The Cherised Family Mus
These animals have fed us through difficult times. My family used to have a mus one of those big mus with big ears and when I was a kid I used to ride it with my neighbour Santaleza who also had one, but a little one. These two donkeys taught a lot of us children how to ride and you had to be a good rider because the old mus would test you immediately. It would buck, and if you didn't know how to ride you would be on the ground very quickly.
Well, the old mus used to bring all the fruit from Picana and all the garlic from behind Fianona and Brkec to the markets of Albona. My family had two mules before the Second World War. They used to carry provisions for our shop (bottega) and my dad used to buy all the grapes at Sanvicente to make wine for our osteria. I remember some of the invoices from Runco of Pisino where our family also used to buy articles for our store. All these provisions were transported by our mules. During the war my brother, Tino, was forced to transport ammunition for the Germans to Monte Maggiore (Ucka). Anyway, we lost our mules. I am not going into the story of how that happened, but my dad then bought another mus that we had at least until 1957 when I left Istria.
When I came to see my Mum in 1976, I asked my mum where was our mus and nobody would say anything. It could not have died because they live up 50 years of age. I put two and two together and knew exactly what happened, they sold the mus. Our people were ashamed to have a mus or live in the villages because the communist government made them feel that way so they could grab our the land for themselves. I know that my family didn't give the land up because of my dad, and they are enjoying it now.
I can tell that this mus did a lot of work for us. All the wood that we needed for winter was transported on the cart all our hay, beetroot, wheat, barley, rye, corn, pumpkins, potatoes, you name it. Our mus brought it all home. My dad was 81 years old in 1957 and quite often before I left Istria, I would saddle our mus on Sundays so that my dad could go for an inspection of our property. That was also a recreation for my dad.
I can tell you that I am not ashamed of having had a mus in our family - that noble animal that the communists wanted to destroy. Yes, there was a word around even then that the mus was destroying the forest, so they had other plans for it. I was too young to understand what was going on... if I could only reverse the clock! This is my story about our noble Istrian mus.
A mus can live on just about anything. They eat straw, they chew blackbury bushes, they eat dry grass, they would break aspen branches and eat them, too. They are very adaptable to almost any condition and that is the very reason why we had them in Istria. A poor farmer could afford to have a mus and many poor people would have them that had a business of selling coal (karbun). The old mus would pull the cart along the country road and every now and again it would break a twig and chew on it. Thus, they were very economical to have. I remember in Arsia one person in particular when he finished delivering coal he would go to the osteria to have a drink and leave his two musi on the communal land still attached to their cart. There, they would feed on dry grass and blackbury bushes. That was our mus.
They also have a wonderful memory. They always knew where their home was or where was the best pasture, although some people thought differently. After the war, my dad had to resort to farming as we could not carry on with our business. So, we had sheep and goats for milk, cheese, meat and wool. Of course, we had other animals like pigs, chickens, etc., plus one noble big mus with big ears.
My mother would take the sheep and goats to the pasture to Gargati between Fianona and Santa Domenica. She woud leave them there while I went to school. In the afternoon when I finished with school, it was my job to bring the sheep and goats back. I would ride our mus to get the animals home. As a 9-year-old kid, I had a lot of other things to do. I would visit all the bird nests I knew in the bushes. Sometimes I would look in the caves with my friends for ammunition. There was plenty of ammunition left behind there during the war and we kids knew how to find it.
So, most of the time it would get dark and I still hadn't found our sheep. The sheep would have a bell hung around their necks but at night there would always be a bit of wind so you would hear the bell sound from the opposite direction. I would wander around on the back of my mus for hours through different trails to track down the sheep. When I found them, I knew that the mus would remember the road back. That was not my worry. The only worry I had was of ghosts and witches for we were very superstitious. Anyway, when I found the sheep, I think the sheep were also glad to see us because they were afraid of the dark, too. The sheep would immediately follow us, and I would leave everything to the old mus. He would remember every trail and every rock and bring us to the main road that would lead us home. This is how I knew that our mus had a good memory.
This page compliments of Bruno Clapci