On a cold March morning in the early days of the nineteenth century, a young girl named Mary Sawyer went to the barn with her father. That night two lambs had been born and one had been forsaken by its mother. Mary nurtured the newborn and they grew inseparable.
Mary even took the lamb to school where she hid it beneath her bench, under a shawl. All went well until the teacher called on Mary to come forward and Mary’s soft footsteps were followed by the clip-clop of little hooves.
Everyone was amused, but the lamb spent the remainder of the day in a shed. The next day, a young man named John Roulstone, who had witnessed the events of the previous day, rode up to Mary, and leaning down from his horse, handed her a folded slip of paper.
As he rode off, Mary opened the paper and read a simple but charming 12 line poem which began: “Mary had a little lamb/Its fleece was white as snow…” These immortal words didn’t appear in print until 1830 in a collection of poems by Sarah J. Hale.
There were twelve additional lines of inferior quality and no attribution to earlier authorship. There is still debate as to the author, but to anyone with a sense of romance, they were the inspired gift of a young man to a little girl.