Three Cows

I love discovering interesting things about the paces that I visit on my trips. In particular I like the “human” things and on that note The Tribute of the Three Cows is right up there!

Harls snarled up Col de la Pierre St Martin, scraping metal on the asphalt as we climbed and me? I had a big stupid grin, I really hadn’t had this much fun in ages!

The Road to St Martin


At the top of the pass we did the customary thing, stop and take it all in.

This is a special place, a place where on of the oldest treaties in the world is ceremonially marked.

The ceremony takes place every 13th July on the summit of the Col de la Pierre St Martin and brings together the people of the neighbouring Pyrenean valleys of Barétous in France and Roncal, Spain.

Translated into English, Col de la Pierre St Martin means the Pass of St Martin’s Stone and for centuries this has marked the border between France and Spain at this point. Every year the people of Barétous, in France hand over three cows to the people of Roncal, Spain at the Col.

The Tribute of the Three Cows is frequently regarded as the oldest international treaty still being recognised. Although it is thought to date back to the 13th century it’s exact origin is unknown, the first written record of the Tribute was recorded in 1375, it believed to represent a peace settlement in a dispute over grazing and border rights.

The ceremony has only been suspended twice, in 1793 during the War of the Convention between France and Spain, and in 1940 during the Nazi occupation of France. In both cases, the Barétous people were prevented by regional authorities from attending the ceremony out of fear they would escape to Spain!

These days the ceremony is both culturally and economically important as it draws large numbers of tourists from around the world.

On the morning of the 13th July, the representatives of Roncal, wearing traditional costume, gather on the Spanish side of the Col.

The representatives of Barétous, approach the boundary marker from the French side. Traditionally, the Mayor of Isaba would hold a pike against the Barétous representatives, and these would also be held at gunpoint by the rest of representatives of Roncal; fortunately this custom was dropped in the late 19th century!

The Mayor of Isaba, presiding over the ceremony, asks the Barétous representatives three times whether they are willing, as in previous years, to pay the Tribute of the Three Cows of two years of age, of the same coat and with the same sort of horns, and without blemish or injury. Each time the Barétous representatives answer in Spanish “Si Senor.”

Following this, one of the representatives of Barétous places his or her right hand on the boundary marker. A representative from Roncal follows by placing his or her hand on top of it, and so on, until all representatives have placed their right hands on the boundary marker. The last one to placed his hands is the Mayor of Isaba, who then proclaims:

The Boundary Marker Stone


“Pax avant, pax avant, pax avant!” – “Let there be peace!”

All those witnessing the ceremony repeat the same words.

Traditionally the representatives of Roncal were then presented with the three cows, but I understand that these days, due to animal welfare and livestock importation controls, the equivalent value in money changes hands.

Needless to say, the rest of the day then descends into feasting and celebration!

That sounds pretty good to me…!

“Everyday is a winding road,
I get a little bit closer.”

Catch you soon,

Dookes

Born to Run

I am frequently fascinated by many blogger’s who post their “definitive” list of best biking/driving/road songs…and then ask for others to contribute their suggestions, often that’s when things start to get interesting!

There’s an old saying, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison!”

Therein lies the crux of the matter.

Music, like just about everything else in this world is all a matter of personal taste. Indeed, on the music front I can switch around like a leaf blowing in the wind, (no pun intended!) it all depends on my mood. “Definitive” is not a word I use in such matters.

Which leads me to motorbikes…

Here again it’s all about choice and how the mood takes you. If you need any convincing of the wide variety of tastes that exist in the world of motorcycles then you only have to go on-line or pop into a dealership and see the plethora of different styles of bikes available for the eager to purchase!

The vast majority of us generally settle on one type of machine, one that either is spot-on for our needs, or more likely, a reasonable compromise for what we might want to do on two wheels. Take my mate Vifferman as an example; Viff settled on the Honda VFR800 as his “do most” machine, generally used for commuting but with the ability to give some serious “Grin-Moments” as well as limited touring use.

Some folk are fortunate that they are able to acquire more than one bike to indulge their different interests; maybe a sports bike for high-speed fun, alongside a trials bike for a spot of mud plugging!

Nephew Chris on his way to winning another trophy off the road and in the mud!

The great thing about motorbikes is that you can usually find something to suit any pocket too.

Now as regular Bloggonaughts will remember, there are two machines in the Dookes fleet and whilst they are both Harleys, they do actually tick different boxes. They are both firmly “road-bikes” and not really intended for off-road activities; though I have ridden my Softail “Harls” off tarmac in the Bardenas Reales semi-desert in Spain as you can see by clicking here.

“Harls” by model is a Softail, a “Cruiser” that does most things adequately, but excels at putting a smile on my face!

“Baby” is an Ultra Limited, a heavyweight “Tourer” ideal for comfortable mile-munching and in some ways not much else! Yes, I know that there are incredible videos of people throwing big Harleys around like BMX pedal bikes, but generally they don’t own them…or the repair bill to mend shattered fairings when they drop the things, as inevitably happens when you are practicing! I know my limits.

Generally though, the Dookes view on Off-Road riding is that if God had intended motorbikes to be ridden in the mud, he/she would never have given us asphalt!

Talking of mud, there was I recall in the 1970’s a rock group of that name who had quite a bit of success in the UK…which sort of brings me back to music!

Last Christmas Mrs Dookes kindly gave me a copy of Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, “Born to Run,” which is named after his real breakthrough album of 1975. I’ve been a fan of Bruce since that album was first released all those years ago and my vinyl copy was over the years played to death!

I’m often hesitant when it comes to books by musicians, there’s frequently too much padding or simply boring stuff, a bit like a sandwich with too much bread! Stand out for that transgression I found was Keith Richard’s tome, though considering the amount of drugs and alcohol that he consumed over the years I suppose some latitude should be allowed and I should be grateful that he could remember anything!

Anyway, back to Bruce.
He began slowly writing his book after performing at the 2009 Super Bowl and took seven years to finish it. I found his frankness about the mental issues that afflicted his father, plus his own brushes with depression to be quite moving; possibly because of my own father’s battle with dementia.

For me, this really is a book with broad appeal, all you need is a love of rock and roll or a mind open enough to find out what it is all about. Springsteen’s book writing style is an echo of his song writing and that itself a reflection of his roots.

If anyone is in doubt about the writers credentials and background then they should study this book. It is clear that Springsteen is the living embodiment of the “American Dream,” a descendant of immigrants who grew from nothing to Demi-Rock-God multimillionaire through talent and hard work. If anyone has a right to write about the things that his songs explore, it is this man; Bruce wasn’t gifted a shed-full of dollars to start out, unlike the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue….and maybe that’s why it’s clear that Mr Springsteen’s feet are still firmly planted on the pavements of Thunder Road!

“Born to Run” the book, is probably as detailed an insight into the life of one of rocks most iconic figures as we, the general public, are likely to get. By Springsteen’s own admission, there are certain details that he has omitted, either for personal reasons or to protect others, but in general his life is laid bare across the pages and certainly kept my attention throughout.

An added pleasure from reading “Born to Run” has been the subtle kick up the backside to go listen to Bruce Springsteen’s back catalogue and revisit some old musical friends from many years gone by. Like I said earlier, music is a mood thing for me and just lately the mood has taken me back to Bruce…but tomorrow it may be Mozart, John Lee Hooker, or Kraftwerk . . . let’s just see where the day, or motorbike, takes me!

“Come on with me, tramps like us
Baby we were born to run.”

Catch you soon

Dookes