Hurmuz, a shepherd dog who did his duty to the full

Author: Engineer. Vasile Turculet

carpatin hurmuz

I spent most of my childhood and teenage years at some uncles in a mountain village in the same county where I was born, Suceava, a big and beautiful village called Pojorâta.

Accustomed to everything related to the hills, to the hilly area, where I had lived up to the age of four, namely my home village, when we got to Pojorâta where I was supposed to live for so many years, I was amazed at the specific mountain topography, the rough and cold climate and even the people who were so unlike those in my area.

These mountain people distinguished by their national costume of rare beauty representing the welfare of the place, distinguished by certain habits and occupations related to the area where they lived in and their measured behaviour and way of expressing themselves in fewer words caught my attention in particular. Pojorâta inhabitants' main occupation - at that time - was livestock raising. They practiced this activity the way it was inherited from father to son, getting all they could get from the harsh and not too generous mountain.

During summer season they took the herds up in the mountains up to the alpine emptiness where they had built stable sheep pens made of fir logs, tied at the corners, they had pens and barns, foldings and kraals made of cut trees and placed in a specific clever way. This kind of sheep pens were also placed in Alunul, Sapele, Stegi or in the vicinity, at Slatioreni.

Stegi folding, on Giumalău mountain, was a pastoral area, a very picturesque place, but also the appanage of an extraordinary fauna, where stately Carpathians stags, wolves, lynxes and especially bears of enormous stature could be seen, being protected in Camara reservation.

In 1954-1955, at Stegi folding, at the cattle ranch in Chilia Valley and in other nearby places, a bear of a frightening height, force and unspeakable ferocity, ravaged people' animals, no one being able to stand against him. At night, he went down to the sheep pen rolling stubs and rocks over the people, dogs and other animals, crushing everything in his way, and if he was attacked from behind, he would throw a stone or stub "projectile" with his hand towards the back, killing everything he touched.

The bear was big, powerful and harmful, so bad that the world was terrified, and for the shepherds the life spent at Stegi sheep pen was more than just doomed.

There was a householder named Zacharias Bedrule in the village who had a Carpathian shepherd dog whom he "christened "Hurmuz.

Besides being sturdy, this shepherd dog was very stout in the defence against wild animals' attacks. The man cared a lot about his dog and he did not entrust him to anyone. But given this specific situation in which were those from Stegi sheep pen and this householder having sheep in the flock, he consented to take his dog, Hurmuz, to the folding.

I remember that, being forced to pass through the village, the dog was tied with two chains aside and on the other side there was a lad of the house.

Arriving at the sheep pen, the dog was at first sight completely disinterested in everything that happened around him, paying attention neither to shepherds nor to the other dogs.

He escorted the flock of sheep to the pasture and was alert to what was going on, but he did not want to "integrate" with the guards' team to which the other shepherds and dogs belonged.

He ate alone and in the night he had his place above the sheep pen where from he could observe and oversee everything.

But one night the big bear appeared again. He came as usual, hulking, dislodging stubs and boulders, mumbling creepily.

The dogs jumped barking angrily, trying to stop him. The sheepmen appeared with axes and bats, mazut torches and what they could, but the bear was used to these.

Hurmuz jumped as well, cast himself into the bear's rib and grasped him firmly by the fur. The bear ruffled his mane becoming even greater, stood up on two feet, has laid back his ears on the head, gaped his grinning mouth and gave a howl of rage that "shook the mountain and boiled valleys". He furiously and terribly swooped on the people and dogs which could hardly keep away from him jumping sideways in front of the bear on the rampage.

But Hurmuz attacked again jumping behind the bear, biting him on the left, on the right, the buttocks, and following him, the other dogs plucked up the courage biting once, twice, several times until the bear's fur was well ragged. The bite wounds were painful and the bear got tired of so much harassment, his saliva was red and his breath a scary grunt.

The "enraged" bear began to move backwards, giving howls of rage because this had not happened before, he had not been defeated so far.

Maybe it was not the grimmest fight with the wild animals of the Giumalău Mountains, but the bear never came back to Stegi sheep pen again.

But as in any fight, the losses and sacrifices were still felt in both camps. Some dogs got serious wounds, others internal injuries that they hardly breathed of pain. Hurmuz had one of the rear paws crushed from knuckle downwards, thus he never was as before.

The shepherds who engaged in the fight as well, but with more caution, were shocked yet, so the smile and jokes died out for a few days.

But like many other things of the mountain, this story passed too.

The news came later in the village, making lot of fuss, especially among us, the then children.

This was for many an opportunity to discuss, each adding a little bit of their own imagination, but I was to hear the truth after a couple of weeks when the most curious of us, the children, joined the people of the village who went with business to the sheep pen.

We went 14-15 km on foot-and back again- to see and hear straight from the source what happened.

Being up there, after we greeted one another, after we unloaded the horseback of supplies and of the salt for the sheep, we sat everywhere we could, on the bench in the pasture, on a log as a chair or simply down on the grass.

The older ones treated themselves to a glass of brandy, sheepman Arcadie cooked balmos that was eaten with sour milk, but no one told the story with the bear.

In a moment of respite, someone asked:

- But how was it with the big bear, sheepman Arcadie?

The sheepman answered after a moment of silence, which seemed endless to me.

- Well, it was just like any other time.

He didn't want to add other details and we didn't insist because at the sheep pen there is a faith saying that "no one talks about "the wild"" as these discussions don't bring luck.

Only one of the children dared to asked half-voiced

- But what did Hurmuz do, did he fight with the bear?

- Hurmuz did his duty.

I kept asking if this meant:

- ..................... he did his duty to the full.


- ..................... he just did his duty.

I never knew what to think because by the way sheepman Arcadie answered one could understand that both variants were good because, as I have mentioned in the beginning, these men in the mountain had a distinctive way of speaking.

We, the children, got out of the sheep pen, wandered through the surroundings, took out the fruit and sweets we had that brought us great success among the young shepherds from whom we learned what we wanted.

In time, this story was told now and then getting to be known in the village too in its true light. Since then, many summers have passed and just as many years, the encounter with the big bear remaining just a mere memory that for others is hardly to believe.

For me and others like me, the story remained a memory along with the others that connect me with those lands, thinking nostalgically of the beauty of those places, of the people among whom I grew up, and now, after so many years, I think that from the sheepman's answer I should have understood that: "Hurmuz did his duty to the full."

Engineer: Vasile Turculet,

Translated by Lucuta Denisa
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