Stories from the Eastern Carpathians 1

By László Demeter – Misgurnus Association, Csikszereda, Romania

We just finished putting up some information boards of a newly created nature trail on the Pogány-havas (Hungarian, HU name) (Pagan mountain), part of Csíki havasok (HU), (Munţii Ciucului – Romanian name), Mountains of the Weatherfish land (translated from the original HU name), in the Eastern Carpathians, Romania. There was a small party with local land owners and other people involved in the project. I sent out my colleague to map mown mountain hay meadows while we ate and drunk – not a very nice thing from me, but time is limited and it’s too much luxury if we both eat and drink and nobody maps the meadows.

I wait for him at a place called Küpüs kút (Well with a frame carved of a tree trunk) and meet Joseph, a Csángó farmer who has a chat with his neighbor while waiting for the cattle to start descending to the stable near the house down in the valley. It’s a clear October evening on 1300 m asl, and the air is chilly. Joseph is not disturbed at all by this, his coat is open, and so is the top button on his shirt, leaving his muscular neck open.

I remember him during an earlier occasion, making a remark that a boy’s neck becomes thicker from mowing by hand. This rule certainly worked in his case, both his hands and voice are bear-like.

While I am kind of freezing while waiting for my colleague to appear, the two Csángós cheerfully chat about recent happenings, like the bear coming to a shepherd in the valley who fed his dog with carrion, and a Hungarian city-man who spent the summer up here in a kaliba, and another neighbor’s bull that attacked Joseph one summer day. He was on open meadow during haymaking, nowhere to hide. The bull charged and he was on the ground. The bull charged again and he thought that this game could be over for him soon. When the bull hit him the second time, he grabbed its horns and the bull started to run with him hanging on the horns. He mows 10 hectares a summer by hand scythe, and all the physical work he does allow him to do this maneuver. The bull found the 80 kilos load heavy on its head after running around for a while, so Joseph managed to pull its head to the ground and they rolled over their heads. And then, the bull wanted to charge again. Luckily, a neighbor boy came running with an ax to help Joseph and chased the bull away. Without his help, things could have ended badly for the man. This way he had no serious injury.

Joseph told this story so vividly and jovially that we almost saw his wrestling with the bull. I wonder how many things must have happened to people on the same place throughout history, and how many are still living in local people’s minds. Somehow, these stories give a personality to the land and make you feel familiar with it.

joska bacsi poganyhavason

Joseph on the left in the meadow where the bull-fight happened

So why is all this relevant to sustainability? Should we be prepared for bull-fights if we start practicing sustainability? Yes and no, as a good friend of ours would say. No because you wouldn’t do this on a regular basis. However, keeping animals in these mountain landscapes is an essential part of sustainable living. With all the beauties, there are the risks. Survival skills and cooperation are highly needed for a successful career in this field (or better a meadow 🙂 )

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