Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

File Under “Illusions, Shattered”

January 14th, 2010 · 9 Comments

Whenever the stress of big-city living starts to wear us down—which seems to be happening an awful lot these days—we briefly fantasize about chucking it all in favor of life as a shepherd. We can trace this pipe dream back to our grade-school viewing of Fletch, in which Chevy Chase’s titular character facetiously replies “I’m a shepherd” to the main villain’s query regarding his occupation. Ever since, the pull of green mountains and woolly ruminant mammals has been awfully strong at times.

Alas, it turns out that shepherding may not be the enjoyably contemplative pastime we’ve long envisioned. In fact, according to this exposé, the job sounds downright terrible—at least way up in the Rockies:

They work seven days a week and are on call 24 hours a day, the survey found. In some cases they are miles from the nearest town, living in small, often shabby trailers with room only for a bed, a woodburning stove and 5-gallon water coolers.

Seventy percent of workers interviewed said they didn’t have a toilet and 54 percent said they had no electricity. Forty-two percent said their employers kept their passports and other documents and that they feared deportation if they complained about conditions…

“Based on what I know about the minimum wage, what they pay us is very little,” [Pepe] Cruz said as he drove one frigid day along the Wyoming plains spotted with snow and sagebrush, a rifle on the front seat of his truck for marauding coyotes.

Okay, so scratch “shepherd” off the dream-job list. Which bumps up our number-two choice in the “pastoral” category: falcon handler.


Tags: ····

9 Comments so far ↓

  • Jordan

    Believe me, being a falconer isn’t much better. It’s still an all-consuming activity, even when it’s a hobby. I was interested in it back when I was a kid, but after spending some time with a guy who had hawks (7!), it became pretty clear that he didn’t do much but work at his job and spend time with the birds. If it’s what you really love, probably all well and good, but some of us enjoy a slightly more well-rounded lifestyle.

  • scottstev

    You both are aiming low. Kazakh eagle hunting is where the real action is.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    As soon as I save $2,250 plus airfare to Mongolia, I’m totally going on that trip. The sheep’s head stew alone looks like it’s worth the trek:


  • Captured Shadow

    What’s the old joke? Something like,” my father was a shepherd, well not really, but you could say he was into sheep”……If Iever have to fill out another form that includes “father’s occupation” it will be a toss up between Falconer, and Atomic Scientist.

  • minderbender

    Big-city living isn’t all bad – for instance, you could see Sweetgrass, which is supposed to be pretty good (warning: quasi-spoilers . . . also, I haven’t seen the movie, it could be crap). It’s not a movie you could see anywhere else in the US, to my knowledge.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @minderbender: You’re right, Film Forum is one of the big pluses. Don’t make it down there nearly enough, though it used to be a go-to spot during my days living in Chelsea.

    I trust the A.V. Club on movies more than any other publication. They not only pick some winners, they also know how to punish the dogs. Case in point that’s been obsessing me as of late:


  • Jordan


    If you ever go on that trip, make sure to pump some serious iron beforehand. It gets pretty tiring to have a bird sitting on your hand. And you don’t want to let your arm drop because they’ll automatically try to move to the highest point, a.k.a. up your arm to your shoulder.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @Jordan: Thanks for the tip–I imagine birds of prey are heavier than they look.

    Also, I’m totally gonna bring goggles. I reckon an angry eagle tends to go for the eyes first.

  • Destrey

    Superior thinking demnsotrtaed above. Thanks!