by Jack Schaefer
This quiet, moving little story is about a young boy who goes out with an old man to herd sheep for a season. With them are two herding dogs, an old brown one with lots of experience, and a young black dog, eager and foolhardy. The two older ones patiently teach the youngsters, sharing from their wealth of knowledge and experience. Through the desert season, together they face sandstorms, rattlesnakes, floods, wolves and coyotes. The boy must also confront tragedy, when the black dog's bravery gets him into trouble. (In many ways this book reminded me of Steinbeck's The Red Pony). Besides being a tender story about one boy's growing up, Old Ramon is also full of rich details of the Southwest, the culture and the wide, harsh desert landscape. It was interesting to learn some little facts about sheep- how the old man killed ticks by blowing smoke into their wool, how they could drown in a stream from the weight of their waterlogged fleece. Quite aptly, the book opens with the old man and boy arguing which is more stupid, a sheep or a chicken! Old Ramon is a nice little book, a glimpse into the life of a sheepherder, with his trials, struggles and nuggets of wisdom.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 102 pages, 1973
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