Transhumance Memories


In the area of Campo de Agua, so called because water springs out and flows plentifully, there was a flock of merinos grazing. Leaving from the Estremadura grasslands, at the beginning of summer to escape from the southern heat, the flock arrived to this refuge to graze. The fresh air, the green and flourishing grass covering as a carpet Campo de Agua during June and July, thanks to snow and water, guaranteed the care and splendour of its image to the flock. It was a real pleasure to watch the flock to graze in this neighbourhood, to see it stretching it like a big mantle and to advance like the shanti sena (peace army) on earth.

The concentration of livestock, the constant coming and going of the sheep and lambs and the joy of their bleating that softened the mountain, pleased both, the shepherd and the wolves, who did not take long to get used to such a congregation.

It so happened that one of the most enormous and suspicious exemplar of this area it came and camped at Campo de Agua: a bad wolf of ill omen.

The Department of mastiffs who arrived on the mountain, having divided the cabanas of the shepherds, was having its first experience in the field that year and there could be no worse misfortune for Campo de Agua, than having that extraordinary wolf around to fight with some mastiffs who are not much for runners and poorly prepared to combat these animals. Being the case, it did happened what was feared and, in short time, nights began to be very hectic for everyone in the shelter of shepherds.

It is said that the wolf began to lead the “game” with dogs, to such a level that a summer that seemed to be nice was turning into an ordeal! The shepherd could not sleep well, dogs did not make him sleep and the only thing that sheep could make was being attacked. Unfortunately, the insomnia did not help to avoid the thefts of the wolf or to stop the massacres.

During the same period, in another pasture called “The Porpasa”, the herd was protected by Montana, a large spotted mastiff that had been bought by the father of the man who had been a shepherd for many years, Juan Antonio Alvarez, from some shephherds of Soria, where there is a consistent tradition of transhumance, as all know well.

“The Porpasa” was a mountain with many cliffs that had been acquired from the neighbours of Porto in 1887 together with other mountains. (...)

Such was the commitment of Montana to maintain the order within the flock that it was necessary to attach a bell to his neck for a sheep going away was a dead sheep. In this way, when the shepherd heard the bell ring, immediately whistled or called the dog if he noticed it was following the sheep unthinkingly.

“This mastiff did have a huge fervour”.

Once learnt about the annihilation that reigned in Campo de Agua, it was decided to transfer Montaña to this pass because the mastiffs of this refuge were terrified and the chaos, spreading by now, was reaching intolerable levels.

Montaña was moved to another shelter and, as expected, soon the time came when the dog and the wolf found themselves “face to face”.

It was one of those nights when the wolves, as usual, rushed to make one of his assaults, confident of his complete mastery on the situation. However, everything appeared very different this time because suddenly he saw the magnificent Montana standing just in front of him.

It was a scary encounter. A stroke in the chest by the first one pulled it down to the ground, but it immediately recovered by the jolt and it was the beginning of a deadly war.

Such was the noise they uttered that for a long-range all around, everything seemed to be waiting for the dissolution.

Both animals mounted with their feet on the hind legs of the other one biting everywhere with a devilish ferocity.

The mastiff winner indeed of this clinging of bodies, when catching the wolf by the scruff of the neck, was shaking its head with the same fury of a dog catching a grass snake; it was shaking it around so much that it seemed like it was skinning its neck.

The intensity of the sound produced by the dog’s bell let understand how the battle was going on in the dark.

Only after long time of fighting the growls and breaths lost their strength and the bell became silent. The shepherd went close to the arena where he found Montana exhausted with its heart almost arrested, troubled, with the tongue outside and the hear all ruffled. It was very tired, but at its feet there was the wolf lying lifeless on the ground. It is said that the shepherd, stroke its back, its neck and its head, so much he was proud of the battle. Also the animal, even if exhausted, was happy, like if it was aware it had fulfilled a great mission. It was a dog all of a piece.

The death of that sample was a holy remedy because the wolves never returned to create damage at Campo de Agua, and finally, the shepherd could sleep in his bed for the rest of the season. The episode was later told to a multitude of people and to the inhabitants of Porto, Barjacoba and Pias.

Montaña in the pass of Porto
Taken from the book “Lobos, Historias y Leyendas” di José Antonio Garcia Diez

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