France Insider/Paul Ben-Itzak

April 1, 2009

Sheepish about Mutton

Okay, so, besides picking more pissenlit (dandelions to you bub) for lunch (in a salad this time, rubbed with lots of garlic) I was supposed to use the walk past the horse and donkey farm (sans the dog, whose owners have — cruelly to my mind — tied or him up while they’re on vacation) to think about whether it’s worth it to go to Paris for a month even if the dance assignments I’ve got will just allow me to break even, and even then not pay right away, but instead I found myself pondering the mutton.

Riding the Metro one day when I still lived in Paris, I caught an ad for a computer or Internet company in which a (stereo)typical sheep-herder, his charges on the plain behind him and beyond that a vast vista of Pyrenees-like mountains, was staring into his computer screen with a look of satisfaction. The intended message: Now you can reach out wherever you are. My received message: We can reach you wherever you are. (Never mind that the intended message is a lie; when I moved here to the Valley of the Dordogne in 2007 France Telecom promised to connect me right away; it took two months before two technicans arrived with a radar detector to find the line.) I remember thinking: If I were in those mountains, that tiny computer screen is the last thing I’d be looking at.

So here I am looking at my computer screen telling you that here I have a chance to look at real sheep in the tiny pasture in my backyard, with gigantic limestone shrub-covered pre-historic cave-filled cliffs hovering in the background, and I’m saying non?

Okay so if I say yes, what are the potential complications, besides the moral one of turning my pauvre baby over to the hunters after he’s slaved for four months to mow my lawn, and then eating him and having a party for the occasion?

Well, what would I do if the mutton got sick? Where I live there is no veterinarian. When Hopey got sick, I had to walk her to the train station and take it two stops down the tracks early in the morning. And that was before the train workers went on strike, when I needed to take a cab back and forth. So…. presuming the sheep wasn’t so sick that I could walk him to the train station, would he have to buy his own ticket, like my cat? (Which actually has to buy a ‘small dog’ ticket.) Or maybe I could take a cab. The cab driver who occupies himself with Les Eyzies and the surrounding area would probably be more amenable to the sheep than the train company, considering that he has two donkeys of his own. (I know what you’re thinking, but unlike my doomed sheep, his donkeys are not killed and eaten after cleaning his yard, never mind that donkeys make great salami.) Hey, considering that when he was filling in for the noon train from Les Eyzies to Perigueux, the cab company owner/driver not only helped me move my stuff from Perigueux to Les Eyzies on the train company’s tab but brought his moving van, maybe, if it’s among his 18-vehicle fleet (in addition being the taxi, M. Tardieu is also the ambulance and the hearse, thus providing cradle to coffin service), to transport me and my sheep he can harness his donkeys to a donkey cart! Then I would truly feel I’d retrieved the France d’autrefois.

Another potential complication would be what to do with the mutton if it floods here again, but I guess Mr. Marty would let my sheep bunk with his chickens, across the path and on higher ground.

On the plus side, having the sheep would mean I could write it about it and writing about it would probably mean I could write it off my taxes — including up-keep. Which includes food. And if I was able to write off keeping the sheep in caviar, or whatever sheep eat besides grass that’s good, who would notice if I siphoned a little bit off for myself?

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