The sheep whisperer
Toni Aberger tends sheep. Yet this is not a tranquil job. Now he has written a book about his eventful life in the alpine pastures. We have asked him to share some of his stories.
The route to Anton Aberger
I am always fascinated by the white and spotted flocks way up on the steep slopes among the rocks, their attachments and their instincts. Of course, during the summer grazing season we spend a good deal of time together. Depending on the weather, I set out in the morning in order to provide the sheep with salt and check on them. When I first started there were 400 sheep to be tended on the slopes; their number occasionally has risen to 800–900, with the peak being 1,200 sheep.
A responsible task
Schani was an old billy goat with horns more than a metre long, and he always needed a lot of love, especially in August. He kept escaping to the farthest Alps until he would come upon a herd of goats. So we had to tie him to a post with a wide range for foraging. This backfired, because one day lightning struck the metal chain that was attached to his rope, killing our Schani.
The book title, “So vü Leben (so many lives)”, is intentionally ambiguous. Weather changes, avalanches, one false step — the perils literally lurk by the wayside. Time and again the alpine herdsman had to bear hard blows, and it was not always the loss of an animal that he had to lament. Commemorative plaques in the chapel testify to these life events. Despite it all, Toni would never give up his life on the mountain. Too many personal memories are connected with it. Like when he picked the first edelweiss for Martina, today his wife. Or when this whispering shepherd unwittingly sent his cows into the water.
I am always fascinated by the white and spotted flocks way up on the steep slopes among the rocks, their attachments and their instincts.