The Pastoralist

He laughs because he remembers the black-maned lion, flat bread fried against a hot rock, and the midnight stars. There are always stars. Especially in the desert.

His name means “big mouth” and he intends to live it up, has for just past sixty years. He laughs when I ask to snap his photograph, says he can’t figure why everyone always wants to capture his toothy smile. I capture him in that moment and he is pleased with the result.

But his face changes when he’s asked about the resettlement camps, the coming wave of irrigation that’s stealing camel land. He sees the new sugar cane. A sweet-toothed government, he laments. He’s moving to the new construction next month, but only if they make him, only if they slaughter his camels and steal his weapons first.

The pastoralist understands more about the American Indians than I could ever hope. He’s never met them, never heard their history. But he’s living it–the people dispossessed–and I wish Rich were around to sing “The Howling” over this desert.

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