To Summer Pasture

It was kind of cloudy but no rain. Sanji came back from the pasture to take me along the old herder’s family when they moved. He was a bit late, but luckily, the moving tractor inched away very slowly on the rugged terrain so we caught them quickly. The daughter in-law and the old herder’s second wife sat atop the bulging tractor while the son drove ever so carefully. After filming at a few spots from the distance, I climbed up the tractor and filmed from that angle. The two women giggled often. I liked the daughter-in-law, Yeedan.

The tractor went through different backdrops. More sandy hillsides than green pasture as it headed toward the summer pasture.

After I’ve gotten enough of the moving scenes, Sanji rode me ahead to their summer tent to wait for the tractor to arrive. The tractor had to go around another herding group’s plot. It was great to see the wife, the daughter Danku, and the cute little girl again.

We had time for some lunch and then the tractor came. Sanji’s family went out to help out with setting up the tent. Danku stayed in most of the time. I just learned that she was eight month pregnant and she just got a divorce from her husband. That was the reason Sanji had to come back to the pasture a few days back.

Setting up the yak-hair tent is a collaborative effort. The most difficult part is to lift the top beam up. After threading the wooden pole through the two pieces of the tent, two other support poles, each with a piece of yak’s spine bone on top would have to couple with the top beam. That was one of the few things men helped doing. Less strong ones held the tent ropes outside, even the little girl joined in the effort, although she often time pulled them to the opposite direction.

The men left as soon as their duty was over. The son needed to go drive more families in.

The more detailed work was left to the women. From the tone of her voice, I could tell Danku’s mother was telling her neighbor about what happened that led to Danku’s divorce. The now ex-husband had beaten Danku and showed no respect for her. They fought, and Danku decided to end the marriage. Herders marry very young here, in their teens. Danku is only 18, a very bright girl with the heart of an angle. Soon, she would have to take on the role of a single mother.

Sanji left for the city for errants after all was done. That night, I slept on the ground next to Danku, while the wife cuddled the little girl in their folding bed. Night on the plateau was cold even in summer time.

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