Oustamura - Yourtes Alpes Maritimes

A Christmas Tale

A Christmas Tale

"Once upon a time, a herd of cashmere goats lived in a very old sheepfold lost in the middle of the Mercantour mountains. Those pretty little white cashmere goats had a shepherdess called Corinne, who loved them. They all had a name and Corinne knew each and every one of them, never making a single mistake when calling them, in spite of their whiteness. There was Câline, who loves to be scratched behind her horns; Douce, whose hair is the softest of the herd; Tic Tac, very mischievous; Gourmande, Alpi, Icare …

During the day, they were so happy in the mountains, one day in a field, another in the underbrush or a clearing, or playing in rock debris. Around noon, they would take a nap, most of the time in the sun so they could enjoy the sunny days in the mountains of Val d'Entraunes. In the evening, Corinne took them back to the sheepfold and gave them barley. Barley is so good!!!

One January night, around 2 o'clock in the morning, Corinne woke up. She could hear the wolf howling very close, so close that he could be less than 200m away. She got up and went to check on her goats. She was scared for them. But the goats were all sleeping peacefully, lulled by a sky lit by a billion stars. Relieved, Corinne went back to bed.

The next night, Corinne took her goats back home as usual, gave them barley, and then grew pale. She couldn't see Icare, her prettiest goat…
Very worried, she picked up a flashlight and went into the darkness of the night to look for Icare. Where could she be? She usually never strayed from the herd… Was it because of the wolf? Corinne climbed up a mountainside, walked across a glen, jumped over a torrent. She kept calling but Icare was nowhere to be seen, Icare didn't reply. Grief-stricken, Corinne went back home, exhausted after several hours of search in the winter night.

The day after, life went on as usual at Oustamura, the goats spent their day out and went back home when they heard Corinne yodelling to call them and ringing the big bell that must have been the pride of a mountain cow long ago.
Corinne couldn't believe what she suddenly saw: Icare was there! Corinne took her in her arms, crying tears of joy. She thought she would never see her again. Corinne then realised that Icare had had a kid. Where was he? The goats had come back at full gallop, he certainly couldn't have followed the herd. Poor little one, all alone in the mountain, in a cold January night.
Fortunately, there was no snow. Icare was calling her little one from the sheepfold in a plaintive voice.

Not hesitating one second,  Corinne took her flashlight again and went into to the night, looking for the kid. She know she had very few chances of finding him. He could be anywhere, under any bush … and the mountain is such a big place. Once again, after several hours searching in vain, Corinne had to resign herself to go back home. The following day, when she took her goats out, she guided them to the place they had been coming from the night before, hoping that the kid would find his mother. But our little goats, one blade of grass after the other, rapidly switched to another area. Icare, without leaving the herd, kept calling her kid, but her voice is weak and her call is barely a whisper.

In the evening, the kid had spent a night and a day without his mother. He had not been able to feed. Corinne knew that if she didn't find him that night, he would have no chance to survive. The goats had gone back to the sheepfold of their own accord. To save the kid, they had be taken back to the mountains at all costs.

Corinne called them. They didn't want to come, they wanted their barley. Going back in the mountain when the night is about to fall was not something to be done. What could she do? After an hour of patient efforts, the goats finally got near the place Corinne thought the kid might be. Icare kept whispering for a missing kid. And all of a sudden, Corinne thought she was hearing a weak voice answering some fifty metres away. She darted through the scrub and brush and nearly stumbled over a beautiful little kid. He was white, with a dark skin so that his mouth, his small nose and the outlines of his eyes were black. His eyebrows were thin and a black line ran along his spine. Icare came to see him and started to take care of him lovingly as the kid began to feed greedily.

That was the story of little Issen, who was born one week ago. Since then, Icare hasn't stopped looking at him protectively and never stays away from him. Two days after they found each other, 50cm of snow fell. The goats are shut away in the sheepfold. Time now goes by to the rhythm of the snowflakes that blanket our mountains in a soft silent layer."

Corinne, Entraunes, February 4 2012


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