Heidersdorf - part 6
May 19, 2007

Posted by BDMHistorian

Chapter 6
Tramp, the Rye Aunt, and Christel's Pictures

It was their time off. Irm and Inge meandered indecisively across the lawn in front of the hostel. Some of the other girls were laying in bed sleeping, while others sat outside in the shade reading, writing letters, or watching the clouds go by.

"What'll we do now?" Irm asked. Inge gave it some thought.

"We could go down to the village," she said eventually. "See what's going on down there. Maybe there's more to do there than here." Irm didn't mind. "But we'll take Tramp with us. Kathrin will let us have him. She's over there, behind the big elderberry bush." - Like two Indians, the two snuck up on the bush. They'd ambush Kathrin like a pair of robbers, that much was certain.

They had gotten very close when Inge suddenly stopped. "Listen," she said. "She's playing music." Now Irm could hear the faint sounds of an accordion blowing toward them. "So what," she laughed and was just about ready to jump at Kahtrin, when Irm grabbed her wrist. "Be quiet," she said. "It's such a pretty melody." Surprised, Irm ducked back into the grass. What was up with Inge all of a sudden? Inge didn't look back, but crawled carefully forward until she was just behind the bush where Kathrin was sitting. There, she lay down and propped her head up on her hands. Surprised, Irm followed suit.

Kathrin had her accordion on her knees. At her feet lay Tramp, all four legs stretched away from his body, asleep. Kathrin played a happy melody. It didn't quite sound like a song. Maybe it was a dance.

"Do you know this tune?" Irm asked, but Inge shook her head. "You can't know that," she replied. "It's music that you just make up. It's not even that difficult." - "Really?" Irm didn't know that there was such a thing. She'd never just thought up any music. But if Inge said it, it was probably true.

"How do you do that?" she asked, but Irm furrowed her brow. "Be quiet already!" Irm waited patiently but Kathrin kept on playing and Inge lay there and watched the clouds go by. Irm was starting to get bored; she was sorry to waste her free time with this. She was therefore very happy when Kathrin suddenly stopped playing and turned her head to look at the two Jungmaedel. "Well," she asked, "What did you want?"

"We were listening." Irm was relieved by the quick change in the situation. "Inge said you've thought that music up yourself. She says, it's not difficult." Inge turned red and gave Irm a shot between the ribs. What did she have to tell Kathrin for?

Kathrin looked at the embarrassed girl for a bit. "You have a harmonica," she then said. - "Yes, and a violin." - "Then bring them with you next time you come to camp, we can always use that."

Now Irm dared to speak again, "Actually we wanted to take Tramp to the village with us. May we?" - "If he'll go with you," Kathrin said a bit doubtfully and looked at her dog who, as soon as he realized they were speaking about him, twitched his ears and wagged his tail. The one floppy ear and the slightly curled tail, as well as the wide muzzle which did not belong to any recognizable breed of dog, were a secret cause of shame to Kathrin. "Tramp, Tramp..." she said, shaking her head. "You'll never be a proper dog."

Tramp squealed and jumped toward Kathrin. Apparently he was under the impression he'd been given a compliment. "Now go with the girls," said Kathrin and gave him a soft push. Tramp stood undecided for a bit and then it became clear to him.

So - he was allowed to go with other girls if they were wearing white blouses and blue skirts. But not with other people. That was easily understood. There were much more difficult things to learn for a camp dog; for example: when the flag's raised in the morning, you don't go sniffing around the flag pole; the climbing jackets are not rags to play with; during sports, you don't chase the javelins or balls to return them after they're thrown; and during the social evening, you're to lie quietly by your master's feet or you get locked out. Oh yes, Tramp had learned a lot since he'd gotten to Heidersdorf.

Peacefully and happily he trotted next to Irm and Inge when they turned into the village road. Everything went well and properly until ... well, until a black cat sprung across the road about 10 feet ahead. That was too much, even for the best behaved camp dog in the world. Barking loudly, he chased after the cat.

"Tramp! Tramp! Here!" Irm screamed but there was nothing to be done now. The hunt went through half the village - up front, the cat, then the dog, and far behind, two breathless Jungmaedel who ran as hard as they could. Next to the school, the cat turned into a gate and disappeared in a barn. Tramp followed and so did the Jungmaedel who were thinking of nothing but to catch their dog.

Only when the cat had found safe haven on one of the beams and was hissing from above, Tramp and the girls came to their senses. They now realized that they were not the only ones, but that there were an old man and a teenage girl in the corner of the barn. They had a bag between them and each had a bowl in their lap and a kitchen knife in hand. They were laughing so hard they were crying.

"Well, aren't you in a rush," said the old man. "Don't tear down my house." Irm had meanwhile managed to grab Tramp, who was still barking at the cat, by the collar. "Excuse us," she said. "He's usually not like this, he's actually very well behaved because he belongs to our leader."

The old man thought this defense was pretty funny and was more than happy to talk about dogs in general and Tramp in particular for a little bit. The floppy ear and curly tail were looked at strangely. "What a weird breed!" If Kathrin had heard that!

Inge had meanwhile taken a closer look at the bag and bowls. Inside the bag were gray, round capsules, that made a sound like a child's rattle when they were shaken. Inside the bowls were small gray grains. "Those are poppy seeds," she said in surprise. She knew poppy seeds from the bakery at home. But why would anyone need so many of them? "You can make oil from them," said the teenage girl who was named Stine. "And what's left can be fed to the livestock. It's nice work, seeding poppies, in the quiet time before the harvest."

