A sunny, textured portrait of the Basque shepherds of California, limned by lrigaray who grew up there in the Thirties. What he recalls, besides a father quick to temper and a mother regretful of missed adventures, are Mexican shearers with hands velvety from lanolin, ignorant boy-wonders from the Forest Service, skillful collie dogs (txakurrak), apricot-wood staffs (makhila), milestones in his apprenticeship, spirit visits (arima erratia) after a great-uncle's mysterious death, and a flock of memorable shepherds. Like Baptista, their huge veteran herder with a size eighteen neck, ""a squat tank on two feet"" who ""danced the iota like a ballerina."" Or Maness, Little Mich, and Petain who always took a bottle to the fields--""John Steinbeck would have liked this trio."" Or ""sheeped"" Jean Biscari, slowly going insane from loneliness. And those who taught Louee how to spot gaseous alfalfa and homosexual sheep (about one in a hundred). Folk singer Irigaray and young-adult author Taylor have collaborated seamlessly in these resonant sketches full of ""jigsaw language"" and frisky humor.