Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I Like Mine Medium Rare

I've completely lost my sewing mojo, so I'll continue with another story of our recent trip to Europe. But don't worry, I went to JoAnn's today and bought fabric for our Halloween costumes. I'll post about them later and you're gonna love 'em!

This is the hotel that Hans' great-grandfather owned, in Trier, Germany, over a hundred years ago (we have an old oil painting of it hanging in our apartment). His son (Cousin Marianna's father) took over from 1900 to 1931.

We went to Germany to specifically meet Cousin Marianna who lived there as a child. She was Hans' dad's first cousin.

If you can keep all of that straight.

Anyway, we took Cousin Marianna (who is 87) back for a visit to her childhood home while we were there.

A closer look at the sign. Weis is the current family that owns the hotel.

Cousin Marianna was born in 1923, after World War I, and Germany was going through a great depression. While everyone was affected by hardships in one way or another, some suffered more than others. Marianna's family certainly never went hungry but their business fell off greatly. "We had five guests one year and they only bought one beer." Marianna joked with us. An exaggeration I'm sure but in 1931 when she was eight, they were forced to sell the hotel.

The family acquired a Doberman named Max the same year that Marianna was born, and he became her best friend and guardian. No one came near Marianna that Max didn't lift a lip in warning. Max certainly never went hungry, and in addition to his food, he was always given the leavings from the table after every meal.

I don't speak German but I knew exactly what Marianna was saying when she swept her hands over the table while talking about Max.

"He table surfed didn't he?" I asked Hans (my parents have a Doberman and I've seen her in action).

"She says Max's nose was level with the table and they had to watch him very closely." Hans confirmed.

When it was time to start school at the age of six, Marianna's big brother who could ride a two wheeled bike, refused to wait for his little sister and literally left her in the dust. School was a long scary two mile trek (it hasn't changed a bit in over 80 years either, believe me!) and everyone knew that Gypsies were just lying in wait to kidnap little blond girls.

So, Fat Max was pressed into service. Every day little Marianna went to school with the faithful Max in attendance. For allowing Max to sleep in the hall during class time, Marianna's teacher, a nice young man, was welcome to free coffee and cookies at the hotel anytime he wished.

But unfortunately, regardless of the exercise that Max may have received while acting as Marianna's guard, his eating habits caught up with him, and when he was seven, Max dropped dead from a heart attack.

Marianna was heart broken and the family made a big deal out of burying him out back and putting up a wooden cross. (Marianna made gestures with her hands to show how big the mound was that covered Max)

The next morning when Marianna started off for school, a poor neighboring farmer asked her, "Where is your fat dog?"

Marianna tearfully related the demise of Max and when the farmer asked, "What have you done with him?" Marianna told him about the burial.

The next morning the family was horrified to find that Max's grave had been excavated.

When Hans translated this information to me, I too was horrified and I had an awful feeling that I knew exactly what happened to Fat Max.

It wasn't until spring that the farmer fessed up.

He approached the family one day and wanted them to know that his family had been able to survive the winter thanks to Max.

After hearing of Max's death and knowing he hadn't been dead for very long, the farmer had waited until nightfall, and then stole the fat dog from his grave.

"We got four liters of fat alone off him!" The farmer proudly proclaimed in hopes that the family would feel better about the news.

They didn't, and the poor man headed for home.

"Wait! Wait!" The farmer called.

"I want you to know!" He puffed as he ran back to them.

What could he want? What could he possibly say to make them feel better about what had become of their beloved Max?

"I just want you to know," the farmer said with genuine sincerity, and he took off his hat and clutched it to his chest, "Your Max was a very tasty dog!"


Kathi D said...

I look forward to what you might be sewing up, but I love your writings, no matter what you are writing about.

laura said...

You flatter me waaaay too much! And I need to get busy and start on those damn costumes!

MaryWitzl said...

Ay, Laura, what a story! It's easy to think that the farmer was a heartless man, but if my family was hungry, I'd dig up dead dogs too. (Though I doubt I'd brag to the family about how much fat I got off him or how tasty he was.)

laura said...

I guess the poor guy thought it would make them feel better if they knew Max hadn't been wasted! And I don't think stray animals were a nuisance during that great depression either!