Schlepping Through The Alps My Search For Austria's Jewish Past With Its Last Wandering Shepherd

Schlepping Through The Alps My Search For Austria's Jewish Past With Its Last Wandering Shepherd
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  • ISBN-13: 9780345465030
  • ISBN: 0345465032
  • Publication Date: 2005
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group


Apple, Sam


Chapter One A Shepherd Comes to Manhattan If you're traveling the Alps with a Yiddish folksinger who also happens to be the last wandering shepherd in Austria and he assigns you the task of walking behind his flock of 625 sheep, you'll discover that the little lambs sometimes tire out and plop down for naps. Since your job is to make sure no sheep is left behind, you'll approach the sleeping lambs, your shepherd's stick firm in your right fist, and shout, "Hop! Hop!" You'll have learned to make this noise, which rhymes with "nope," from observing the shepherd and his sons. On occasion, when a lamb is in a deep sleep and not responding, you'll look around quickly to see whether the coast is clear. If the shepherd is far ahead or busy singing Yiddish ditties to himself, you'll kneel down next to the sleeping lamb and say, "Come on, little cutie. Time to move on." Then you'll attempt to give the lamb a quick pat on the head. Usually the lamb will wake up before you touch it and scurry ahead in search of its mother. When this happens, you'll let out several angry hop hops, as though you're completely in charge. After a while on the job, you'll grow a little cocky. You'll continue along even when a few sheep are still lingering behind because you'll have learned that, for the most part, the sheep don't want to be left alone. As you walk, you'll wonder about this instinctual urge to stay close to the flock, and before you know it, you'll be lost in thoughts about evolution. You'll remember that we once traveled open landscapes in groups not unlike these sheep. You'll think about what it would be like if the sheep were forced to live apart from one another in miniature suburban homes. Would they ever find happiness? Would they greet one another while grazing in their front yards? Suddenly, you'll reach a narrow passage and find you've drifted too far ahead and are now stuck in the middle of 625 tightly packed sheep. You'll realize that the sheep, for all their virtues, don't have much regard for human shins or feet. They'll bump their woolly sides against you from every angle until you almost lose your balance. You'll try to clear some space with your stick, but it will be no use. The sheep will treat you like the novice you are. Then, just as you're regaining your bearings, a mangy gray sheepdog will race by and bark its angry orders. Your heart will skip a beat, and you'll hurry ahead as fast as the others. If only for that one fleeting moment, you will understand the hardships of life in the flock. After this unsettling experience, you'll remain in back. Watching the sheep from behind, you'll note the way their ears flop when they run, turning their heads into full-bodied birds in flight; the way sheep, in the hunched position they assume to urinate, resemble kangaroos; the way even a castrated male will mount an unsuspecting ewe; the way the ewe will continue her furious nibbling at the earth as she shakes off the pesky eunuch; the way a sheep's stomach gradually ex-pands as the day goes on, so that by sundown a cantaloupe-sized bulge has formed on its left side. If you're on a particularly good patch of land, meaning the grass is plentiful and not too tall (sheep prefer their grass fresh), the sheep will spend a long time in one place. This is when you'll put down your backpack and look around at the snowcapped peaks and the endless expanse of Alpine foothills, hills so green and peaceful that whenever you cross them, you have to fight the desire to get down on your side and roApple, Sam is the author of 'Schlepping Through The Alps My Search For Austria's Jewish Past With Its Last Wandering Shepherd', published 2005 under ISBN 9780345465030 and ISBN 0345465032.

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