Peasant Autonomy
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Story 103

Sardinia, Italy – 1945 (1)

Sheep thieves

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Dapog)


“Hey, sonny, are there no hares here? I’ve been walking the whole morning, god-damn, but I didn't see a hare.” “Yes, sir,” I answered, “there are many hares. Sometimes I almost step on them.” I must have been about six years old and my father had taken me along with him to the sheep pen. He had left for the village to take the milk to the dairy factory and I had to take care of the flock. I was happy that a hunter had come along, because I was all alone there, and now at least I could have a chat.

While we were chatting, Rusigabedra, our loyal, strong dog, was tugging at his chain as if I didn’t know what was going on. I thought he wanted to be free, and unleashed him. Immediately he made off like mad, with bristling hair, his head near the ground. A few moments later I heard him barking furiously. When I got there, I saw that he had just chased away two young men. “How terrible,” the hunter said, “those guys came to steal a few sheep.” He also left a bit later.

for bigger picture click on this photo

(Photo: Carlo Marmocchi)


When my father came home on his donkey with the empty milk cans, I told him what had happened. “Now you see that you always have to pay attention,” he answered me immediately. “Those fellows were sheep thieves, herdsmen who don't get enough to eat from their boss, and then go stealing a sheep from somewhere else to roast and eat. Fortunately Rusigabedra was there. As I told you before: you always have to pay attention to the dog. He has much better ears and nose than you.”

I am sure the sheep thieves together with the 'hunter' have gone to another flock where another shepherd boy had to look after the sheep all alone, in the hope of scoring a hit. How fortunate we had such a marvellous dog!


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.

Go to:
= part 2, the next page: Locusts - Sardinia, Italy – 1945 (2), story 104.
= part 3: 'Half is half' - Sardinia, Italy – 1956 (3), story 117.
= the Table of contents, story 103.