The Islamic revolution that has generated an economic battle with the United States and crippled Iran's own industry has brought mostly good times and prosperity to the simple folk of this village on snow-covered Shamsak Mountain.
Their tale may be a special one, in which sheep win out over antelope and royal pleasures in these stark peaks north of Tehran. But what it says about the shah's time nevertheless helps explain why so many rural Iraninas listened with satisfaction to the anit-Western shrillness of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini and his insistence that the monarch return to face an accounting of his rule.
For the 5,000 residents of Amameh, the revolution succeeded the day the shah's two armed gamekeepers were driven out of town. For years, the gamekeepers had prevented villagers from grazing their sheep on a vast expanse of hillside set aside as an imperial hunting domain for Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and his foreign guests -- many of them American.
Local folklore has it that the shah's men had brought in only two antelopes anyway for the imperial hunting party. For Amameh's shepherds, that seemed little justification for the "keepout" signs and the gamekeepers who made sure village sheep kept their distance. Their resentment still showed, almost a year later.
"Because of those two antelopes they let loose up there, we couldn't raise our sheep," a villager said today, gusturing toward the steep, white slopes where grass tufts shoot up in spring.
Since the gamekeepers were replaced by Khomeini's Revolutionary Guards, the domain is free grazing land. As a result, Amameh's farmers say their herd has risen from a few hundred to 15,000 sheep. Meat, yogurt, milk and wool have become plentiful, without the purchase of imported food from Tehran that used to strain farmers' purses.
Farmers here also have a second reason to rejoice in the revolution. Apples from the terraced hillside orchards around Amameh, tasty but scrawny, no longer face competition from the fat beauties of Israel and Lebanon, since Khomeini's Revolutionary Council restricted fruit imports.
Amameh orchard owners, anticipating a good winter of sale, thus listen with care when Khomeini comes on the radio to urge agriculture self -reliance and denounce the shah's dependence on imports from the West.
Ramazan Kiani, a 47-year-old farmer on his way home with a gunnysack full of bread crumbs for his chickens, told a visitor who met him along a muddy village path that nearly everyone in Amameh has a transistor radio and tunes in Khomeini's frequent speeches.
"I am like everybody," he said. "I hate the shah. I think he killed people." He added, flattening his palm in the air at knee level, "even little boys like this."
Not surprisingly, the people of Amameh are eager to display their support of Khomeini. His photograph is on posters at the village dry goods store and scattered around the dull-brown walls of several mud brick homes.
Visitors invited to lunch -- lamb stew over rice with yogurt on the side -- at the home of Azizollah Mianamahaleh find three portraits of the ayatollah looking down on the Persian carpet, where they are invited to sit cross-legged and eat.
A mullah invited in from Tehran, Sheik Mohammed Reza Oteifeh, had just finished a noon Friday sermon at the village mosque. He credited Khomeini with reviving the Iranian people's sense of Islam.
"Our revolution was good for the poor people," a worshiper quoted the visiting sheik as saying. "We should take our country in our own hands, especially in the villages."
Down by the moxque, Aliazam Anisi, 30, is standing around in his jungle-camouflaged fatiques taking with village men in the main square. He is Amameh's Revolutionary Guard, responsible, he said, for "protecting the people from antirevolutionaries."
Anisi said he is one of 90 Revolutionary Guards, most of them local recruits, posted in the approximately 25 villages in the Lashkara area, about a 1 1/2-hour drive up winding roads from the capital.
For the last eight months, he has represented local law and order. In addition, he and his commrades organized self-defense training, showing the villagers how to operate Uzi submachine guns and g3 assault rifles in classes held in mosques on Fridays and holidays.
The weapons are taken out of a central depot for training sessions, he explained, and then returned there afterward for storage under lock and key.
The people of Amameh seem peaceful enough, however, and most advocate a simple solution to the drama of American hostages held by Islamic students occupying the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
"They should bring back the shah and let the hostages go," explained Ahmed Anisi, one of Aliazam Anisi's cousins, as he helped prepare a communal village meal in a large kitchen under the mosque.
Valiollah Babai, 47, proprietor of a dry goods store on the other side of the square, says the former imperial ruler would face a sure fate if he did return as the students demand.
"We would kill him," Babai declared. "We will do whatever the imam [Khomeini] says."
Is was the shah's government that brought electricity to Amameh, about two years age.Such rural modernization, much of it imported from the United States, was a major part of the "white revolution" designed to push Iran into modern times with swift economic development financed by oil sales.
All that is changed now, however. Kiana looked at the power lines and said, "The shah didn't bring it here. We paid for it."