Historical setting: Along the ridges of the Pyrenees, 6th Century
We are somewhere in mountains on the edge of winter and we find ourselves face-to-face with a grieving young shepherd. It was my thought that there must be a community of shepherds or farmers in this area or how could this farm sell its mutton and wool? The young shepherd’s idea for finding help seems to be, as he said, “capturing slaves.” If he is thinking of shackling these two of us he will surely find we make worse slaves than we do volunteer shepherds. We have horses and supplies. We could just leave as we are already planning to do before winter takes a firm hold; but it seems so heartless to leave him here alone and so needy.
“So I was wondering,” I ask the youth, “are there others who keep flocks in this area? And where is it you go to trade your wool?”
“I am not allowed to go there.” He answers.
“Over the hills to the neighbors.”
“You have neighbors?”
“Yes, but my father said their flock is few, and that neighbor has only daughters so I am not allowed to go there.”
“Oh, I see. How might we find this neighbor?”
“I know where they are, but I can’t go.”
“Maybe if you tell me the direction Nic and I can ride over and see what the situation is there while you are taking the next watch of the sheep.”
“The soldier said not to walk on my sore foot.”
“You have a crutch now, and I’ll just walk you back on the donkey whenever you are ready to go.”
After a brief lesson on using a crutch the shepherd mounts the donkey and I take the lead line, and we trudge back to the pasture. The sleepy white dog follows a few yards behind us.
The shepherd offers lots of chatter about the neighbors, especially considering that has been a forbidden world to him.
“My father said they not only have daughters, but they also have goats. I tried to go see that too, but from the hill where I hide to watch them I only see the sheep and the daughters. They must keep the goats hidden.”
“No doubt. From what I’ve heard, goats don’t flock well.”
As we climbed the ridge onto the path to the pasture, the young shepherd points to a hilltop behind us to the north. “From that hill you can see the neighbor’s pasture and sheep.”