It is Mahan Atabaev: skinny, wind-burned, a pastoralist in a baseball cap. He stands in a chilly alpine dawn, urging me look through a spotting scope.
The scope is trained on a valley high in the Pamir range of Tajikistan. I crouch to peek, and what I see is this: animals that appear to be carved from light. They literally shine. They graze on the steep mountainside, glowing pale in the sunrise, perfect in every detail. They are wild Marco Polo sheep. A big ram, easily weighing hundreds of pounds, carries a crown of spiral of horns. Atabaev grins happily at me.