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6 3 Summer is a good time. Mother takes Maria by the hand, and in the other hand she holds a knotted scarf filled with slices of bread, along with a jug of coffee and the sickle. Mother is wearing a long dress reaching to her ankles, a large apron, black woolen stockings, and stout lace-up shoes. Her dark hair is covered by a white cloth tied in a knot at the back. Father walks beside her, the scythe over his shoulder.A hollow cow’s horn hangs from the leather strap around his waist. Within this sheath is the whetstone. He has clapped an old straw hat on top of his reddish blond hair. The wide rim casts a shadow on his face. Men and women carrying scythes, sickles, and knotted scarf pouches walk along the village street and spread out onto their fields. Wagons are underway. The road leads down into the valley. At Grindel Creek, Father bends down and fills the horn with water. The three climb to the top of the hill called Am Zollstock, where the wayside cross stands and the view is open and wide. They walk along a rutted path that branches off from the main road and come to the field where Father wants to work that day. Mother sits down on the edge of the ditch with Maria next to her, and Father sharpens the scythe. It is just past noon. Big bushes of chamomile give off their scent. The heat crackles through the field. Father begins to reap the field with broad swings of the scythe. Mother stands up and gestures to Maria with her hand to stay sitting. The child nods. Her eyes follow Mother who has taken the sickle and, with swift movements, gathers up and rolls out the cut stalks. She takes a handful of stalks out of the loose sheaves and winds them around each sheaf like a ribbon.Then, quick as a flash, she twists the two ends together and sticks them into the sheaf. Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 6 4/26/2017 12:17:33 PM The Stories They Told Me 7 Maria already knows what will come next—Mother will build a shady little house. She takes six sheaves, props them up against each other and waves to the little girl. Pointing to the bundle with the bread, she makes the gesture for carrying. Maria nods. With both hands, she grasps the cloth, carries it in front of herself, and sets it down to go and fetch the jug of coffee. Mother stows the things inside the shock of sheaves. Inside the shock, in the shade, she puts two more sheaves. She lays her head on her folded hands. Maria understands: sleep. Mother starts her work in the sun, her back bent deeply. Father is almost at the other end of the field. The freshly cut stubble stands up straight. Lots of little stones lie in-between. The sheaves lie across the field, all pointing in the same direction. Only in the evening, when the field has been reaped, will Father and Mother put up the shocks. Maria feels good. Beetles scuttle around and grasshoppers leap with their long, angular legs. A flock of earth-colored partridges flies past her. Maria crawls into her little house of sheaves so that the wandering sun cannot find her. She pulls her frock right down to her high-topped shoes. That way the stubble and thistles can’t scratch her legs. There is a smell of bread and coffee and straw. Maria can’t keep her eyes open. Her hands sink down her side and open. When she wakes up, there is no more to be seen of the waving field of grain. The sun is sitting low in the sky, casting long shadows. She eats the food her parents have left for her and waits until all of the sheaves have been set up. For that, the farmers put up one sheaf in the middle and four additional ones around it. That is a Kasten (a shock of sheaves), as the Freilingers say. In windy weather, they put up nine sheaves to form a Kasten, making it more stable. On the way home, Maria sits on Father’s shoulders and Mother carries the scythe. From all directions the people are coming home. Long clouds of dust rise up behind the swaying hay carts. Down below at Grindel Creek, children are watering the...


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Related ISBN
MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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