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The Last Shepherd

Martin Etchart

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: University of Nevada Press


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1. BAT

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pp. 1-7

Nahi nin—I wanted. “Now, then,” Dad said as he shifted the truck into a lower gear. “Clean out sheep pens. Bat—one on list.” And my wanting was something more than the stupid sheep that were ruining my life...

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2. BI

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pp. 8-14

I have more memories of my last day of high school than all four years leading up to it. That’s because I knew it was the end. And I was prepared. From the moment I stepped onto campus...

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pp. 15-19

When I was thirteen, Aitatxi decided to save me. Which to him meant making me an accomplice to his stealing a flock of sheep and taking them on a last sheep drive across the desert...

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4. LAU

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pp. 20-24

When I was fourteen, about a year after Aitatxi and Oxea’s deaths, I asked Dad about cutting down the oak tree in the pasture. The sun was falling away as we sat on the porch drinking iced water...

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pp. 25-30

I never learned to read or write Euskara, the Basque language. Why would I? There was no one for me to write to. And the only words I’d ever seen written in Euskara were on Christmas...

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6. SEI

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pp. 31-37

That night I dreamed of the Mamu. I was standing on the edge of a cliff, so close that I had to lean back to keep from falling. But I didn’t step away. There was something I needed to see. What, I didn’t know...

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pp. 38-44

Outside, the white-hot sun had already burned the color out of the town’s buildings. I cut across Miller Avenue and headed down Cotton Lane. Sunlight glared off of store windows, making it impossible to see through the glass, hiding what was inside...

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pp. 45-51

The word monsoon comes from the Arabic mausim, which means “a season.” I found that out while doing a science report my junior year of high school. I also learned that a monsoon...

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pp. 52-57

Aitatxi told me that after God created the Basques, he gave them pilota to remind the Eskualdunak of who they were. “How can you forget who you are?” I asked as I pushed the grocery cart down the cereal aisle. We were at the Bashas...

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pp. 58-62

Morning sunlight broke around the top of the barn. It moved down the wall and over the paint that the pilota ball had pockmarked with a thousand round circles. In front of the wall, the hard-packed ground was like cement, and when I scraped...

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pp. 63-66

According to Oxea, the Mamu was always on the prowl for naughty boys. According to Aitatxi, the Mamu was everything Basque—both good and bad. According to my father, the Mamu didn’t exist...

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pp. 67-72

Females scare me. They always have. Even before my teenage years when I realized that the difference between boys and girls had nothing to do with dresses and everything to do with what was under those dresses, girls made my stomach...

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pp. 73-78

I made a list of things I needed to get done before I left for France. (1) Get passport. “Smile,” Mrs. Fickle said as she took a photo of me. “Foreign countries like happy tourists.” Then I drove...

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pp. 79-83

Over the two weeks leading up to my leaving, I worked on my foreign language skills. I figured I might need them to communicate with the locals. I didn’t speak French, but had taken Spanish...

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pp. 84-88

Another taxi followed right on the bumper of the one the bald guy took. The driver leaned over and said, “Adonde?” I grabbed my backpack and scrambled into the taxi....

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pp. 89-97

The bus to Aldudes was late. I huddled at the station for four hours, waiting. A woman with both the look and smell of my amatxi (stinky cheese and rose water) was my only companion. The woman wore a black shawl...

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pp. 98-102

I woke to voices. When I opened my eyes, the world remained dark, as if all the light had been drained from it. The voices grew louder. They came from below. A man and a woman arguing in Euskara...

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pp. 103-108

The inside of Urepel’s church looked larger in the daylight. The smell was larger too. Incense and perfume mixed with sweat and wood polish. Saints, hidden the night before, now filled the stained-glass windows that lined the walls and circled the altar...

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pp. 109-112

When I was thirteen, I stole the picture of my mother that Dad kept in the top drawer of his dresser. In it, Mom is only a little older than I am now. I was only two when both she and the photo were taken. She leans out a pickup truck and waves her hand...

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pp. 113-120

Urepel’s bar turned out to be located in the large white building I’d seen the night before. As soon as I entered through the double red doors, I thought of my high school gym back home...

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pp. 121-130

Aitatxi told me that he built the ranch house in 1932. “Sure, no,” he said. “I build up with own hand.” We were in the barn making the frame for a go-kart like the one Rich Clausen had. Rich got his go-kart...

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pp. 131-134

In the Arizona desert, heat blurred the landscape, turning everything brown. Here, in the Pyrenees, water blurred the landscape, turning everything green. Green trees, green grass, and green shrubs dissolved into each other....

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pp. 135-139

On the plane to Europe, even though I told myself I wasn’t going to, I took out my journal and wrote about the day of my father’s funeral. I didn’t put down how particles floated in the church’s air...

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pp. 140-144

When I pulled the letter from Mr. Steele off Marcelino’s door, I found that it was not addressed to him but to Isabelle Odolen. And when I saw that, I found myself nodding. Of course Mr. Steele would contact the person whose name was on the deed to the ranch...

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pp. 145-149

The first thing I thought when I read Mr. Steele’s words was that Isabelle’s speaking English made perfect sense. That would be part of her plan. She would need the language to get her revenge on my family...

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pp. 150-156

The day that Aitatxi showed up in my seventh grade history class to basically kidnap me and take me on the last sheep drive, he told my teacher, Ms. Helm, that our name, Etcheberri, meant new house. She said, “How interesting.” And I wanted to die...

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pp. 157-163

Of all the Basque tales Aitatxi and Oxea told me, the one that made the least sense was about the lamiak—the little people who came into houses at night and tried to clean up the messes left behind by the humans they dreamed of being...

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pp. 164-171

“I sorry, Gaixua,” Aitatxi said the day before he died. “I trick you, me both this time.” By then, the sheep were starting to lie down from the heat. The hidden spring Aitatxi had been counting...

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pp. 172-177

The Basque flag is red with a green X cut through it and a white cross on top of that. Oxea told me that the red was for wine, the green for grass, and the white for sheep’s milk cheese...

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pp. 178-183

I took Jenny up to our summer etxola only once. It was mid-July and Dad was busy on the ranch. Jenny knew I was going to drive alone and so asked to go along. “You’re not going to talk the whole way, are you?”...

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pp. 184-187

Whenever I went shopping with Aitatxi, I always walked several paces in front of him, hopeful that strangers would think we weren’t together. Aitatxi always had on his beret...

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pp. 188-193

Arizona has violent sunsets. Each day ends in fire as the sun crashes into the desert. Colors explode. Flames shoot up through clouds that have spent the day wandering like lost sheep through a sky more white than blue...

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pp. 194-198

I started to say “No” when Isabelle asked me to be a pallbearer for Marcelino’s funeral. But then Edita took my hand as she sang...

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pp. 199-206

The law office of Mr. Thaddeus Steele, Esq. seemed shabbier than I remembered. Mr. Steele smaller. The darkness not as dark. “Well, son, you back from your a . . . a adventure?” Mr. Steele said from where he sat behind his metal desk, again using...

E-ISBN-13: 9780874178876
Print-ISBN-13: 9780874178869

Page Count: 168
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Basque Americans -- Fiction.
  • Young men -- Fiction.
  • Sheep ranches -- Arizona -- Fiction.
  • Inheritance and succession -- Fiction.
  • Basques -- France -- Fiction.
  • Family secrets -- Fiction.
  • Life change events -- Fiction.
  • Domestic fiction. -- lcsh.
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