from the wolf. He set up a real video camera that he had rented for this special occasion and started filming what he assumed would be a bloodbath when he released the hungry wolf from captivity, as it went to feast on his tender young lambs. But who cared if a few sheep died? They’d all wind up in someone’s meat locker eventually, anyway.
His plan was that after the massacre was over he’d shoot the wolf and then he’d have the evidence to prove that it was all real, and he was a hero for saving the rest of the flock from the foreign invader. He was sure to become the most famous shepherd in history. Maybe he’d even have his own YouTube channel!
Unfortunately things didn’t exactly go according to plan. As soon as Simon opened the cage door the wolf attacked him. Before he could grab his gun the wolf had him by the throat. The battle was over in seconds. But it lives on in endless replays online, where it has become the eighth most popular video in internet history.