I met Apostolis on a mesa a little past the Virgin Mary church in Amades. I had been told by the locals that he’s probably the only one who can help me track down “Skoundouflis’ stockyard”. “You see those three edges over there?” he asked me pointing at some crags south of the village. “Kostis’ stockyard is located on the third one. To the left of Plakoto and right of Megali Petra”.
Having grown up on mountains overflowing with savage beauty, Apostolis is the village’s last stockbreeder and one of the very few that still remember the tale about old man Kostis and the bandits. He knows the area very well, cites placenames I have no clue about and warns me: “Don’t get your hopes up, it’s just a little shed still standing there”. He is right; compared to other sheepfolds, this tiny, roofless shed, buried in broomshrubs, seems plain and unremarkable. Rumor has it, though, that a wild tale took place there a long time ago.
The story goes that some crooks docked at Amades beach, and after spotting the light coming off old man Kostis’ sheepfold on the mountain, they set out to rob him. They climbed up the bumpy cliffs only to have to climb back down again since they didn’t manage to make it to the sheepfold. The following night didn’t go much better. In their third attempt, they marked the sheepfold by a star and finally succeeded in reaching it. Old man Kostis was sitting all alone, but when the bandits asked if there was someone else around, he replied “It’s Kostis along with elderly Kostas and his three children and elderly Kostas himself and Kostas’ dragons”. The crooks were momentarily flummoxed, but after soon realizing the old man was alone, proceeded to ask him where the others were. “They’re just a few yards down the path” he replied. “One of them is carrying water, another one is chopping logs, another one is gathering the goats; they’re going to be back at any minute. Come on in, have some rest and I’ll treat you some fresh cheese”.
Exhausted from climbing up the rugged path, the would-be robbers accepted the invitation; while waiting to dine, though, they fell asleep. That was too big an opportunity for old man Kostis to miss out on: he filled a sliced pumpkin with broiling mackerel and splashed it on their faces. Two of them went immediately blind, while the third one barely missed getting sprinkled only to be axed moments later. The shepherd then ditched them from a ledge that was subsequently dubbed “Fonopetra” while his sheepfold has been since named “Skoundouflis’ stockyard”, because that’s where the bandits went blind.
Back to the village, I ask the few locals left if they are familiar with old man Kostis’ adventure. The only one that recalls it is the ninety-year old Mr Yiannis who goes on to recount it in the coffee-shop. Although still alive in Amades, the legend is gradually languishing. “When did all these happen, Mr Yiannis?” I ask him. “Oh, I don’t know, it’s just an old story. They were pirates.”
Old man Kostis and the bandits
A similar tale found in literature refers to the neighboring village of Kambia. However, linking the legend to Amades’ topography makes much bigger sense, since the “Kostis’ cliffs” and “Kostis’ river” placenames still survive in the area where “Skoundouflis’ stockyard” is located.
Translated into English by Nikos Loutraris