Shepherd Dom Julio—that’s what I called him—was a very devoted father to his flock of sheep and goats. He stood in the field behind the bathhouse almost every afternoon, leaning on his stick, whistling a tune.
He was one of those farmers who can whistle beautifully
He did that at a time when you weren’t always recording everything…so alas, you’ll have to take my word for it. But I found a little intro to a song by António Zambuja that gives you a bit of an idea …
When I heard Dom Julio whistle, I immediately relaxed inside, no matter how busy it was. It was very unobtrusive, modest, to itself, and so not loud at all, and with such a nice trill, you know? Do men still do that, whistling a bit for themselves? Do fathers still teach their children that?
Anyway, Dom Julio walked down the hills from Coles de Samuel, and let his beasts eat herbs here, hard grass there, and the juicy grass here in the valley. Apparently they weren’t allowed to eat that much, because usually, after an hour they were gone. He went on again, to the Green Island.
The Green Island is called so, because the previous owner of the fields around it cleared and leveled everything, and threw his leftovers onto a big heap.
Quite a remarkable achievement, even if it’s done with those huge dinosaur machines. He also made the entrance; he actually wanted to do that right through our orchard, because farmers like to pick a piece of land from someone else.
At least that’s what I picked up in the last century, that farmers like to do that, during my adventures as a freelance assistant broker
One fine day, three men were fighting a fierce quarrel on that very piece of land. That was because of Eugénio. I call him the “poison frog” – called him that, past tense, because he is no longer with us. Fortunately, I may say, because he has a lot of dead animals to his credit, and I can very much hope that the Catholic God had a tough word with him about this when he knocked at the gates of heaven. Even tougher than I did.
Eugénio always drove an old green tractor, plupplupplupplupplup, the sound of which you recognized from afar, and his belly fat and double chin shivered with the engine. I’ve had the displeasure of speaking with the man a few times – rather, speaking to him about his behavior, as he’s poisoned as many as 10 dogs I knew or had found shelter with us.
Vítor, the dinosaur man, was also present, and Dom Julio stood beside his flock on his way to the Green Island, screaming furiously. I had never seen that sweet man like this. Vítor kept trying to say his part, but didn’t have much of a chance.
What was it about? About exactly that piece of land, where the entrance to those fields was made. Eugénio thought that it belonged to his orchard. Vítor thought it belonged to his fields, and Dom Julio thought he had the right to walk his herd down that road, which Eugénio didn’t even approve of.
When I got there, I noticed some very strange things. They sounded like a bunch of 18th century offended noblemen; not at all like portuguese peasants
“You have just been doing your business here on MY ditch! In broad daylight!” shivered Eugenio. He’s one of those people who “have a heart problem”; everything they do is shivery. Very unappetising, just like that curious reproach. Dom Julio yelled back, “You’ve gone mad sir! That’s an insult! You have no right to poison my sheep!!”, because that is what he had done. He had deliberately sprayed poison over the grass at the entrance, and sheep especially can’t stand that.
I was, of course, directly in Camp Júlio, because as you can understand from the above, I couldn’t stand Eugénio, and the relationship with Vítor, who wanted to plow right through our orchard, was complicated to say the least.
The nice thing about it was that it belonged to our territory, and that none of the three of them had any right to it. It wasn’t much appreciated that I got involved too, but in the end, with a lot of walking and pointing, my claim was grudgingly accepted. Yes, we had given Vítor permission to make his entrance, and Dom Júlio was allowed to pass. And as far as I was concerned, Eugénio just had to keep his shivering mouth shut.
What did become clear to me that afternoon is that farmers are a special people, that you have to find exactly the right balance between being clear and remaining civilized – they are your neighbors after all – and that it is true that a farmer likes to pick a new piece of land.
We moved here in 2000 from Rotterdam, Holland to the Termas-da-Azenha, Portugal.
A big step, especially with two small children.
You’ll find mosaics and paintings everywhere.
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