France Insider/Paul Ben-Itzak

April 1, 2009

Bahhhhhh – Non

So there I was innocently watching Clint prepare to shoot it out with everyone in “High Plains Drifter” last night when I heard a tapping on the window. Stephan and Bernard had found the tree-picker the garbage collector had given me and which I’d hung on the front of the house (I plan to use for picking errant plastic bags out of the trees abord the Vezere) and were using it to let me know they’d come by to chew the duck fat. I opened the window, pushed the speaker out, and started my CD “The major speeches of General de Gaulle” before descending and breaking out the Panache. (I know it might sound more Frenchy if I had broken out the eau de vie but if I had, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing, I’d still be in bed with a brick on my head and a river in my stomach. And anyway, Bernard is on a regime so we stick to the Panache.)

I don’t know how we arrived on this subject, but as Clint and the General were debating in the background (Clint’s prowess with the pistol was trumping de Gaulle’s oratory might), Bernard and Stephan suddenly got it into their mischevous heads that what I need is a mutton to clean up the garden, i.e. the petit field that separates the stone house from the river a hundred meters away. Not only would he mow the lawn (“you just tie him to a cord, move the cord when he’s done with one section, and put out a bowl of water”), but after he was finished, Stephan and Bernard would mow him down so that Stephan, the famous barbeque-er, could put him on a spit over a pit and we could roast him for a grande fete. I protested that this wasn’t fair to the mutton; how would they like it if after a hard day’s work, their employer or client shot, roasted and ate them? Plus I know me and in four months — the time it would take for the sheep to eat the grass and get nice and fat and juicy — I’d give him a name, we’d become friends and, well, there had already been enough animal death around here (my late tortoise-shell calico kitty Hopey is buried right in that pasture). I even enlisted my black sheep bath puppet from my belle-mere Linda’s bath store Common Scents in San Francisco. “Je vous en suplie, Messieurs, ne me tué pas!” (I beg you sirs, don’t kill me!) And my police puppet. “Nouvelle loi du President Sarkozy! C’est interdit a tué les moutons!” (Sarkozy has introduced a new law: It’s forbidden to kill muttons!”) But my pals weren’t buying it. “Your problem is you can’t make a decision!” Bernard complained. “En general peut-etre c’est vrais mais la, il y a aucun dout, je ne veut pas qu’on m’amene pour le tué apres cette pauvre mouton.” In general he’s right, I have trouble making decisions but here, there was no doubt: I don’t want a mutton that they’re then going to kill.

They even tried to cherche la femme angle, pointing out that a mutton in the garden was a sure-fire way to get passing women to stop. “Right,” retorted I, “they’ll pet it, and then when I tell them we’re going to kill and eat it and have a party they’ll call me a beast.” “No, you can invite them to the party!” Stephan countered.

Perhaps they were ribbing me, but despite my protestations, it seems Bernard and Stephan made a plan to drive over to the last remaining sheep farmer in the land that pre-history didn’t forget Friday to pick up the mutton. (Tthere are only four farmers left in Les Eyzies; my retired farmer neighbor Mr. Marty, B & S told me, used to have 15 muttons that promenaded right in this same garden.) I am still leaning against it, but when Stephan mentioned ‘stuffing’ I started to hesitate and since he mentioned he might break out his accordion for the fete, I’ve been wavering.


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