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Manfred Goes to the Country

In nineteen forty five, World War II was declared officially over. Displaced German soldiers were being rounded up and homeless families had to find new places to live. Marianne, ten, and her brother Manfred, two and a half, were sent along with their newly widowed mother to a farm on the outskirts of Munich.

The large dairy farm, one third of the population of the town, consisted of a central dirt floored court bordered by a main house, a barn complex, and storage sheds for the farm equipment. Center court boasted a well complete with matching water trough. One of Manfred's favorite sports was to get into the chicken house, stamp up and down in the chicken poop, laughing as he squished the green concoction through his bare toes. His next stop was the gutter where the greasy kitchen water ended up, supplying him with a ready made wading pool.

Needless to say he was pretty aromatic by noon.Soon Manfred got to know and love all of the farm animals. He would find his favorite hen and chase her in circles around the court. He couldn't run quite as fast as the chicken, so no harm was done.

Then one morning Manfred spied his chicken friend across the court. Close behind her pecked nine tiny chicks. He immediately headed across the courtyard but was brought up short when the mother hen lowered her head, extended her wings and charged full tilt at Manfred, making a ruckus and giving his retreating head a good peck. He let out a shriek and, as his sister stood watching, his bowels let go, a brown stain decorating his pants.

Marianne fell to the ground, laughing, until she realized that she was the one responsible for cleaning him up.On another occasion, Manfred's mother found for him a nice knitted cap for the coming winter. Clothes of any kind were hard to come by and the warm cap was a lucky find.

Manfred showed his new "Cappy" to everyone at the farm. Outside, he spied his favorite calf at the watering trough. An unfortunate distraction prevented his mother from seeing Manfred walk up to the calf, tilt his new cap for the calf to admire, saying, "See my new cappy?" In a second the calf whipped the cap off Manfred's head and had it down its throat in a jiffy. His mother noticed this action a little too late, screaming, "NO, NO, don't go near the . . " Just another meal for the voracious calf.

Marianne herself was once the talk of the town. While sitting in the dining room, she observed a high ranking German officer get up from his table and approach the nineteen year old daughter of the owner of the inn. He told her that he would have to go with the Americans when they arrived in the town the next day and would she accept the beautiful fur coat he had been saving for his fiance. The girl blushed furiously as the officer handed her the coat and kissed her on the forehead. He held her hands as he intently added that there was one favor he required of her if she would agree.

He had with him his faithful German Shepherd dog, Tell, who had to be left behind. Would she take care of Tell after he was gone? He explained that Tell was a fully trained war dog and had saved his life many times. She agreed and promised to take care of him forever.

Plenty of food for Tell was available at the inn's restaurant and Tell quickly became a village mascot. He loved all of the children and followed them everywhere, especially Marianne, who saw to it that he was clean and fed. Tell soon attached himself to Marianne and even slept outside her bedroom door all night.

No harm would come to Marianne as long as he was on guard. One day Marianne heard a ruckus down the lane. A farmer's horse refused to be hitched to the wagon, infuriating the farmer who proceeded to strike the horse with a wooden mallet. The frightened animal reared up, making fearful whinnies and charged down the lane, followed by the cursing farmer. Marianne and Tell were sure to be trampled in a minute, but there was nowhere for Marianne to hide.

Tell immediately raced up the horse and barked him to a standstill, saving Marianne from certain injury. The farmer came racing up and was about to strike the horse again when Marianne berated him for his cruelty. The farmer now threatened Marianne with the hammer, but left angrily in a stream of curses.In later years, Tell contracted arthritis, resting his worn out body near the central well in the town square.

No matter where he decided to sleep, every farmer would carefully guide their wagons around the resting hero, protecting their mascot until his last day on earth.

.Retired portrait photographer now writes and sings in a quartet.

By: Kenneth C. Hoffman


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