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138 32 The people in the village are shaking their heads. Maria is surprised, too.A man came to the farm and brought twenty sheep with him. Father drives them out to the chicken run where he has built a pen out of slats. Twenty sheep. But just look at them! Nothing but old ewes, naked, without a single curl of wool and with rotting teeth. When Maria asks Father why he bought the sheep, Father only answers,“Cheap, cheap.” It has been many years since anyone in the village has owned sheep. In the past, everyone used to have two or three. In the morning, the community shepherd would walk through the village, and the sheep would run out of all the stables toward him. He would lead them out to the barren, sparsely covered hills and bring them back again in the evening. Sometimes, a great flock of sheep from the district of Daun passes through the Freilingen area.Then the farmers hire the flock to graze on the poorer parts of their land for a while, and they bring food out to the shepherd; in return, the farmers have sheep manure on their fields. Manure is so scarce that many fields must lie fallow for three to five years. No one has money for artificial fertilizer or any understanding of it. Who will take sheep to pasture? Maria wonders. She thinks Klöss probably will do it, and then remembers that she hasn’t seen him around for several days. She asks Grandmother,“Where is my brother Nikolaus?” She learns that Klöss is working on a farm in Hillesheim owned by a family acquaintance whose sons are in the war and who desperately needs help. Maria is sad because Klöss didn’t say goodbye to her. Father goes out with the dog and the sheep by himself. On his shepherd ’s crook there is a little shovel with a hook on the top. Buying those sheep was not such a strange thing after all. They won’t get fat, but there is still meat on them, and that is important; food is scarce in wartime. By now, everyone is feeling the effects of the war more and more. The state Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 138 4/26/2017 12:17:39 PM The Stories They Told Me 139 demands high crop and cattle yields from the farmers. In the mill, only a certain quantity of grain per person is allowed to be ground. People come from the neighboring towns and go from house to house begging or offering all kinds of stuff in exchange for food. The farmers find the situation bad enough as it is, but a year later, in 1917, it becomes unbearable.The people flock to the villages like the plague, begging for food. Father has brought out the big front door key and locks the door with it at night. He has locks fitted to the stable and barn doors. Everyone in Freilingen has to do the same, and when they are out working in the fields during the day, they cannot leave their houses unlocked. Locking up has never been done before in Freilingen! Maria sees the thin figures, the starving children and mothers at the door, and feels sorry for them. “War! Famine!” That is all she is told. In the mornings, Father counts the slices he cuts from the big, round loaf of bread. Each of them gets one slice.The bread, baked from wholemeal flour, is dark and heavy. In the feed store behind the stable, there is the small mill in which wholemeal is normally ground for the animals. Every week, Maria pours the grain into the top of the mill’s funnel and grinds the grain herself. Now, in addition to the quantity of flour they are allowed to have ground at the mill for their animals, they can also bake wholemeal bread. Sometimes, Father sits with Maria in the feed store, thoughtful and silent. Now and again in the course of the year, he slaughters a sheep to provide enough food for all the hungry stomachs of the Giefer family. He buys additional new sheep, so he always has a small flock. One day, Maria spends hours grinding grain in the fodder mill. Her back aches. Mother will use the wholemeal flour to bake ten loaves of bread, which will be stored in the dark cellar vault. Grandmother has made a fresh...


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MARC Record
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