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Trading seventeen goats for half a Singer sewing machine

Trading seventeen goats for half a Singer sewing machine

  • A Vrontados stockbreeding family, river Anilios and an eventful wintering at “Kamitsis’ stockyard”

I’ve been listening to Yorgos Halatsis going on about Kamitsis’ stockyard with awe, but I could never figure out neither its actual location nor what was so special about it. While attending an event about Vrontados trails, though, I overheard an elderly man saying out loud “I was the last shepherd in Kamitsis’ stockyard”. That was it; I said to myself “This is my chance to find out more about it”.

A man named Kamitsis established this yard a long time ago right on this rock, whose south side bears a small cave. The yard had enclosure walls and zavlaries where we would put the kids” said 77-year-old Mr Yannis Yomelos describing the inaccessible stockyard which they wintered in back in 1953. He was eleven at the time, assisting his father in his stockbreeding tasks.

Pastures used to be tendered once a year, in fall. But what if those ones in Perivola, in Psaronas and Potami weren’t enough for everyone; breeders would get yards in Tholos, in Sidirounta, in Messa Klidou, in Rahtis, but the poorer ones, the ones who owned the fewer goats, would end up in Kamitsis” he added, explaining his father’s decision on spending the winter of 1952-1953 in Kamitsis’ yard. “Getting the southern side makes sure you’re sheltered against northern winds and the blowing snow, keeping your fingers crossed the winter doesn’t come down very hard”.

Weather was fine, some of the goats had kidded early in late December – early January, while late ones had to go as far as the fifteenth of February”. One day, after breastfeeding their babies, the goats were sent out to graze. They climbed down the steep rocks, went past the rugged river Anilios and headed for Pigania, “down there, where the land is smooth and 60-70 goats can find abundant food. Sage, maloupi and weeds, today they just call them herbs.”

But bad weather drew near, deluge hit Provatas and Arvanitissa areas, it was about the tenth or eleventh of March, and my father suddenly heard a horrifying rumble, oh my!” recalled Mr Yannis, getting sentimental. “It was late afternoon, an hour before the sunset, he could see the goats getting closer to the river so as to get back and feed their kids, just like women feed their children, but it was all in vain. Ruminating on it, they finally began to dive. The stream was raging, water near the rocks was two to three meters deep and most of the goats wound up in the sea.

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Approximately 50 of those goats washed up in the sea, while about 20 more were found drowned along river Armenis. Mr Yannis’ father decided to sell the seventeen surviving ones, along with their babies. He had a crier spread the word around, but no one in Vrontados seemed to show any interest. In the end, a shepherd living in the neighboring Karies village, named Mikes Kililis, bought the animals for 2,200 drachmas. The transaction took place at the water source in Messa Klidou, on March, 17, 1953. The family used this money to purchase a sewing machine. “2,200 drachmas was half the price for a Singer sewing machine. We bought it for my sister to be able to sew” said Mr Yannis, his voice cracking in tears.

Kamitsis’ stockyard was never used since then. Mr Yannis’ father took up double shifts at a kiln owned by Gkagkas, while he himself turned to marine life becoming a captain.

   Wintering / Summering  

Every November, shepherds in northern Chios used to embark on a two-day hike so as to take their herds to southern Chios and winter them. In late March, they would follow the opposite route to northern Chios, leaving the pastures rented to them by the regional authorities. With livestock units gradually modernizing, this pattern has almost vanished nowadays.

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