Irm and Inge watched the two for a while as they quickly opened up one capsule after the other and let the seeds roll into the bowls. "Can we help?" Irm asked. "Sure, why not." Stine brought them two stools and two more kitchen knives. For awhile, everyone worked silently.

Then Inge asked, "How come it's "quiet time" now?" - The old man looked up and nodded toward the two Jungmaedel. "I'll tell you, my dear. We've gotten everything done now. The beets have been pulled up, the hay has been brought in. There's nothing else to do. Everything else grows by itself, and we can only hope that sunshine and rain will make it nice and ripe. Nobody has any business out in the fields now except the Rye Aunt."

"The Rye Aunt?" Inge asked. The old man nodded. "Around lunchtime each day, she now walks through the fields and blesses the rye, so that everything grows nicely. She has hair the color of rye, and a coat as blue as the summer sky. She's beautiful, the Rye Aunt, and whomever sees her will fall for her immediately. Once, a farm boy saw her. He had always been one of the happiest in the village, both on the dance floor and in the house. But after that day, he never looked at another girl. Finally, for his farm's sake, he went and married the prettiest girl in the village. But on the day after his wedding, he wandered across the fields at lunchtime, and nobody has seen him again."

Irm sighed. "But it's only a fairytale, it didn't really happen," she said. The old man laughed. "Don't be scared,that's just what people are saying. And it's true that there's something special with the fields these days, and when you have to wait a long time, you think up strange stories. I think it's nice if you can think up something."

Irm nodded. She could understand that. It had been the same when she was in the woods with Liese and the frogs and the owl. There was nothing like this in Berlin. A high rise was a high rise, a subway a subway, and nothing else. That had its good points, too. You always knew what you were looking at. Here, everything had a secret; a big one or a small one, and even if that made you feel very small or very stupid at times, it was nice, too.

The church bell rung half past two when Irm and Inge wandered back along the sunny village road to the hostel. "It was worth it," Inge said happily. Irm nodded, then suddenly stopped. "Look," she said and pointed down the side road which led to Goose August's and the broom maker woman's homes. "There's one of us down there, too. All by herself. What do you think she's up to?" - As a matter of fact, there was a Jungmaedel sitting by the side of the path. The white blouse was glistening in the sun. "Let's go look." Inge didn't just want to guess.

The Jungmaedel - it was Christel from the second room, didn't even look up when the two came closer. Only when Tramp touched his wet nose to her arm did she look up. She had a piece of paper in front of her and was handling a couple of differently colored pencils. "What are you doing?" Inge asked but Christel answered shortly, "I'm painting. You can see it yourself." She was not happy to be disturbed, one could tell immediately.

Irm and Inge sat down to the right and left of her and looked at the picture. How pretty, what Christel was drawing. They would have never been able to do this if they tried. Christel's picture showed the field with corn flowers in front, and behind that the bright yellow rye, and even further behind that the broom maker woman's house. Above was the gray-blue sky, heavy from the heat, just like in real life.

"You can even tell how hot it is," Irm said admiringly, but Christel just nodded. "You have to, or the whole picture's no good." - "But you need to draw the Rye Aunt, too," Inge suggested and told her the story. But Christel said that it was too late for that and that the picture was already finished. Then she folded her finished picture up, and stuffed it into the pocket of her blue skirt, along with her pencils. "There," she said. "Now we can go."

Back at the hostel they ran into Kathrin and returned Tramp to her. "Go upstairs and get your bathing suits," she said. "Liese is taking you to the lake." Then she looked at Christel. "Wait a second," she called. "Look at yourself! You're a mess!"

Christel felt for her neckerchief, leather knot, sleeve triangle and HJ insignia. Everything was where it was supposed to be! But Kathrin pointed at her bulging pockets. "What's in your pockets?" - Oh, that! Christel looked down on herself. "Colored pencils," she replied. That wasn't anything horrible. They were even part of the things they were supposed to bring to camp.

Kathrin laughed. "That many?" - "Thirty seven," Christel said proudly. "You need all of them! There are so many colors if you want to do things right. You shouldn't think that green is just green and yellow just yellow. Just think - the rye fields and the yellow lupines and the jointed charlock. That's all very different." Christel had flushed with eagerness and pulled the folded piece of paper from her pocket. "There!"

"Too bad it's all wrinkled up," said Kathrin, but Christel explained that they could hand it to the den mother when she was ironing and the pictures would come out just fine. She had a lot of them already, too - eleven. Only two that she'd drawn hadn't turned out well.

"Bring the others to me, too" said Kathrin and Christel realized that she really liked her pictures. But she still had to remove the colored pencils from her pockets. "It's not proper for a Jungmaedel to run around with bulging pockets."

Slowly and carefully, Christel laid out her thirty-seven colored pencils on the window sill. Then she carefully returned them to her pockets one by one. "Can you see them yet?" she asked Irm with each one. At the fourteenth, Irm said, "Now" and sighing, Christel packed the other twenty three into her backpack. But she still had the most important colors with her, and even Kathrin couldn't change that!

When they came back from swimming that night, a big surprise awaited them in the day room: Christel's pictures were hanging on the wall, one next to the other. There were the Jungmaedel at the train station in Stettin, then at the station in Heidersdorf, then the youth hostel, Liese and the den mother in the kitchen, the ghosts of Heidersdorf castle, Tramp running off with a climbing jacket....

"When Christel draws something else, we'll hang it up, too" Kathrin said. "This is going to be our Heidersdorf chronicle."