Sillonis, Jesus

Daniel Chertudi and Julian Achabal
Interview Location: 
Gooding, Idaho
Interview Date: 

Jesus was born in Natxitua, Bizkaia on 2 January 1945, to Eustakio Sillonis and Benita Barrenkoa.  His father and grandfather had come to the US briefly as sheepherders and moonshiners, but spent the rest of their lives working the baserri where Jesus grew up, called Erdiko.  Eustakio was imprisoned during the civil war and had his property bombed by a brother-in-law sympathetic to the regime.  He recalls vividly growing up on the farm: chores, food rationing, school in Spanish, and sports and games.  After a few years in a construction company, Jesus realized that this lifestyle was not for him.

Jesus found a job on a ship bound for Brazil, but the experience was cut short by a horrible tour of duty in the Spanish army.  The sergeants were pompous and cruel, and pay was abysmal.  When he finished, he decided to follow his 3 brothers to America, and departed in the spring of 1967.  Jesus herded sheep for 3 years, and describes the long adjustment process to the lonely lifestyle.  He learned English quickly, and moved on to jobs in construction before retiring in the late 1980s as a result of a heart condition.

Jesus has married more than once, but has found happiness with Sheryl Simmons, a non-Basque who nonetheless has adopted the traditions Gooding has to offer.  He has raised one daughter from a previous union.  Jesus describes his trips back to the Basque country, which despite former harassment by the Guardia Civil are quite enjoyable.  He considers himself a 100% Basque, and relishes the annual Gooding picnic, when even his daughter drives up for a visit.

Audio Recording: 
Father An American Moonshier
Food Rationing
A Sheepherder's Life
Other Images: