National Geographic : 1968 Aug
essence of this ancient race whose origins and language are ob scured in mystery. Though the age-old isolation of the Basques is breaking down, I had seen a primitive tradition that had man aged to survive the centuries.* In that misted mountain pass I sensed a warrior ancestry that still lived. We had broken now out of the mist, and the scene that unfolded below us was like that of a hundred valleys throughout the seven provinces we call Eskual Herria, the Land of the Basques (map, page 246). In the slanting rays of the late sun, the white waters of the Lauhibar coursed along the valley floor. On the green moun tains, distant houses of whitewashed stone were bordered on one side by vineyards and on the other by tiny figures of grazing sheep. In a little village at the base of our mountain, white buildings with red-tiled roofs clustered around the steeple of a church. A man with a black beret and a wooden staff on his shoulder was walking ahead of two plodding oxen and a cart with great wooden wheels. The scents of greenery and moist earth rose up around me, and then unexpectedly the church bell in the village tolled the *See "Pigeon Netting-Sport of Basques," photographs by Irene Burdett Scougall, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, September, 1949. 244 Caught in mid-flight, wings still fluttering, doves struggle in the nets of a palombiere, or "place of doves," at Behorleguy, France. Each autumn for un counted years the Basques have awaited the migration of wood pigeons, also called ring doves (Columba palumbus), from Scandinavia to Spain and Afri ca. In mountain passes the peo ple hang their gossamer webs and drive the birds to capture. The right to net the birds be longs to households in the re gion and passes down from gen eration to generation. Birds not cooked immediately for a feast are kept in cotes for winter pro visions or are sold to restaurants.