Monday, February 14, 2011

Spinning a new tale

There once was a young goatherd named Galya who lived with her six goats on the steppes of the Ural Mountains in Russia where the air was so thin and the winters so long that Galya had a hard time finding enough food to feed her goats, not to mention enough food for her family. Galya’s goats produced the only income for that family. Every April, the goats each had a baby that Galya nurtured and protected from wolves and eagles until they were old enough to sell for meat. Also, in April, Galya combed her goats and collected the ultrafine down under fiber that kept her goats warm in the deep winter. Then she spun that goat fiber into the finest yarn imaginable and knit it into huge shawls with patterns as intricate as a spider’s web. It took an entire month for her to spin two ounces of goat down and knit it into a shawl. After each shawl was finished, Galya pulled it through her mother’s wedding ring to test it for fineness.

By the end of the year, after she had finished six shawls, she traveled to Ekaterinburg to sell her work. There she met Jim, a handsome and rich American who was preparing to take a sled dog trip along a river valley. “Privyet,” he said, surprising her with his Russian even though his accent was terrible. “Kak dyela?”

Now Galya had been raised in the mountains, but she had gone to school and had learned three languages, Russian, French and English. “I’m fine,” she said. “Welcome to Ekaterinburg. Would you like to buy a shawl?”

Not very many young American men appreciate finely spun and knit shawls, and this young man was no different. But he was interested in people so he followed Galya through the town as she moved from shop to shop trying to find the best price for her work. All the shop owners shook their heads when Galya spread out her work. “It is very beautiful,” they said, but the buyers were here last month. I have no need of your shawls now. Come back next fall.”

“Why did they come so early?” asked Galya.

“In America,” Jim told her, “they start putting out Christmas decorations in October. The biggest buying day of the year is in late November. No one waits until December to buy precious gifts anymore.”

“I can’t wait until next October to sell my shawls,” Galya said. “I need the money for my family now. We will not get through the winter very well without flour and sugar, raisins and almonds."

Jim reached into his pocket. “What you need,” he said, “is a cell phone. With a cell phone, you can look on the internet and find the best price for shawls. You can lock in that price and ship the shawls. You can even take photographs.” He spread one of Galya’s shawls across her shoulders and demonstrated, “and your shawls will sell for even more, because they really are quite beautiful.” Jim typed away at his phone and in a few minutes looked up at Galya. “How much do you want to sell your shawls for? What is the most money you can imagine?”

Galya thought for a moment and then spoke. Jim typed. “Okay,” he said, a big grin on his face. “I sold five. I’ll trade you the last one for my cell phone and help you figure out how to get more minutes and keep it charged. But first we need to get you an Etsy account so you can do this on your own next year.”

When Galya returned to the steppes, she took fine silk thread to ply with her goat down yarns, she took Jim’s cell phone and a charger, as well as the numbers to her bank account in Ekaterinburg, where the money for five shawls had been deposited. Already, she had plans in her head to talk to the other goatherds. It was a whole new world out there and with her cell phone she could sell them minutes and they could all be a part of it.


  1. Fantastic piece! Truly worthy of the Golden Goat Award!
    Check out a related piece:

  2. Wow please marry me