We are so happy to announce the publication of Joan Errea’s A Man Called Aita. These stories, told in rhyming verse, tell an extraordinarily deep, complex, and moving story about being Basque in the U.S. West and what it was like to grow up on a ranch on the frontier. They tell the story of the life of Joan’s father, aita in Basque, Arnaud Paris, who originally came from Iparralde and herded sheep in Wyoming before venturing out on his own to ranch in Central Eastern and Northern Nevada for many years. There is so much to say about this little book, a true gem of Western Americana, much of it ably done so in Pello Salaburu’s masterful introduction.
“This book narrating the story of Marie’s life is captivating, moving, and very attractive in its simplicity. It shows how wonderful the relationship between the father and daughters was, that Arnaud was a warm man, and that they loved each other a lot and were very close. For Joan, her aita was a role model and a point of reference.”
Here, from A Main Called Aita is the title poem, which says much more than I can:
A Man Called Aita
With a brand new dream, a clarinet, and his suitcase in his hand.
The young Basque came to write his name in the history of this land.
Perhaps he was never famous but the world was a better place.
For the Basque who came and brought with him the faith of his proud race.
In the mountains of Wyoming where he first came to herd sheep,
How bitter were his lessons, how lonely was his sleep!
How many times he lay awake and looked up at starry skies,
Unable to see their beauty for the tears that filled his eyes.
How unbearably cold and lonely it must have been at times,
As he sat upon some windswept hill and wrote his songs and rhymes.
For the young man was a poet, a Basque “Bertzolari”;
And in later years he’d sing his songs to my brothers and to me!
With two dogs for companions, he spent six long years there.
He guarded all the lambs and sheep entrusted to his care.
He loved to dance, he loved to sing; to learn was a burning need;
For the greatest pleasure of his life was a good book he could read.
One day in his quest for books he found a copy of the Constitution.
And he quickly learned of the laws and rules that governed this great Nation.
He left Wyoming for Nevada, where his brother found them jobs;
And the two of them together, tended to the woolly “mobs.”
Now times were hard upon the land and wages seldom came.
Herders were sometimes paid in sheep; mostly the old and lame.
It was so, they built their own herds up and ran them on “tramp” ground.
It was hit and run, first come first served, there was no BLM around.
The grass was there and it was free, but the sheepmen fought each other.
It often came to troubled times with brother against brother.
And so it came to pass with them and bitter words were spoken;
Words that could never be recalled, so the partnership was broken.
The love between them still ran deep but forgiveness had been frozen.
They drifted apart and went their ways on the paths that each had chosen.
And each young man in his own way left his mark upon the land.
So my Father came to live his dream with his suitcase in his hand.
He labored well, and built his dream; he married sweet “Marie.”
He was always known as “Aita” by my brothers and by me.