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электронный журнал "Новые исследования Тувы"

Herders of Tes-Khem are getting ready to celebrate Shagaa

Exhibition of national dishes, contest for the tastiest pelmeni, best horse outfit, fastest speech, lifting rocks (kodured dash), mass sledding from hills, chess games, khuresh wrestling – all that will be going on in Tec-Khem kozhuun during the Lunar New Year celebrations. On the evening before Shagaa, which is coming with the first rays of the sun on February 14, “cholukshulga”, an ancient ceremonial expression of respect to the elders of the community takes place.

Vice-premier Artur Mongal came to the shepherd station of Dukeek Chalchikovich Choodu to offer his holiday greetings to one of the best shepherds of the district. The Merited animal herder of the Tuvan ASSR recently celebrated his 75th birthday.

He has been a shepherd his whole life. His daughter Mara is following in his footsteps. After his wife’s death, his daughter became his chief helper. Dukeek Chalchikovich is still a great rider. He won’t sit still for a moment, always doing something, working.

If you are well prepared with large stores of animal fodder, he says, you can survive the

40 degrees of cold without losses.

“That’s nothing. It will be all right’, - he said. On February 11, the first little lamb of this lambing season was born in his herd. He is still very weak, and lives in the shepherd’s yurt. Dukeek Chalchikovich received the title of Merited herder not just for his many years of work, but also for his high indices – he was getting 150-160 lambs from 100 ewes. Today it is impossible to reach such records, explained the herder. “We used to have a fine-wool breed, merinos. They were very fertile. But now we had come back to the traditional Tuvan breed. They are tough, tolerate the cold well, but they are not as fertile as the merinos”, he explains, and adds a greeting for all the shepherds of the republic: “Health, joy in your work, and happiness!”

Kyzyl-ool and Lada Kok-ool’s family settled a few hundred meters form the Mongolian border only last year. These areas are considered dangerous, there is the possibility of raids by cattle rustlers from across the border, and there is no one to help, you have only yourself to rely on.

“Last year, the Mongols stole five horses, - the head of the household, Kyzyl-ool Kystai-oolovich explains to Artur Mongal. – “This year it has been quiet so far.”

Many years ago, his parents’ camp was in this area, with a farm. But during the perestroika years the buildings were deserted and broke down. But the pastures around here are very rich, the young herder remarks. The Kok-ool family was able to set up a very good wintering place here. Inside the yurt it is warm, even though outside it is -35 degrees of cold. Only towards 3 AM one starts to feel the cold, and it becomes necessary to add some wood to the stove, the owners say.

At the same time, in these places, so distant from busy roads, the cell phone connection is great. The father makes a call to his son, who is at the Tomsk University, to give him Shagaa greetings, and asks about the weather in Tomsk. It turns out that it is also -35 degrees. The holding has more that 300 heads of small horned cattle and 100 heads of large horned cattle. Lada believes that it is time for the family to open their own café in the village Bert-Dag, which is the closest one to their camp.

“That would solve the problem with turning meat into cash, too, ”reasoned Lada. – And people would have a place to sit for a while and relax in the café.”

The Kok-ools are full of plans, meat and other delicacies, as well as other food, is all ready for Shagaa.

Today, in the herders’ holdings of Tas-Khem kozhuun there are more that 60 thousand heads of small horned cattle and 7 thousand large horned cattle. In many areas, the calving and lambing season has already started.

Photos: chess battles in Bert-Dag village school (Tes-Khem kozhuun); Merited herder of Tuvan ASSR, Kudeek Chalchikovich Choodu; the first lamb of the season in Kudeek Choodu’s yurt, the herding station of Kyzyl-ool and Lada Kok-ool several meters from the border; a thermometer- an indispensabe tool; kyzyl-ool speaking to his son; lada setting the holiday table; helper of the Kok-ool family.

Dina Oyun, translated by Heda Jindrak
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