National Geographic : 1952 Apr
564 Onward a Shepherd Leads His Flock Beside Frowning Alpine Crags Aided by their dogs, such shepherds trudged some 180 miles with ram- and goat-led sheep, from St. Martin de Crau to lush pastures 8,000 feet up in the mountains. Traveling through valleys, across rivers and plains, the procession reached its goal, Camp des Fourches meadows, with few casualties. at their tails, adding to the rout of the flock. Forgetting our own safety, Marcel and I ran like mad in our stocking feet through low-creeping fog to round up the terror stricken animals. "First the rams!" Jean shouted somewhere. How ludicrous to have taken off our boots to run after animals which were wearing metal around their necks! Soon the loud jangle of the rams' bells began to rally the scattered flock. Luckily we had caught only the tail of a freak storm. Before long the gale stopped and the fog cleared away. Everybody was relieved that our casualties were few, for the previous year on this same pass Jean had lost fifty sheep struck by lightning. In a steady sleet drizzle we climbed down a mule track, turned by the storm into a muddy torrent, to the 8,000-foot-high Camp des Fourches pastures that Jean had rented for the season. Rounding a last bend, I saw ahead three small cabins of unhewn stones, with roofs sloping nearly to the ground. The largest was the shepherds' cabin; the others were the stables. Near by was an open-air corral for the sheep. Dead tired and half frozen, I fell, rather than sat, upon a stool in front of the cabins. Hot coffee and warm food soon revived us. As we ate, a semicircle of angrily bleating animals advanced on us. Francois smiled and explained that they were clamoring for their salt ration. In the mountains dew lacks salt, and ani mals cry for body builders in solid form. Salt must be spread over flat stones where they can lick it (page 552). "Quiet, you brutes!" cried Jean. "Always on the trail you came first. Now that we have reached journey's end, let us have our home-coming meal in peace!"* * For an account of an American sheep drive, see "Arizona Sheep Trek," by Francis R. Line, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, April, 1950.