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155 36 Father must be a clever man. In spite of the hard times, he owns two farm horses. The older boys clean and groom the horses. Their coats have to shine, their manes are combed and trimmed, and the tails, too, are clean and trim. It is a pleasure to look at them. Every morning before the horses are harnessed, they stand at the front door of the stable and wait. Then Mother or Maria gives them a slice of bread. Maria likes doing that. She likes the feel of the horses’ soft, warm lips on the palm of her flat hand. Her brothers often ride the horses out to the fields. They are very proud; they know the other people in the village have to hitch a cow or an ox to their carts and plows. But they have got two horses! And two pigs and a piglet as well! There aren’t any sows with piglets in Freilingen. Whoever has the money buys a piglet at the market, brings it home in a sack, and fattens it up. Father bought his piglet when it was six weeks old, two hands long, and rosy pink. Because Father has two sows, Setta has to drive them all the way to the other side of the Ahr so they can breed with the boar at Vellerhof manorial farm. In the stable next to the threshing machine, Father has over a hundred sheep. He bought most of them at the livestock market in Mayen. He and Maria’s brother Mäthes traveled to Mayen and drove them back to Frei­ lingen in two days, a ninety-mile roundtrip. Father bought the other sheep in the surrounding villages. Now the undemanding animals are thriving particularly well on the barren Freilingen land, as the limestone soil yields richer feed than farther out in the Eifel. Father has a knack for buying emaciated sheep cheaply and selling them again, strengthened, for a substantially higher price. Klöss has to tend the flock, much to his annoyance. It is too lonely for him out there. Like a dense cloud, the flock sets out from the Giefers’ farm early in the morning—white sheep with black legs, black tails, black ears, and black mouths. The lambs squeeze in between Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 155 4/26/2017 12:17:40 PM 156 Maria Wallisfurth the larger sheep; they are afraid of the two dogs Klöss takes along. The flock leaves a wide trail of round black droppings behind. May and June is sheep shearing time. Father takes his eldest sons and Maria along to help him wash the sheep’s woolly coats in the shallow water of the Ahr River.The sheep are unwilling to go into the water, and it takes all one’s strength to shove them in and hold them tight. Afterwards, the sheep stand in the meadow, wet and bleating. On the way back from the river to the village, their clean wool dries in the sun. Father has hired a shepherd, and he is in the yard waiting for the flock. First, the animals are put in the stable and then brought back out one at a time. Father and the shepherd sit on low stools in the yard. Each of them takes a sheep between his knees. In a flash, the animal is turned on its back. Maria helps to hold and tie together the sheep’s legs. Swiftly and skillfully, the two men run the shears over the woolly coats, and the fleece drops off in strips. When they are finished, the naked sheep scurry nervously back to the stable. Villagers passing by stop to watch the sheep shearing for a while.The air smells of spring, of animals, and of wool. The hens and cock strut around unruffled, pecking. The baby chicks run with flapping wings behind the mother hen. The wool piles up in the sun to form a soft, warm mountain. How the children would love to sink into it! Father’s and the shepherd’s hands are clean but greasy when the shearing is finished. The wool is packed into sacks and taken to the wool market in Mayen where it is purchased by the buyers from the spinning mills. Whatever wool the Giefers need for themselves, for stockings and cardigans , Father gets spun at the spinning mill in Schönau. In winter, Mother will sit at a quilting frame with a...


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