Peasant Autonomy
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Story 104

Sardinia, Italy – 1945 (2)


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(Photo: Jacques Caffin)


Dark clouds surged in front of the sun. It was in the middle of the day, there was no lightning or thunder, but nevertheless it became dark. It was just like many snowflakes swirling down, but they were locusts. I was still a young boy, and I thought it an interesting spectacle. The small insects swarmed over each other and began feeding. After a little while there was nothing left of a shrub, there was no leaf on a tree. The grass had vanished, roots and all.

Only later did I realize how big the disaster was. Soon there was no feed any more for our sheep and donkey. My father and the other herdsmen were desperate. They couldn't get rid of them, whatever they tried. Early morning, when the locusts still were stiff from the cold, we laid down big pieces of cloth and swept as many on it as we could. Then we put the corners together and threw them in big bags. Later on the day my father and the other herdsmen went to the village with the bags. The municipality did give some money for it to stimulate the round-up effort.
It didn't help much. Whole clouds of them came down from the sky and in the meantime females laid thousands of eggs, so that I don't know how many crawled out of the soil. It was quite hopeless to fight against them.

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(Photo: Theyoungones1994)


The next year the municipality appointed workers to destroy the locusts with petrol burners. They succeeded in a few places, but after a while the petrol ran out. Finally, arsenic stopped the plague. That poison burned the locusts and the eggs in the soil. The municipality let it be sprayed on a part of the fields. In that way, the sheep could graze on other fields. When the first fields were cleaned by a strong shower, the other fields could be sprayed.

The pigs were the only ones who really enjoyed the locusts. They ran around like mad with their mouths wide open to catch the flying locusts and then closed their jaws to crush and swallow them. They even got fat from them.


The book Padre Padrone – My Father, My Master (1975) is the autobiography of the Italian writer Gavino Ledda. It gives a beautiful description of the hard life of shepherd peasants in the mountains of Sardinia. It is also the story of Ledda's struggle with his tyrannical father. The book is filmed under the same title.

Go to:
= part 1: Sheep thieves - Sardinia, Italy – 1945 (1), story 103.
= part 3: 'Half is half' - Sardinia, Italy – 1956 (3), story 117.
= the next page: The wizard and the prince - a village in Western Africa – 1946, story 105.
= the Table of contents, story 104.