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Shepherd Boy

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the production of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

Copyright 2017 J. Jon Francis, Smashwords Edition
All Rights Reserved


Life in the mountain pastures of Greece was good. My father herded a combined flock of goats and sheep, like his father before him. I had accompanied them both into the mountains as soon as I was old enough to keep pace. It became my profession when Papou died. Papa and I would drive the herds together to the lush, green mountain pastures in the spring and not return home until late fall. While in the mountain pastures we were responsible for the safety of the flock, rotating the pastures upon which they grazed, perform animal husbandry as new animals were born, and to make yogurt and soft cheeses.

We farmed for a large landowner who was benevolent, not just to his shepherds, but to all who farmed for him. Upon our return to the valley he would greet us with warmth and enthusiastically listen to the details of our months in the mountains as we calculated our share of the herds and cheeses.

We would trade almost all of our share of the brine soaked cheese immediately. There was a large weekly marketplace in the town adjacent to our landlord’s estate. After the market we would drive our share of the goats and sheep back home. There they would provide my family with milk, yogurt and cheese; any extra amounts were used for trade in our local, much smaller, marketplace which convened once per month on the day before the full moon. When we returned to the mountain pastures the following spring we would leave the animals with my mother and siblings. The women and children left at home would use them to support the household in our absence. They would sell the majority of the animals for sacrifices and/or meat shortly before our expected return and have the pens ready for the new animals. It was an arrangement that went back as many generations as anyone could remember.

In the mountain pastures we had a pair of structures which were built long before my memory, as well as that of Papa’s and Papau’s. They were rudimentary and practical, made from materials easily found at hand - stacked field stone, earth and woven branches with a roof of thatched grasses. There were always minor repairs to be made every spring upon our arrival, but the buildings were almost as much a part of the landscape as the meadows, streams and mountains. One building was for the production and storage of cheese the other was a smaller version that was our home whilst there. It was much smaller and not used often. We cooked over an open fire of dried dung outdoors and slept on the ground covered in our chlamys, or blanket cloaks or took a pallet blanket from the shack. Outside you caught an evening breeze which alleviated the summer heat and allowed us to keep a better watch over the animals should trouble occur. The only time the shack was used was during heavy rain. There was a spring-fed stream nearby that provided drinking water for us, the animals and the production of cheese. It was shallow, not deep enough in which to swim, but we had a wooden bucket with which to douse ourselves for bathing. The sheep were herded into a fenced corral downstream most nights. There was a narrow fenced corridor at one end of this structure where the goats were milked each morning before being driven to a pasture to graze.

Papa had been ill over the previous winter and had slowly recovered some of his strength, but had still not regained the vigor required for the long days of physical work our profession required; and so this year I would be on my own. I did not mind. I liked being busy. Each day I would have to get up with the sun and check the flock for animals that may have been attacked in the night or had injured themselves. Most wolves had been hunted from the mountains but there was always the chance of a feral pack of dogs. The balance of the day would be spent milking, making cheese and packing it in brine. Once every ten days I would meet Papa, or another family member, at the grazing range closest to our village. There they would bring me a basket of food supplies from home and news from the village before I had to drive the flock to higher ground. The bread would only last a few days before it had to be dipped in water to soften it, but most of the other stores would easily last over the next ten days when I would receive more. There was always cheese and yogurt should I run low of other staples.

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