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To cut it short: the polluting tourist from another country swipes at the 4x4-driving and front-national-voting shepherd.
None of this would have happened if I had told him "ok, sure my friend will tie his dog, and now how about a bonjour with a smile?" instead of reacting to his agressiveness with a swipe at his dog without a leash (this is standard me: I once told a hostess at an airport to make the pilot get off the plane so that I could have a seat, after the airline had cancelled my mega-confirmed booking).
Anyway, you didn't get off "his" mountain, did you?
In our group of friends, one was actively defending the shepherd (he's a teacher), the girl was actively recollecting her childhood in that very region (how much she disliked regionalists), my friend with the dog didn't say anything, and held his dog on a leash most of the time (only let him loose when we were out of sight of the shepherd, very near the top) and immediately put it back on a leash as soon as he saw goats/sheep. And I, well, I was disappointed at myself for letting that "why isn't your dog on a leash" slip my mouth, and angry at him for getting me angry, or something like that (I don't like it when strangers don't get along).
We also theorized about the shepherd having a sniper rifle pointed at us (to see if we were keeping the dog on a leash) and about the legislation if he shot my friend's dog (example: "I think it would be considered as breaking something, but you could always argue that you're depressed, and ask for reperations, which he wouldn't be able to pay").
Just another point about the mountains -- mountain stream water is always dodgy, it's better avoided. Which means you need to find springs. There's always one somewhere near a hut, because it's a major reason for siting the hut there. Sometimes springs are well-tramped around and possibly organized with a pipe or something, because the water's known to be good. Sometimes you just have to be patient and look around.
Regionalism, hmm. They're not powerfully regionalist, in my experience, in the Ariège. At least, you're not from a different region. I think it's more a deepening misunderstanding between the majority of the population, city and suburb dwellers, and what's left of the old rural world. In which the latter feel defensive. And I'm not even going into the bear thing... ;)
We actually thought it would be logical for him to have one (to fend off predators?). But we obviously are very poorly informed about this kind of lifestyle.
Then we imagined that he would confiscate our mushrooms (we found tons higher up), which is one of the reasons why we went down another road (the other being evident).
I agree that there is mistunderstanding between us city-dwellers and him.
I won't write any letter at all, because I'm quite sure his reaction was at least 51% prompted by ours. If I had just thought for a second that this guy was in a very bad mood or tired of repeat offenders, I wouldn't have taken his loud language (and no reply to my "bonjour") badly. I would have shut up and walked on. And my friend anyhow had already tied his dog, so not much point in going through all this ...
But when I met that shepherd, I had already noticed that inhabitants of Rouze were always really nice to us when they first met us at my friend's grandfather's house ("ahh it's nice that the old house is occupied, so how is your grandfather's back problem, and ahhh say hello to him ahhh"), but not always so friendly when they first met us in the forest looking for mushrooms. Not really unfriendly either, but they would look at you for a few seconds, straight in the eyes, before responding to your "bonjour", which you would always say first.
About this, I noticed on the way back to Toulouse on the Canal, that people you cross (cyclists, strollers, joggers), stop saying hello about 20km out of Toulouse. Before that everyone says "bonjour". And at about 10km from Toulouse, they don't even look at you any more, so you don't even bother to try to see if eventually it would be possible to perhaps sort of say "bonjour".
The reason for all this, which didn't use to exist, is au-to-mo-biles. People flock to the best mushroom woods in their cars. On-the-fly market salesmen fill up vans and scoot off to the cities to sell at a high profit. This has led to conflict and stricter rules about who can pick and who can't.
Generally, in mountain areas you can only reach on foot don't have these problems. A shepherd would have to be the owner of the land to give you any trouble.
A shepherd has no more right to shoot predators (protected species all) than anyone else. Pretty much all shepherds have guns, however. With the bear controversy, I should think they all have.
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